NEW YORK—A year ago, the Yankees struggled to find arms to fill out their rotation, but they'll have no such trouble this season.
The acquisitions of righthanders Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda in late January effectively pushed A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes out of the big league rotation.
That surplus also buys developmental time for top pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances in Triple-A, where Scranton/Wilkes-Barre projects to have an all-prospect rotation.
Banuelos and Betances have the highest ceilings of the quintet, but a trio of righthanders will do more than simply eat innings as they repeat the International League.
Scouts believe that Adam Warren, D.J. Mitchell and David Phelps have big league potential, either as back-of-the-rotation starters or relievers. Phelps is 25, while the other two are 24.
"They are all still being looked at as starters," pro scouting director and assistant general manager Billy Eppler said. "But breaking into the major leagues as (relievers) is not out of the question.
"They could do what (Hector) Noesi did last year (and provide) multiple innings in relief and make an occasional spot start."
The Yankees also could package members of the trio in trades, just as they did with Noesi, whom they used to acquire Pineda.
Warren, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina in 2009, might be the top prospect of the bunch. He went 6-8, 3.60 for Scranton last year, notching a 111-53 K-BB ratio over 152 innings.
Mitchell, an eighth-round pick out of Clemson in 2008, led the trio last year with 13 wins, 112 strikeouts, 161 innings and a 3.18 ERA—though he also walked 3.5 batters per nine innings. Phelps, a 14th-round pick out of Notre Dame in the same draft, missed two months with shoulder discomfort, but he still made 18 starts and went 6-6, 3.19 with a 90-26 K-BB ratio in 107 innings.
"They are all closely bunched," Eppler said. "Their strengths are the variety of pitches and their strike-throwing ability."
• The Yankees hired former big league hitting coach Rick Down (1993-95 and 2002-03) as roving minor league hitting instructor. He served in that role with the Mariners last year.
• The Yankees cleared roster space for Kuroda by outrighting righthander Kevin Whelan to Scranton after he cleared waivers. He walked five of the 10 batters he faced for New York last season, but he notched 23 saves and a strikeout per inning as a Triple-A closer.