Jim Leyland had a story to tell, and so he sat at the podium before today’s decisive Game 5 and began speaking before anyone asked a question.
“I have an announcement to make,” he said. “This will explain why you think I’m so old and grumpy and messed up. I got a telegram today from a professor from a prominent university. These are my instructions for tonight… I am supposed to pitch Valverde the first five innings tonight, then I’m supposed to pitch Verlander the last three, quote, ‘the seventh and eighth.’ So that’s where we’re at.”
Everyone, you see, has an approach to Game 5.
What interesting is that Leyland and Joe Girardi are approaching this Game 5 very differently. Leyland has shuffled his lineup again, going with the hot hand in Don Kelly at the top. Girardi has stuck with his regulars, whether they’re struggling or not. Leyland has talked about wanting to get through this game with a select group of rested relievers. Girardi has entertained the notion of every key reliever pitching more than an inning.
Mostly, Leyland and Girardi have differed in the way they plan to use their aces.
Leyland says Justin Verlander won’t pitch at all. In fact, Verlander already threw a bullpen this afternoon so that he’s prepared for a possible ALCS Game 1.
“I’m not going to use Verlander,” Leyland said. “I am not under any circumstances… You can argue till the cows come home, I’m not going to do it. I don’t think it’s a wise decision.”
Girardi has told CC Sabathia to be ready. Girardi’s thinks he could throw a “couple” of innings, and he brought up the idea of going to Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning, saving Sabathia to get the final few outs if Rivera runs out of gas before the end of the ninth.
“You can’t tell when you’re going to go to that move,” Girardi said. “There’s not an exact scenario.”
But would he be hesitant to use Sabathia, wanting to save his ace for Game 1 of the next round?
“You’ve got to win this one,” Girardi said. “(Otherwise) there is no Game 1.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference.
• What’s the limit or Rivera tonight? “It’s more pitches than anything,” Girardi said. “You start to get around 35, 40 pitches you start to get into a gray area and you start to worry… That might be a situation where you have CC behind him. It could be something like that.”
• Girardi said it’s “very possible” that he’ll use Dave Robertson and Rivera to pitch the final three innings.
• A.J. Burnett is available if this game gets extremely crazy, but right now the plan is to have him in the rotation should the Yankees advance. “I imagine I would start him,” Girardi said. “I haven’t thought that far along, but yeah.”
• Girardi did not give any sort of pregame speech, and he didn’t ask a player or a member of the coaching staff to do so either. “I kind of watch what our guys are doing, and if they need something, they need something,” Girardi said. “I told you, I thought they were very loose the other day going into Game 4. I’ve seen some of the guys now, and they seem loose to me. I didn’t say anything magical to them in Game 4.”
• Today would have been a bullpen day for Sabathia, but he hasn’t thrown one yet. If this game becomes a blowout, and Sabathia starts to get loose, Girardi said that could be nothing more than a bullpen to prepare for the ALCS.
• Leyland explaining his Verlander decision: “One thing you have to remember, he went a little longer than CC the other night. He also was throwing 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning. He’s also thrown a lot of pitches under stressful circumstances. And I also remind you that Scherzer did a pretty good — he has more rest and he did a pretty good job against the Yankees. So Scherzer would be my first guy tonight if I needed a long guy.”
• Despite Leyland’s vow not to use Verlander, Girardi is approaching this game as if Verlander is available. “I know what Jim said,” Girardi said, laughing. “Sometimes circumstances change. You get into a crazy game and he might be the last guy. I’m not saying he’s going to put him in there, but I’m just saying, you get into an 18-inning game, you’re not putting Wilson Betemit out there, you know what I’m saying?”
Associated Press photos