Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Signs of change in Yankeeland?

The signs are becoming less subtle that the Yankee front office is displeased with certain characteristics of Joe Torre's management, specifically his failure to use young players properly. Last weekend, after another awful outing from Igawa, the Yanks sent Iggie to AAA. But Torre said after Iggie lost to the Royals that the Yanks would maintain a five-man rotation even with an off day this past Monday. That meant Iggie would have been scheduled to pitch tonight. Once the Yanks sent Igawa to Scranton, the upper management sent the message that the next time the Yanks needed a fifth-starter, it would be Phil Hughes. He pitched Sunday, so he's available this weekend; meanwhile Pettitte and Clemens will not receive an extra day of rest.

Yesterday, the Yanks traded Proctor to the Dodgers. According to NYT beat writer Tyler Kepner, the Yanks did this in order to tie Torre's hands. Without his favorite fall-back option, who Torre used in blowouts and close games, even if a kid from the minors could eat a couple of irrelevant innings, the manager would have to use someone the organization wants to develop. No more sitting in the 'pen wasting time for Edwar Ramirez; no hesitation to use Joba Chamberlain.

This is part of a pattern. If not for injuries or organizational commands, Torre would not use young players at all. Last year, the losses of Sheffield and Matsui forced Torre to play Melky Cabrera everyday, and the Melk man proved he could be an everyday outfielder.

Two years ago, the Yanks needed a shake-up and GM Brian Cashman imposed it: he promoted Robby Cano and Chien-Ming Wang from AAA and said they would be counted on to help the team. Cano started off 1-for-24, but ended up hitting .274, showed some pop and was the team's hitting star in the ALDS; Wang established himself as a permanent resident in the Yankee rotation; the Yanks flourished and scrapped to their 8th straight division title and Wang has led the team in wins for consecutive seasons, something no Yankee pitcher has accomplished since Pettitte in 1996-97.

The Yanks are going to get younger soon. Hughes will be a permanent starter next year; Jeff Karstens will be expected to contribute, or showcased for a trade for a young catcher and outfielder; and top draft picks Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy are expected to enter the rotation in the next year or two. After that group, the Yanks like AAA reliever Ross Ohlendorf, AA reliever J.B. Cox, AA starter Alan Horne and AAA starter Humberto Sanchez, and expect that all will be able to contribute by 2009. That may not leave much room in the organization for a field manager who prefers veterans to neophytes, regardless of how dodgy the old guys have become.

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