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Yankees still in need of legitimate starter

Leslie Monteiro

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Good thing for the Yankees that George Steinbrenner is dead and his son Hal Steinbrenner couldn’t care less about the Subway Series or else the Yankees would have questions to answer on why they are not starting their best starters in Luis Severino and CC Sabathia in that series.

The Yankees are playing it cute in this weekend’s Subway Series by starting Domingo German, Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka against the Mets at Yankee Stadium. It’s clear by starting those guys that they have zero regard about the Mets, even though they are in no position to give away games with the surging Boston Red Sox winning almost every game these days.

It shouldn’t be surprising the Yankees were burned in using German, who was ineffective by giving up four runs, five hits and three walks in 3 ⅔ innings in their 7-5 loss to their crosstown neighbors Friday night. For his awful performance, he was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work on certain things after going 0-2 in his last five starts.

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He is so bad that Luis Cessa was called up to the Yankees from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace him. That will not inspire any hope since his replacement stinks.

It reinforces the theory the Yankees need another competent starter since they have bunch of average starters to complement Severino in their starting rotation. It’s why they were not good enough to go to the World Series last year, and it’s why they may not be good enough to go there or even win it this year. It’s why they are 5 ½ games back of AL East-leading Red Sox heading to Saturday’s game with the Mets.

They can pull this over an awful Mets team, but in October, they are not going to get away with it against the Red Sox, Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians, and they know it.

To expect German, Gray, Sabathia and Tanaka to shoulder the load and handle the pressure is too much to ask. It’s unrealistic. German is not polished enough to pitch in the majors. Gray stinks. As the season goes on, Sabathia starts getting hit hard as a result of his aging knee and his aging body. Tanaka has been giving up his customary home runs each start, and he is on pace to give up 30 home runs again after giving up 18 home runs already this season.

The Yankees have used bullpenning to compensate for their starting rotation weakness by inserting so many relievers in the game. It sounds great in theory, but it’s flawed. By overusing relievers, they are going to get burned out come September and October. It’s a risk they are willing to take, but it’s a dicey situation.

General managers can reinvent the game out of desperation, but it does not change the axiom about a team needing two or three quality starters to win a championship. That’s what the Astros received in Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander last season en route to their championship. That’s how the Mets went to the World Series few years ago when Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey shined in the playoffs.

The Yankees could use a deGrom or Syndergaard. A pitcher who will throw inside come October. A starter who can inspire the fear of God to other hitters in the postseason. A starter who can be a difference maker. A pitcher who can change the dynamic of the game.

Good luck to them getting either of them since the Mets have no interest in trading with the Yankees, let alone trading both of them to any team.

In fact, the starters that are available in the trade deadline are nothing special. J.A. Happ and Cole Hamels are the best starters out there, and no one will confuse them as difference makers. Michael Fulmer is on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain, so he is out of any trade discussion. Matt Harvey could be that guy for the Yankees.

The Yankees may have to get the former Mets ace out of desperation. It’s a risk they have to take since they need a starter who can be another stopper in the pennant race and in October. They can do worse than getting Harvey, who has pitched well for the Cincinnati Reds. He can benefit playing in an electric atmosphere at Yankee Stadium. Pitching for the Yankees could be the type of tonic that can get him back to greatness.

This would be some up yours to the Mets and their fans if Harvey becomes a star for the Yankees. It’s a delicious thought. But it’s also a baseball move they have to make.

Right now, the Yankees are likely playing in a one-game playoff in October. That means if they lose that game, they won’t be advancing to the American League Division Series. They can go back to not getting Gerrit Cole, who the Astros beat them to the punch in the offseason. That was a guy that could have been a game-changer, not Giancarlo Stanton.

The Yankees can outslug and bullpen other teams, but that can only get a team by. The Yankees won championships in the 90s because of their starting pitching.

It’s great the Yankees are 62-34, but they are playing like a team that is more of a regular season team than a postseason team by outslugging guys and getting by with mediocre pitching. That’s not conducive to success in October.

Without another stopper, it could be wait until next year for championship No. 28.

Leslie Monteiro is a syndicated sports columnist who writes about the Tri-State area teams for the Upstate Courier. He is based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and can be reached on Twitter @MongoGoesInSane.