Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pavano or Hughes?

The Yankees have a very interesting decision to make on Saturday, when they'll need a starter to face the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Your first option -- and certainly the more popular choice among Yankees fans -- is to bring Phil Hughes back. The prospect has completed his lengthy rehab from a fractured rib, and despite a rough last rehab start, has looked sharp overall. Still, you have to think there are those in the organization that feel they rushed both Hughes and Ian Kennedy, and they may want to make sure they don't make that mistake again. Hughes was pummeled in Spring Training this year, and yet the Yankees gave him the ball in the third game of the year. The results were astoundingly bad, as the right-hander went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in six starts before limping to the disabled list.

Meanwhile, Pavano's situation is unlike any New York sports has ever seen. Signed to a four-year, $39.95 million contract prior to the 2005 season, Pavano has been sidelined by a litany of injuries, some very real and some potentially imagined. Pavano has made just 19 starts for New York, winning a total of five games over the span of the agreement. That's a cool $8 million a win! Some speculate Pavano doesn't want to pitch at all, a feeling that has made the right-hander a very unpopular man both within the organization and in the Yankees clubhouse.

That said, Pavano has pitched better than Hughes as he's rehabbed from Tommy John elbow surgery. The 32-year-old is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three Eastern League starts with Double-A Trenton, allowing six runs on 14 hits while walking three and striking out 13 in 14 innings. On paper, he should be the man for the job.

What would you do if you were the Yankees? If I was the one who got robbed by the American Idle, I'd probably want to run him out there. Who knows, maybe you catch lightning in a bottle and he wins four or five games down the stretch to help the Yanks make the playoffs. That wouldn't erase four years of nonsense, but it would still help.

For that reason, I see Pavano on the mound Saturday in Baltimore. If Hughes were lights out at Scranton, I'd see it differently. But his inconsistencies combined with Pavano's fat pay check may make this decision for New York. After four long years, the Yankees may try to get one last return on their worst investment ever.

**UPDATE** Pavano skipped his bullpen session on Tuesday due to a "stiff neck." What a freaking thief. Meanwhile, Hughes complained of a dead arm after his last start. Sometimes it's hard to escape the feeling that it's just not the Yankees' season.

No comments: