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Yanks stick with Nova, go to six-man rotation

Yanks stick with Nova, go to six-man rotation

Yanks stick with Nova, go to six-man rotation
CHICAGO -- Before the season, if someone were to tell you the Yankees would have six viable starters at the start of August -- without even making a move before the non-waiver Trade Deadline -- would you have believed it?

Probably not. But as they began a seven-game road trip against the White Sox on Monday, that's essentially what they had -- six starters, and ideally only five spots for them.

For this week, though, the Yankees opted to temporarily go with a six-man staff by starting Ivan Nova on Thursday, giving Bartolo Colon the nod in Friday's series opener against the Red Sox, pitching CC Sabathia on normal rest on Saturday and slotting Freddy Garcia in as Sunday's starter at Fenway Park.

That shifts the focus to Tuesday's starter: Phil Hughes.

Because Hughes has been hit-and-miss since coming off the disabled list, because he can be sent to the Minors and has experience out of the bullpen, because manager Joe Girardi prefers to have five starters, and because Nova pitched well in his big league return, it's easy to see that Hughes could be out of the rotation if he doesn't pitch well against the White Sox on Tuesday.

Girardi, though, is keeping all of his options open.

"I'm not going to rule anything out," the Yankees' skipper said, "but obviously, we have to make decisions."

Making his first start since July 1 in Saturday's split doubleheader against the Orioles, Nova gave up just two runs in seven innings to move to 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 18 games (17 starts).

Hughes, meanwhile, gave up two runs in six innings to the Mariners on Wednesday, but he also yielded nine hits against what many consider the worst offense in baseball. Prior to that, he struggled against another subpar offense on July 22, giving up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Athletics.

"I think it's too early to necessarily give up on Hughesy and say that he's not going to be an effective starter for us after what he did last year," Girardi said. "He's just basically coming out of Spring Training."

As for how Hughes would feel if he was demoted to bullpen duty once again?

"I'd be disappointed, for sure," Hughes said. "But I've always been in the position where I'm willing to help this team whatever way I can. At this time, it's not really something I'm thinking about."

The six-man rotation does have its benefits.

This week, for example, Colon and Garcia will be pitching on extra rest, which can only be a good thing for veteran arms this late in a season. But the Yankees would also like to give Sabathia his regular turn in the rotation each time, and that becomes rather tricky when juggling six starters.

Girardi would ideally like to trim his rotation to five before next Monday's off-day, but he left open the possibility of continuing with six starters even after that. Also looming is another split doubleheader on Aug. 27.

Whether Nova or Hughes go back to the Minors, or one of them is used out of the 'pen, Girardi insists he's not basing his decision on one turn through.

"What we try not to do is we try not to look at things in a snapshot," Girardi said. "You've got to look at things over the long haul and [evaluate] what you see. Sometimes people want immediate results, and sometimes they don't get immediate results. Those are the tough decisions that we have to make."

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