Yankee Pitching Staff Remains a Roller Coaster

CC Sabathia returns to the disabled list while the fortunes of others fluctuate

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Aug 13, 2012  |  Updated 7:53 AM EDT
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Hughes is down, Nova's up and Sabathia's out.

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There's a joke told just about anywhere in the world where the weather changes quickly from pleasant to miserable and back again.

"If you don't like the weather in [blank], just wait five minutes."

You could tell a variation of the joke about the Yankees pitching staff. One shouldn't get too comfortable with any state of affairs among the pitchers because the only reliable thing about the pitchers this year is the way their fortunes shift.

Just look at the last two days for a prime example of that. CC Sabathia is on the disabled list, David Phelps is in the rotation, Derek Lowe joined the team, Ivan Nova threw a strong game after a long spell of struggle and Phil Hughes bombed for a second straight start after months spent on the right side of par.

The Yankees say they have a low level of concern about Sabathia's injury, although it definitely feels like something worthy of a high level of worry. There's just something about elbow issues for the best starting pitcher on your staff that leaves you a bit short of confidence about the immediate future.

In a best case scenario, this is just a way to get Sabathia a little extra rest after years of heavy use, and the result will be a stronger Sabathia come October. This would be a very good thing.

The flip side is that this elbow stiffness (and the earlier groin injury) serves as a canary in the coal mine for a pitcher who will be on the Yankees for a long time making a lot of money. It's not the most comforting thought as the stretch run starts to unfold for a team that isn't winning in the playoffs with a Sabathia-less rotation.

As for the replacements, it's a bit strange that the Yankees would choose to move Phelps out of the long role in favor of putting Lowe there simply because it would be nice to see what Lowe could offer the team as an alternative to Freddy Garcia, Hughes and Nova.

Lowe didn't pitch well in Cleveland this year, but he's experienced in playoff races and wouldn't be the first guy with such a C.V. to find himself getting a boost by returning to the heat of the action.

The flip-flop by Nova won't be real until we see him pitch against a lineup with a bit more gas in the tank than the Blue Jays have at the moment. By the same token, Hughes' start on Sunday is much more troubling because it came against a team playing a slew of Triple-A fill-ins.

Hughes could just be experiencing the ebbs and flows of the season and going through a rough patch. Or he could need to make an adjustment to a league that has adjusted to what he's been doing over the last couple of months to change the outcome of his efforts on the mound.

If the rest of the season has been any guide, don't write your answer to that question in ink because we're due for another significant shift in the next 48-72 hours.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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