Today the Yankees enjoy an off-day and travel to Baltimore to prepare for their series against the Orioles. As the team gets closer to October, though, one of the more interesting questions the team will have to face is shuffling their rotation for the playoffs. If every pitcher goes on regular rest with a rotation of Sabathia-Pettitte-Nova-Hughes-Burnett (the current order), here is how the rotation would play out for the remainder of the year and into the ALDS:
The obvious problem with this is CC Sabathia. As it stands, Sabathia’s last scheduled start would be Tuesday, 9/28, meaning he wouldn’t pitch for an entire week before coming back for Wednesday’s Game 1 of the ALDS. The team could take advantage of the off day on Thursday, 9/30 and start him on Sunday the 3rd on normal rest, but this would mean that he wouldn’t be available for Game 1 of the ALDS and would have to pitch on short rest for Game 2.
Instead, the goal should be for Sabathia to start on Friday, October 3rd, thereby enabling him to start on regular rest for the ALDS. This is what the Yankees opted to do last year, pushing him back a few times in the regular season and then starting him on regular rest in the postseason. In order to achieve this goal, the team will have to figure out a way to shuffle the rotation and give Sabathia extra days off in the coming weeks. Thanks to Dustin Moseley and Javier Vazquez, expanded rosters and a gigantic lead in the Wild Card race, this is eminently feasible.
First, let’s assume the rotation stays as is over the next five games: Burnett, Sabathia and Pettitte all start on normal rest in Baltimore, and Nova and Hughes pitch on Monday and Tuesday of next week. AJ Burnett would be lined up to pitch the following day, and let’s assume that he does that as the team tries to get him back in the groove.
What the club could then do is have Dustin Moseley start Thursday, 9/23 instead of CC Sabathia, thereby bumping Sabathia and Pettitte to the Friday and Saturday games against Boston and giving them one extra day of rest apiece. Nova could take his next turn in the rotation on Sunday, pitching on one extra day of rest as well and bumping Hughes back a day to Monday, the 27th. The modified 6-man rotation could then continue on Tuesday and Wednesday with Burnett and Moseley both pitching on an extra day’s rest. The team would then go into the final series of the season against Boston after an off-day on Thursday with Sabathia and Pettitte scheduled to go Friday and Saturday on 2 days extra rest apiece.
At this point, the club will probably tip its’ hand as to the identity of the Game 3 starter, because it makes sense for the Game 3 starter to start the final game of the regular season for scheduling purposes. If it’s Burnett, then he could pitch on regular rest on Sunday and 5 days’ rest in Game 3. If it’s Hughes, then he could pitch on 5 days’ rest on Sunday and 5 days’ rest in Game 3. Here is what this rotation would look like:
There’s another variation of this plan to give Hughes even more rest than he is currently getting. On Monday the 27th, the team could start AJ on regular rest, have Moseley start the Tuesday game on regular rest, and pitch Hughes on Wednesday the 29th on regular rest. The rest of the plan would stay intact, with CC and Pettitte throwing on Friday and Saturday with two extra days of rest, and AJ finishing up the regular season on Sunday on regular rest. Essentially, this plan would exchange an extra day of rest for Burnett and Moseley for two extra days for Hughes. It would also assume that AJ is the Game 3 starter, or that the Yankees will want Hughes to start Game 3 on nine days rest, which seems unlikely. Here is what this schedule would look like:
The interesting thing to watch will be how the team tries to line up Pettitte and Sabathia to pitch on the final weekend of the regular season. Two things seem clear: they will want to ensure that the important starters get the extra rest they need, and they will probably want Sabathia and Pettitte starting the playoffs on regular rest. The most likely way to accomplish this is to use Moseley or Vazquez, creating a modified 6-man rotation down the stretch. It will be a tricky situation, because they’ll need to manage Hughes’ innings limit as well. There are a lot of permutations possible, so feel free to come up with your own plan in the comments below.
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