Joe Girardi still isn't ready to name his starting rotation.
Girardi said this weekend that he plans to take until next week before he selects the five starters he'll use when the regular season gets underway. The only guy that definitely won't be making the cut is Andy Pettitte because he won't be ready to start games until May after being retired for more than a year.
We also know that there's no reason to worry about the fate of CC Sabathia or Hiroki Kuroda. They have already been assured of spots in the rotation, leaving four men to battle for the final three spots.
We can't know for sure what criteria Girardi is going to use when the final decision is made, but we can make some educated guesses about what they will be. Using those, we're sussing things out to come up with the Yankee rotation for 2012:
Track Record - We know this matters because Pettitte wouldn't be here otherwise, but it clearly doesn't tell the whole story. This favors Garcia and Nova over Hughes and Pineda, especially after the way Garcia saved the team in 2011.
Recent History - Another good one for Garcia with Nova's 2011 season providing comfort as well. This is another bad one for Hughes, while weighing Pineda's strong first half as a rookie against his poor second half makes for a difficult equation because he didn't do it for the Yankees.
Team Need - The trend of Hughes coming up short continues, thanks to his history as a reliever. The Yankees would get more value from using him out of the pen than they would get from any of the other three pitchers.
Spring Results - Everyone has been good, but there have been some issues with the two youngest candidates. Nova's strong results have been tempered by periods with poor command while Pineda has alternately struggled with his velocity and his control this spring.
Organizational Philosophy - Sending Pineda to Triple-A would make for some negative press after the trade for Jesus Montero, but its certainly an option that could work out well for the team in the short and long term. If the Yankees are serious about their new cost controls, though, Pineda should be in the rotation to build himself up as a pitcher and Garcia, who won't be here past this season, would be the guy out the door.
In the end, you're left with no compelling reason to keep Nova out of the rotation. The flashes of upside from Pineda don't come without any risk, but they do make it hard to argue against giving him a regular turn to see what he can become.
That leaves Garcia and Hughes. If building for the future is prioritized above all else, Hughes should get the job with the understanding that he has to pitch well enough to keep it when Pettitte is ready to go.
But a hybrid approach lends itself to Garcia, who can help the team now and, assuming he pitches well, leave the team with a chance to trade for more help in a month or two. Bet on Garcia to break camp in the rotation while Hughes makes his way to the pen.