After last night’s crushing loss, the Yanks will turn to Hiroki Kuroda who will be starting on 3 days rest for the first time in his career. The Yankees really burned through their bullpen last night having used every reliever except for Joba Chamberlain. They also have their weakest link in Phil Hughes pitching Tuesday. As a result, they really need some length out of Hiroki tonight which may be a lot to ask from someone starting on short rest.
The primary alternative would have been going with David Phelps today and pushing Kuroda’s start back to Tuesday. By choosing to start Kuroda, the rotation will most likely look like this for the remainder of theseries (days of rest in parenthesis): Kuroda (3), Hughes (4), Sabathia (4), Pettitte (4), Kuroda (4), Sabathia (3). So after tonight, everyone will be pitching on full rest until a game 7 if it comes to that. What would the rotation have looked like if Phelps were the starter tonight? Phelps, Kuroda (4),Sabathia (4), Pettitte (4), Hughes (7), Sabathia/Kuroda (3/4). Really, not much else changes in the rest of the rotation, so it came down to Kuroda on short rest vs. David Phelps. Considering Kuroda’s the much better pitcher, the decision seems fairly obvious. In addition, this allows Kuroda to pitch at Yankee Stadium where he has thrived this season. It also allows Phelps to be available out of the bullpen which is certainly a plus (in theory, at least).
So the question remains, what can we expect from Hiroki Kuroda tonight? Well, he’s never pitched on 3 days rest before, so it’s kind of hard to say. In addition, Japanese pitchers typically only pitch once a week, so it’s not like he’s had any experience doing anything like this in Japan. Let’s look at his numbers starting on 4 and 5 day’s rest:
Looking past his ERA, his peripherals have been slightly better on 4 days rest throughout his career which is certainly encouraging. However, there’s a reason teams employ 5 man rotations instead of 4 and Kuroda’s stuff will almost certainly be diminished a little bit. In reality, there’s a decent chance that Kuroda just doesn’t have it tonight which would be pretty devastating for the Bombers. An early indicator will be his velocity out of the gate. In his last 3 starts his average fastball velocities have been: 91.9, 93.0, and 92.6. If he’s not at least touching 90 within his first few pitches, it could be reason for concern. With the bullpen gassed and the offense sputtering, the Yankees need a strong outing from Hiroki Kuroda tonight. Hopefully he can deliver.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference