With the news confirmed yesterday that Yankees starter Phil Hughes will miss some time due to a bulging disc in his upper back, which flared up during pitchers' fielding practice, a solid rotation could now become somewhat interesting. While the top three spots are fortified by ace C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte, the uncertainty of the back end has now been amplified.
Although Hughes isn't supposed to miss significant time, it is alarming that this is his second setback with a balky back, with the first time leading to an early exit from Game Three of the American League Championship Series in October against the Detroit Tigers. Furthermore, with the fifth spot in the rotation currently up for grabs as right-handers Ivan Nova and David Phelps do battle, Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com speculates about remaining free agent Kyle Lohse and how he could be a sensible addition for the Yankees,
“Lohse had an excellent year for St. Louis in 2012: 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA. But since the Yankees came to camp with six viable starters for five spots, they never seriously considered him. Now, they might, and if you know Boras, you can bet he will be pushing him hard.”
While Joel Sherman of The New York Post reports that the Yankees are sending scouts to watch former Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang pitch at the upcoming World Baseball Classic for his native Taiwan, Sherman also reiterates that general manager Brian Cashman has no interest in Lohse.
Needless to say, spring training is in its extremely preliminary stages, so it makes sense to see how Hughes bounces back from this setback; additionally, it makes sense to avoid making a multiple-year deal for the 34-year-old Lohse.
However, as Matthews points out, Lohse is coming off of an impressive 2012 season, where he set a career-high with the aforementioned 16 wins, as well as career-highs with 143 strikeouts and 211 innings pitched.
Simply put, if Lohse remains on the market as spring training progresses, and Hughes has difficulty strengthening his back, this might be worth exploring for Cashman. It should also be noted that while right-hander Michael Pineda continues to make significant progress, the best case scenario for his Yankees debut is June.
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