The Rays and Rangers are going to play an actual baseball game tonight. Nine innings — more if Brian Cashman gets his way — with real umpires, real game decisions and real consequences.
The Yankees went through a few simulated innings this afternoon, and will do the same tomorrow.
This is the trade off. The Yankees get to rest. They get to lineup their rotation, make sure their regulars are healthy and do nothing but prepare for five days. The Rays and Rangers get to stay sharp. They get to see a few more live pitches, throw a few more live pitches and keep the must-win feeling alive and well.
“It’s a little bit of a concern, but I would rather be able to setup your rotation,” Joe Girardi said.
Dustin Moseley felt like he was throwing at 100 percent effort, “but you’re probably not,” he said. “The lights aren’t on and people aren’t in the stands. I went out there and went after it.”
That’s all the Yankees could do this afternoon. It’s all they can do Wednesday and Thursday. The time off has its good and its bad. There’s no way to change it, and the Yankees certainly wouldn’t trade places. It’s much better to be playing a simulated game today than playing a do-or-die game tonight.
“You get the guys mentally prepared,” Girardi said. “You don’t beat them up in these practices. You go through the situation (as if) you would have a two-game layoff. To me you treat it a little bit the same except you have the simulated games. That’s the biggest thing that we’re doing. Some people would say, do you think all of your hitters should be involved in a simulated game? You’d feel really terrible if you lost one of your starters because he got hit in the hand. That’s what you have to weigh. Our guys have had to deal with this before. They’re experienced. They’ll find ways to deal with it.”
• Dave Eiland said the Yankees have an idea of who will start Game 2 and who will start Game 3, but they’re not ready to announce it officially. The fact the Game 3 starter would also line up for Game 7, he said, does not factor into the decision. “We feel like whoever pitching 2 and whoever pitches 3 can pitch Game 7,” Eiland said. “Our first three guys — CC, Andy and Phil — we would have no problem running any of those three out there in Games 1 through 7, so that does not factor into it.”
• On Francisco Cervelli’s role in the ALCS: “To say a certain guy is going to catch A.J., we can’t say that,” Eiland said. “That decision has not been made yet.”
• It sounds like a three-man rotation was never a serious consideration for the ALCS because it would require too many games started on three-days rest. “Hughesy has never done it,” Girardi said. “Andy is coming off an injury. There’s some concern there. Then if you go Game 7, you’re asking CC to do it twice in one series, and that is a concern for us.”
• Any chance it’s not a four-man rotation? “I don’t see one,” Girardi said. “But I don’t want to lock ourselves into a box. Our preliminary discussions have been a four-man rotation.”
• Any consideration to anyone other than A.J. Burnett as the fourth starter? “I think we all felt that A.J. was the guy for the job,” Girardi said.
• Of all the guys who pitched today, most of the questions — surprise! — centered on Joba Chamberlain, who didn’t pitch at all in the ALDS. “That was the purpose of today to get the guys back out there and sharp,” Girardi said. “Obviously we know that he’s well rested and physically strong. My hope is that by pitching today and facing hitters and using all his pitches that he will be sharp when called upon.”
• As he always does, Ramiro Pena started laughing when I asked him about Kerry Wood breaking his bat during a sim game. “He got me,” Pena said. “He got me with a cutter.”
• Moseley and Cervelli had a fairly intense at-bat in Moseley’s second inning. It ended with a flare to right field. Cervelli claimed it was a hit. Moseley said it was a routine out. “I struck him out the pitch before and they didn’t call it on him,” Moseley said. “I told him I had the boys playing in.”
• A lot of times in spring training, coaches will tell pitchers to imagine certain scenarios (runner at first with one out, runner at third with two outs, etc.) but Moseley said there were no scenarios today. It was all about staying sharp. Just face a hitter, and try to get him out. The hitters were just trying to make good contact and stay sharp. “The competitiveness always comes out,” Moseley said.
• Preference in tonight’s game? “I think they’re pretty similar clubs actually,” Girardi said. “Their starting pitching has been good. Their bullpens have been good. They have speed. They have power. We’ve seen Tampa a lot more than we’ve seen Texas this year. To get to where they are, they’re both very good clubs. Whoever we face it’s going to be a big challenge.”
Associated Press photos