Monday, May 11, 2015

Chris Capuano Only Days Away From
Long-Awaited Return To Yankees Rotation

By Barry Millman

The Yankees' other CC, Chris Capuano, will make what is likely his final rehab start Tuesday night for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders before joining the big club's rotation.

The 36-year-old lefty, who was re-signed this winter to provide depth for the rotation, went down in a March 11th spring training game with a quadriceps strain. His rehab has gone smoothly with no reported complications, and his rehab game action has been encouraging to date. The Yankees will be looking for him to go 90 pitches or six innings on Tuesday, and if that benchmark is met he could be on a major league mound facing the Royals this Sunday or the Nationals on Tuesday. 

Capuano had started the 2014 season as a reliever for the first time in his career in the Red Sox bullpen and pitched to a 4.55 ERA over 31.2 innings with a  8.2K/9 and 4.3BB/9 before being released. The Rockies signed him to a minor league deal and sent him down to the farm to stretch him back out into a starter again. There he threw 19 innings of  impressive 2.84 ERA ball over four gradually longer appearances, registering 9.9 K/9 aand 2.4 BB/9 ratios, before the Yankees came calling in July to purchase him as a cheap band-aid for their hemorrhaging rotation. He provided a surprising measure of stability and much needed length down the stretch with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts, lasting at least six innings in eight of them -- something Adam Warren has been unable to accomplish even once in six starts this season.

He goes into his third rehab start with a 1.93 ERA over 8.2 innings with eight strikeouts, two walks and one earned run allowed. He threw his first rehab assignment last Saturday at the Boss for the high Single A Tampa Yankees against the Detroit Tigers' Single A affiliate Lakeland Flying Tigers. On a balmy afternoon in the 80s with a steady, 10 mph breeze blowing out to straightaway centerfield, he surrendered a single unearned run on two hits over four innings. He struck out four, didn't walk anybody, threw 43 of his 59 pitches for strikes, and seven of the eight balls he threw that batters managed to put into play were grounders. He was on a 60-pitch/four-inning limit, whichever came first. An encouraging first step back after two and a half months away from game action. 

In his second start on Thursday for the Railriders facing  the Atlanta Braves Triple A affiliate Gwinnett Braves, he went 4.2 innings and upped his pitched count to 72. Once again, he gave up only one run, earned this time, and struck out four again. He pitched more cautiously than he did in his Tampa start though as he faced a more proficient lineup and it affected his efficiency. He walked two and threw 47 of his 72 pitches for strikes. However, he continued to keep the ball down, alllowed only four hits and induced six groundouts to just two flyouts.  

Warren's value out of the bullpen far exceeds what he brings to the rotation, and replacing him with Capuano would provide an immediate upgrade to both; making him the favorite to be moved. With next Monday coinciding with what would be both Capuano's and Warren's next start date and also being a scheduled day off, the team will have some flexibility deciding where and when the other CC makes his 2015 major league debut. 

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.