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With Pettitte retiring, how screwed are the Yankees?

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I’ve been putting off thinking about the Yankees rotation until we knew for sure what was going on with Andy Pettitte. He’s too good a pitcher and can make too big a difference to make any kind of pronouncement without knowing his status.  Now that he’s apparently retiring, however, let’s ask the question:  Is the Yankees’ rotation good enough to get the job done?

I’m going to give a qualified yes.  It will be worse than if Pettitte was there, obviously, but a team with this rotation can compete, make the playoffs and make some noise.  That is, if everything breaks right.  The quick version:

  • Sabathia: Arguably the best pitcher in the AL. No issues there.
  • A.J. Burnett: The biggest wild card in all of baseball?  If he’s 2009 A.J., things are fine. If he’s 2010 A.J., it’s panic time.
  • Phil Hughes:  I don’t know too many people who think that he’s not the real deal and that he won’t progress nicely. If healthy, he’s more than good enough to be a #2 or #3 starter on a championship team.
  • The wild card #4:  Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon or Sergio Mitre are currently in the mix.  I wouldn’t bet much dough that any single one of them will have a solid, 30-start season, but I wouldn’t bet against at least one of them being solid. Does that make sense?  In my mind it makes sense.  It will take a lot of work, monitoring and gambling on Joe Girardi’s part, but if he reads the signs from spring training correctly, plays the hot hand and is eager to use the pen when necessary, any of the four of those guys — or more likely, some combination of them — may work out well.
  • Fifth spot:  The fifth spot in a rotation is almost always a crap shoot. Even one of the #4 guys who isn’t on-point can cover this competently if need be.

The optimistic spin here:  the Yankees rotation is no worse today with Petitte’s retirement than it was yesterday with him not yet committed.  The worry: there is no margin for error here. If Burnett has another lost season and if there is an injury to either Hughes or Sabathia, it’s time for a full-blown freakout.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.