The Mariners are pulling Julio Mateo out of the bullpen to make his first major league start tonight. This may look like a great opportunity for the Yankees to extend their winning streak, but this sort of set-up always seems to go awry for the pinstripers.
Mateo, for example, may not have started since A-ball in 2000, and he may be averaging just two innings per outing this year, but that 2IP/G is up from his career average, and his last two outings have been the longest of his season at 3 1/3 innings each. What's more, he has a 0.41 ERA, the opposition is hitting .154/.205/.179 (.137 GPA) against him (ten singles, two doubles, two walks against ten Ks in 22 innings), and in his second-most-recent outing he held the Yankee's scoreless over 3 1/3. He's pitching so well that Jason over at U.S.S. Mariner actually suggested the M's move Mateo into the rotation in a post this past Saturday, with no expectation that the Mariners would actually do it, let alone so soon (to be fair, this is a spot start while Joel Pineiro works on his mechanics in the minors).
More encouraging for the Yankees and their fans, Dave added a very informative post yesterday that reveals that Mateo pitches to contact in the Quantrill/Lieber style except that instead of throwing ground balls, Mateo is an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Thus far this season Mateo has an absurdly low .176 opponents' average on balls in play (against a league average of .293) and has yet to allow a home run. In other words, he's pitching way over his head. Dave fears the odds will catch up with Mateo tonight over an extended outing against the Yankees' major league leading offense. Here's hoping he's right.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have to hope that whatever ailed Carl Pavano in his last start (in addition to Alex Rodriguez's defense, that is) has subsided in the days since. Especially since Joe Torre has inexplicably decided to bump Chien-Ming Wang out of his scheduled start at Shea on Sunday and use Thursday's day off to let Pavano move up a day in his place. Wang should start one of the first two games of next week's homestand against the Tigers instead.
In other news, don't look now, but Mike Stanton is the only active Yankee reliever with an ERA over 4.00. Meanwhile, Ruben Sierra is playing extended spring training games in Tampa (batting left exclusively for the moment) and should start a Florida State League rehab stint mid-week. Take your time, Ru.