Time for Girardi to find replacement for Garcia

Freddy Garcia hands the ball to Yankees manager

Freddy Garcia hands the ball to Yankees manager Joe Girardi in the second inning. (April 28, 2012) (Credit: David Pokress)

David Lennon

David Lennon has been a staff writer for David Lennon

David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since

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As Joe Girardi ponders what to do about Freddy Garcia's spot in the Yankees' rotation, here's something that should make the decision a little easier.

No one else could possibly pitch any worse.

So what's left to keep him in the rotation? Garcia's $4-million salary, though not insignificant, is only 2 percent of the payroll. Girardi owes far too much to the other 24 players on the roster to send him out there again in five days.

The manager talked about not making any "rash decisions" after the Yankees' 7-5 loss to the Tigers Saturday, a game that Garcia did his best to torpedo in the first two innings. But there's no need to sleep on this move. Wouldn't Girardi rest more comfortably knowing that the next pitcher he sends out there -- be it David Phelps or D.J. Mitchell -- isn't as likely to hang a five-spot on the Yankees before most fans reach their seats?

"I can't tell you exactly what we're going to do," Girardi said. "It's frustrating for the player, it's frustrating for us. We all know Freddy's better than what he's shown. We saw it last year."

Forget 2011. That's how Garcia wound up back here in the first place, and at age 35, past performance is no guarantee of future success. Garcia insists he's fine physically, but he'd be better off complaining of shoulder problems. At least then he would have a reasonable excuse for the abuse he's taken during the first month.

After four starts, Garcia's 12.51 ERA is the worst in baseball among starting pitchers, and he's shown no signs that it will come down anytime soon. On the contrary, it's trending higher. In his past two starts, Garcia has been tagged for a total of 12 hits and 11 runs in 31/3 innings. I'll save you the math -- that's a 29.70 ERA.

"I like to compete," Garcia said, "and I'm not competing right now."

As a result, he's taking the Yankees out of the game. They needed a comeback for the ages to erase the 9-0 hole that Garcia helped dig a week ago in Boston. Humiliating the Red Sox was enough to make the Yankees overlook Garcia's Fenway flop, but no one was laughing Saturday after their ninth-inning rally fizzled.

Spotting the Tigers a 6-1 lead after two innings is not a formula for success. Not only that, but Girardi had to burn through three relievers, which is a dangerous habit to get into this early in the season.

It's one thing to give up runs. Garcia's implosions, however, are like a grenade going off, and by the time Girardi shows up on the mound, he should be carrying a fire extinguisher.

Garcia did record two outs in the second inning against the Tigers but then gave up three straight hits, resulting in three runs, before Girardi bolted to retrieve him.

It's not very complicated. Whatever Garcia is tossing up there -- splitter, slider, sinker -- is getting hit hard. He's defenseless, and every time he's out there, the Yankees are exposed.

Girardi has to find some shelter for Garcia, and in the process, give his team a better chance to win. During Garcia's time on the mound, the Yankees have never led -- and they've been outscored 20-4. That's a daunting obstacle to overcome on a regular basis.

It can't continue. The AL East is too tight, and these games are too important, be it April or July. Girardi said so himself after getting ejected Friday, even if his comments were directed at umpire Joe West at the time.

"Every game is very serious to us," Girardi said. "You've seen too many times where one game has cost a team a playoff spot. You can never take anything for granted."

If Girardi truly is feeling that sense of urgency, the manager already knew what must be done as he left the Stadium Saturday night. It's time to find an alternative to Garcia until Andy Pettitte is ready to be promoted next month. Maybe then Girardi will sleep better at night.

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