In response to Yankees’ ace and innings eater, CC Sabathia, headed to the DL with discomfort in his elbow, the Yankees have signed veteran sinkerballer, Derek Lowe, who was released by the Indians on Friday.
Once a playoff hero and elite pitcher, Lowe is in the twilight of his career, now a 39-year-old with a 1.69 WHIP in 119 innings this season as a starter. Had there been no injury to a pitcher like Sabathia, who is known for pitching deep into games and had it not been August, before rosters expand, this would be a bad signing, even at the major league minimum since Atlanta and Cleveland will be paying Lowe’s salary.
Recent reports indicate Lowe will be asked to pitch out of the bullpen, which could minimize any type of disastrous impact his recent struggles could have on the team. A change of scenery and the adrenaline of a playoff run can also revitalize Lowe, who has a positive track record in big game performances. The righty has been a closer in the past and has experience as a reliever so the transition shouldn’t be difficult.
Likely the Yankees are banking on Joba Chamberlain improving as he gets more innings under his belt, and Soriano aN. Robertson to lock down the 8th and 9th innings as they have all season. This would relegate Lowe to more or less mop-up or sixth inning duties, which are not high leverage and it allows David Phelps, who is having an excellent rookie year, to move back into the rotation where he has demonstrated potential and poise this season. Ryoto Igarashi is expected to be called up to provide an extra arm out of the bullpen. Igarashi was on our list of potential September call-ups.
On the injury front, both Sabathia and Girardi have maintained it is not serious (despite elbow discomfort almost always being a cause for alarm) and Girardi implied if the Yankees didn’t have a comfortable division lead or if it was October, CC would be pitching through the pain. Sending CC to the DL for a few weeks is a wise move regardless.
A team never wants to mess with a potential elbow injury, especially one as expensive as Sabathia’s and if the Yankees have any prayer of a deep postseason run it relies on the health of Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. Letting the lefties work and come back healthy and well-rested could make them the most effective in October and can cut down on Sabathia’s generally enormous workload, which has been an alleged source of postseason struggles in the past.