Wednesday, 7:05 PM: Andy Pettite (1-1, 3.00) vs. Robinson Tejeda (3-1, 3.82)
Thursday, 7:05 PM: Mike Mussina (0-1, 9.00) vs. Kevin Millwood (2-3, 5.88)
Series Facts: The Yankees lead the all-time series 219-161...Mike Mussina has struck out 190 Rangers in his career, the most against any team outside of the A.L. East…Jason Giambi has 32 homeruns in 409 at-bats against Texas, most against any team.
1. A decimated starting rotation
A 35 year old Andy Pettite is the Yankees most versatile pitcher on their staff. He's made five starts in the rotation and two relief appearances thanks in part to some heavy bullpen usage during their recent losing skid (more on that in a minute). Mike Mussina has had battles with a strained hamstring and he hasn't pitched since April 11th. Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa may be relegated to bullpen duty, at least for the time being, after scuffling through the starting rotation for the first month of the season. There's also concerns that #1 starter Chien-Ming Wang isn't where he should be velocity-wise after coming back from a hamstring injury of his own. Add in the forearm issues for Carl Pavano and the traumatic injury suffered by rookie Jeff Karstens, and it adds up to one injury-plagued assortment of pitchers. Philip Hughes had a rough major league debut last weekend - but it also just so happened to come in Yankee Stadium against the Boston Red Sox. Hey kid, no pressure. Still, there's got to be some concerns among the Yankee brass about Hughes yanked out of the minor leagues prematurely - even though it's an emergency situation. Overall, the weakness of the starting rotation is a problem that can be exploited by any team with even a few good bats on their offense. For a team like the Rangers with guys in the process of waking up offensively, it's like an all-you-can-eat buffet. dinner.
2. Overtaxed bullpen
Even though they received a day off yesterday, with the starting rotation stuck in the mud it naturally means a lot more work for the bullpen. And with an American League-leading 97 innings of relief work heading into the month of May, the proof is certainly in the pudding. Take for example Chien-Ming Wang's six-inning effort on Sunday afternoon against Boston. After putting up six innings of work in the game, the Yankees went to their bullpen five times to finish the game. It marked the 10th straight game in which the club was forced to use five or more guys out of the bullpen in order to finish a game. Were it not for starter turned emergency reliever Kei Igawa's efforts on Saturday, the strain on their pen could have been much worse. Perhaps even more eyebrow raising is the fact that Yankee pitchers made a Major League-leading 95 relief appearances through the first 23 games of the season, but took all the way until this past Saturday before recording their first save of the season.
3. Still a dangerous offense
There's not too much you can do to avoid being burned by Alex Rodriguez. He's hit .317 off the Rangers in his career, putting them in the middle of the pack of batting averages against opponents. As is evident by his first month of the season, A-Rod has improved by leaps and bounds over last season as a hitter. He's not guessing at pitches and swinging like he started doing towards the tail end of last year, he's loose, and he's enjoying the game again. He also has two less homeruns then the entire rest of the Yankee offense. This spells trouble for basically everybody in baseball who's not wearing Yankee pinstripes. He also has two guys fully capable of driving runs in around him to worry about in Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi. Overall, it's pretty easy to see that while the pitching staff may be in dire straits, the offense is not and should remain a cause for concern for anybody. Kameron Loe, who suffered a rough patch in Cleveland that sent him to a loss, must pitch better this time around. Kevin Millwood hasn't had any truly awful outings, but with his next two starts both coming against the Yankees, he definitely needs to show the Rangers he's still capable of being a better pitcher then he's been in the first month of the season. Wednesday's starter Robinson Tejeda, however, could make some huge waves across baseball if he is able to put up another dominating start against the Bronx Bombers.