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Davidoff: Javy as fifth starter? It's a good sign

Yankees' pitcher Javier Vazquez watches the game from

Yankees' pitcher Javier Vazquez watches the game from the dugout. (May 3, 2010) Credit: Photo by Kathy Kmonicek

You had the feeling that Andy Pettitte would pitch just fine yesterday, didn't you? The guy is thriving at age 37 despite annual, highly publicized aches and pains in his throwing wing.

Besides, these were the Twins at Yankee Stadium. It sometimes seems as if there's a better chance of Minnesota pitcher Carl Pavano receiving the Nobel Peace Prize than his club winning a ballgame here.

No, if you're going to take a teachable moment out of this day in the Bronx, push aside the Yankees' 7-1 victory and focus on the postgame news:

Javier Vazquez will be skipped in the starting rotation a second time, even in the wake of his best performance of the season.

Then again, that's often what happens to a fifth starter. And the reality that Vazquez now works as the Yankees' fifth starter? That represents good news, absolutely not bad news, if you're a Yankees fan.

"The guys have been throwing great," Joe Girardi said after the game. "We believe that we're getting Javy back to where he needs to be."

Where he needs to be, in order to fulfill the Yankees' agenda of winning a championship, is starting Friday's game against the Mets at Citi Field. So that Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia go against the Red Sox Monday and Tuesday, and A.J. Burnett and Pettitte face the Rays on Wednesday and Thursday.

Because, just so we're clear, the Mets present less of a challenge than the Yankees' American League East neighbors, and Vazquez currently gives the Yankees their worst chance to win.

To backtrack: This wouldn't have occurred if not for last Tuesday's rain in Detroit.

The Yankees' initial plan called for Vazquez - coming off a brutal outing May 1 against the White Sox - to sit out a turn in the rotation, come back Tuesday in Detroit, pitch Sunday against the Twins at home and then go Friday against the Mets at Citi Field.

The rainout, however, pushed Vazquez back to the opener of Wednesday's day-night doubleheader at Comerica Park, putting Vazquez and nightcap winner Hughes on the same schedule.

Vazquez provided some rare good news to Yankee Universe on Wednesday, allowing only two runs in seven innings, striking out seven and walking two. Yet is it really even a question at this point as to whom you'd want going against the Red Sox, Hughes or Vazquez?

And all the way down the line with the other three starters, until the need arises for a starter Friday at the Mets' place.

The irony is that the Yankees acquired Vazquez as a hedge against his four rotation mates. Whereas Vazquez provided a level of certainty with his durability, the Yankees held concerns that Burnett, Pettitte and Sabathia could feel the effects of their heavy 2009 workloads. And Hughes hadn't gone a full season as a starter.

Now the success of Burnett, Hughes, Pettitte and Sabathia has enabled the Yankees to go 24-12 despite the mostly awful pitching of Vazquez. The top quartet has combined for an 18-3 record and a terrific 2.66 ERA in 1891/3 innings, with 154 hits, 64 walks and 142 strikeouts.

It's Vazquez being covered, rather than providing coverage.

Which bodes well for the Yankees. Because Vazquez did look better in Detroit. Because he has a vast track record of success.

Girardi, asked if he is worried about throwing Vazquez off his positive rhythm, responded, "I know Javy wants to pitch. It's what we thought was the right decision at this time."

It is the right decision. It is, officially now, the new pecking order. It's yet another sign of encouragement in what already has been a very encouraging Yankees season.

New York Sports