Yanks’ pitching durability being tested

It has been a tough week for the Yankees’ pitching staff. First, Ivan Nova went down with an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery. Thursday, the Yanks lost another pitcher, Michael Pineda, to a 10-game suspension for illegal use of pine tar in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Red Sox.

Nova, who was 2-2 with an 8.27 ERA in four starts, announced Thursday that he decided to have the Tommy John surgery, which will be performed by Dr. James Andrews Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala. The recovery period is 12 to 18 months, so Nova will be lost to the Yankees until at least the middle of the 2015 season.

Pineda, on the other hand, will likely miss only one start because there is an open date during his suspension period. However, that removes an extra day of rest for such aging starters as CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda and the young Japanese pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, whose workload in his first season in the United States the Yankees will monitor closely.

There have already been ramifications for the Yankees over Pineda’s foolish behavior. In getting ejected with two outs in the second inning for having a glob of pine tar on the right side of his neck, Pineda caused the Yankees to get 6 1/3 innings out of their bullpen on a blustery night in Boston.

Needing extra pitchers for Thursday night’s series finale, the Yankees brought up righthanders Bruce Billings and Shane Greene from Scranton and returned Preston Claiborne, who pitched two innings Wednesday night, to the Triple A affiliate along with infielder Dean Anna, who had been doing a solid job as a utility infielder. The move left Yangervis Solarte, who has been playing regularly, as the only backup shortstop for Derek Jeter, 39.

Lefthander Vidal Nuno has already been named the fifth starter in place of Nova. Righthander David Phelps, who has done a good job in middle relief, will probably make Pineda’s next scheduled start.

Pineda admitted his mistake and was contrite after Wednesday night’s game, but sorry doesn’t get it done. The righthander was under suspicion from his previous start against the same team at Yankee Stadium a week ago and with three separate networks televising the game (YES, NESN, ESPN) there was little chance Pineda could get away with hiding pine tar that he said he needed to get a better grip of the ball on a cold night.

At issue upon his return is whether Pineda can prove he can pitch without pine tar or whether the illegal substance for pitchers has become too much a psychological ally.

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