I can't believe this is as close as it is. There are arms that are very talented in the minors (Sanchez, Melancon, Cox, Horne). Middle relievers emerge from nowhere every year. There are others in the minors that are better than Hawkins and Farnsworth in Patterson, Ramirez, Albawhathisface. The bullpen will sort itself out, and I would not be surpised if over half of them currently on the 25 aren't on the post-season roster(if the Yanks make the postseason). The Yankees have gotten to the postseason with horrible relievers in front of Rivera for the last 4 years. Girardi and Cashman have stated over and over again that Joba will get 140 innings this year. Girardi isn't an old fashioned manager, he reads BP for instance, and he understands the Joba situation, as does Cashman. If the Yankees had wanted to they could have easily sold Joba as the closer this season and not signed Rivera. Rivera is signed for 2 more seasons, and it would be retarded to have your highest ceiling pitcher in a setup role for those next 2 years. I've got plenty more ammo if anyone wants to pursue this seriously.
Just a couple of points I would like to make in regards to this discussion. I agree that Joba needs to get the SP experience before the playoffs - because I currently don't feel confident with a Wang-Hughes-Mussina 1-2-3 rotation in a five-game playoff and beyond. However, with that being said, there is no reason to rush him into the rotation right now. As evidenced in the past few games, the Yankee offense is struggling quite a bit (although I'll grant they've gone up against some good pitching until tonight). So until the Yanks' offense starts to get rolling, why take your money set-up guy out of the equation? As a Yankee fan, I don't want 1, 2, or 3 run games in the 7th and 8th being left to the mercy of Farnsworth and Hawkins.
And if these fantastic relievers come out of nowhere - they need TIME to come out of nowhere. The Yanks should use the beginning of the season to try out these younger prospects to see if anyone of them can step up and even remotely fill Joba's shoes (i.e. using them in 6th-7th inning situations). This way, the bullpen can get sorted out... the Yanks can find a reliable late relief pitcher that won't hand over games to the opposition, and Joba can move into the rotation without worrying that a couple poor performances will send him right back into the BP (since he won't be desperately needed there).
Fact is - if Joba struggles in the rotation right now, and our craptacular BP blows some 8th inning leads - New York will demand Joba return to the BP, and his confidence in the future might take a hit.