Could the New York Yankees' ALCS Pitching Strategy Get Rained On?

Tom AuSenior Analyst IIOctober 15, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 11: C.C. Sabathia of the New York Yankees celebrates in the locker room after a win over the Minnesota Twins in Game Three of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 11, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Given his druthers, Joe Girardi would like to start C.C. Sabathia in Games One, Four, and Seven for the pennant. This would allow him to use a three-man rotation, with the others consisting of A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettite. That's possible, because of one day breaks after Game Two and Game Five.

But early indications of heavy showers, hence a rainout on Friday, could nix this plan. Then the first two games would be pushed back a day, with no break between Games Two and Three.

Of course, Girardi could pitch Sabathia on three days' rest. But that doesn't seem like a good idea.

It didn't work in 2007, when Chien-Ming Wang, then the Yankees' ace, was asked to pitch a fourth game against the Cleveland Indians on three days' rest. Nor did it when Sabathia pitched Game Two of the NLDS for the Brewers last year on short rest.

The problem is, the Yankees have only three, more or less, reliable starters. What do you do about the fourth?

Do you use Joba Chamberlain, or possibly Phil Hughes, and hope that he will be more than a "straw" starter.

Maybe you use the two of them in tandem, having each pitch three innings or so (as the Pittsburgh Pirates have done with the former Yankee Jeff Karstens and others). In this sequence, I'd even have Alfredo Acevedo pitch one inning of a "straw" start to give both the others a chance for a win.

Let's not even talk about Sergio Mitre or (this year's) Chien-Ming Wang.

But using a fourth starter might not be the worst thing in the world, if only for reasons of "diversification." Paul Byrd was a pleasant surprise for the Indians in 2007.

And if Sabathia started in only Games One and Five of the pennant series, he'd be available in Game One of the World Series. And what if the Yankees win in the series in six?

Choices, choices. It's a dilemma most managers would be happy to have.


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