Wednesday, January 1, 2014

If the Yankees are to make it back to the postseason in 2014, some players will have to perform at a level that they either never have before or haven't in recent years. Though the team has a decent and well balanced lineup, the starting rotation and bullpen have some question marks.

One key player is starting pitcher Michael Pineda, who is expected to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation after missing all of 2012 and 2013 due to shoulder problems.

Pineda will only be 25-years-old come Opening Day, and his rookie year with the Seattle Mariners was phenomenal as he went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings (9.1 K/9). The question is, are Yankees fans expectations unrealistic?

If you believe he is going to dominate from the start or possibly even at all, and throw 200 innings with ease, then yes, you're expecting too much.

Back in September, the Yankees were in desperate need of an extra starter, yet they didn't bring Pineda up from the minors. The reason? They weren't convinced he was ready and that he had regained his arm strength. If a team that desperate for pitching doesn't call on someone like Pineda, they must have a reason.

This isn't to say that Pineda won't be good in 2014 or that he won't some day be dominant, but don't be surprised if there are some bumps in the road.

Another player that may require patience in 2014 is David Robertson, who will likely be the heir to the closer role vacated by Mariano Rivera. Replacing a legend like Rivera is difficult, even more so for a pitcher like Robertson with almost no closing experience.

Even the great Rivera had some problems in April of 1997 when he was first replacing John Wetteland as closer. As good as he was, he was not Mariano Rivera.

Of course there will be some Yankees fans who will be shouting at Joe Girardi to try someone else as closer if Robertson has any problems, but remember, Girardi caught Rivera during those hard times and when he finally pulled through, so have some faith.

On the flip-side, there is one player who Yankees fans seem to expect to go out with a whimper. That player happens to be Derek Jeter. Yes he is going to be 40-years-old and is coming off a season in which he missed 147 games do to ankle injuries, but remember, he is only two years removed from leading the Major Leagues in hits (216).

Never count out the captain.


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