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Yankees’ starting rotation could be a strength, too

Luis Severino pitches against Cleveland in ALDS Game

Luis Severino pitches against Cleveland in ALDS Game 4 at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 9, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

TAMPA, Fla. — CC Sabathia thought for a moment, but only a moment, when it came to offering his thoughts regarding the 2018 Yankees’ rotation.

“If we stay healthy,” he said during spring training, “I think we’ll be one of the best.”

That Sabathia has such expectations for the unit is not a surprise. He is beloved in the Yankees’ clubhouse for a variety of reasons, and publicly expressing supreme confidence in his teammates is not the least of them.

His prediction might strike some on the outside as jarring, though. When it comes to the 2018 Yankees, pretty much all of the attention goes to a lineup that features Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.

“I think there’s a lot of possibilities there [with the offense], but I think our pitching staff has a chance to be really good, too,” Greg Bird said of the rotation. “That pitching staff, they can do a lot of damage.”

The group, led by 24-year-old ace Luis Severino, who finished third in the American League Cy Young voting last season and whom new manager Aaron Boone has named as his Opening Day starter, is unchanged from the final two months of 2017. (Sonny Gray was a trade-deadline acquisition.)

“I feel like we have people in that room, and when we break camp with 25-man and beyond, I feel like we can match up with anyone,” Aaron Boone said. That includes the Red Sox, whose rotation is fronted by Chris Sale — who finished second to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber in the Cy Young voting — David Price and Drew Pomeranz.

“The Red Sox are one of those teams that will be an obstacle, and we respect who they are and we respect the potential of those guys,” Boone said. “But I look at it as being really comfortable with the guys. We’ll go up against anyone.”

At the start of the season, the Yankees’ rotation will consist of Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Gray, Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. They were largely responsible as the Yankees posted the third-lowest starters’ ERA in the American League last season (3.72).

General manager Brian Cashman spent the offseason trying to add another starter. Under instructions to stay below the $197-million luxury-tax threshold, however, he found that the prices for free-agent starters such as Alex Cobb, Jake Arrieta (who signed with the Phillies in early March) and Lance Lynn (who signed with the Twins in mid-March) were prohibitive. As one opposing executive noted, though, Cashman has such a deep minor-league system at his disposal that he “can do just about anything going forward” when it comes to an in-season trade for a quality starter.

“You can never have enough starting pitching. I hate to give a silly answer, but that’s just a fact,” managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said recently. “But we have a [good] rotation. It’s just a question of it being a long season and can everybody stay healthy. If somebody does get injured, where do we go from there?”

A big-league team typically needs in the neighborhood of nine starters to get through a season, so it would be naïve to think the Yankees will need only five. Currently, righties Luis Cessa and Domingo German are next on the depth chart. Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield, two of the club’s top pitching prospects, showed in spring training that they need a bit more seasoning in the minors.

“Like every team, if we stay healthy, I like what we have,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “But the odds aren’t with us. If you go year-to-year and look at the staff staying healthy, you’re not going to use five starters in a year and you’re lucky if you get in under less than 10, really. So our object is to keep them healthy and keep them strong all year. We’re aware of the difficulties that can present.”

How they’ll start

Yankees projected rotation to begin the season:

NameW-LERAWHIP

RH Luis Severino14-62.981.040

RH Masahiro Tanaka13-124.741.239

RH Sonny Gray4-7 3.721.255

LH CC Sabathia14-53.691.271

LH Jordan Montgomery 9-7 3.881.230

New York Sports