Rothschild: Yanks may use sixth starter in early going

Facing stretch of 30 games in 31 days, club could ease workload with fresh arms

Rothschild: Yanks may use sixth starter in early going

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees are considering using a sixth starter at times in April and May to reduce a potential early strain on their rotation, pitching coach Larry Rothschild said on Wednesday.

While they will not have a set six-man rotation going into the season, Rothschild noted that there is a stretch of 30 scheduled games in 31 days beginning on April 17. That could be a prime opportunity to work in some fresher arms and ease the workload.

"It's a result of some of the stuff that's gone on over the last few years, not just here, but everywhere," Rothschild said. "We're aware of situations here and early in the season, we need to get these guys through these stretches. Being that possibly early in the spring, some of them aren't going to be able to throw a lot, we're going to need to build them up too and give them the extra days when we can."

One year after they used 13 starters, the Yanks' rotation again has several health-related questions, most prominently revolving around Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda. Rothschild first floated the idea of a six-man rotation last August while Tanaka was on the rehab trail, noting the epidemic of pitching injuries around the game.

Along with a group of projected starters that includes Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Capuano, the Yankees have several pitchers building up stamina as starters this spring. That includes Bryan Mitchell, Esmil Rogers, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley, each of whom could be ticketed for starting or relief roles this season.

"It'd be nice to go through a season with five starters, but there's a good chance we're not going to," Rothschild said. "There's a good chance every team in baseball won't, so it doesn't hurt to see who might fit in as a sixth starter."

At Rothschild's urging, Tanaka took Wednesday off after long-tossing on Tuesday at the Yanks' Minor League complex. Rothschild said that Tanaka is scheduled to throw a side session from the mound on Thursday, and the righty has had no issues related to the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament he sustained last July.

"It's something that if we need to deal with when it comes up, we will," Rothschild said. "Right now, it's just to be aware and not try to push through things when normally you might be able to. But why take that chance? You wouldn't do it in the spring anyway. As things crop up, if we need to deal with them, we will. Right now, I'm just looking at him as a guy that we're going to bring along according to how his arm allows us."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.