The Yankees will workout at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Joe Girardi will address the media before the workout, which should be our first opportunity to ask about his plans for the playoff roster and rotation. These are the decisions he has to make.
It stands to reason that CC Sabathia will start the opener. Hiroki Kuroda has earned the right to start Game 2, but his numbers are also much better at home than on the road. It might make more sense to have Andy Pettitte pitch Game 2 in Texas or Baltimore and leave Kuroda and Hughes to start Games 3 and 4 at home. Either way, the Yankees will surely want Pettitte to throw some sort of simulated game either today or tomorrow to stay sharp.
Where should Mark Teixeira bat?
Girardi admitted on Tuesday night that his idea of batting Teixeira cleanup ahead of Robinson Cano didn’t work, and last night he dropped Teixeira to sixth behind surging Nick Swisher. It was the first time that Teixeira hit sixth this season, but it might be the best spot for him in the playoffs because of the time off and because of the way Swisher and Cano have been hitting.
Who fills the seventh spot in the bullpen?
It’s clear that Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson and Boone Logan will be in the postseason bullpen, and Joba Chamberlain, Clay Rapada and David Phelps seem like safe bets as well. Assuming a seven-man bullpen, that leaves one spot for four candidates.
Freddy Garcia is really a candidate in name only. He’s clearly fallen to the bottom of the pecking order and seems like a safe bet to be left off. The choice really comes down to Derek Lowe, Cody Eppley and Ivan Nova. Lately, it seems that Lowe has pitched his way to the top of the list. He can get groundballs like Eppley, and he can pitch multiple innings like Nova (which would let the Yankees use Phelps as more of a middle man rather than saving him for long relief).
Is Brett Gardner healthy enough to play?
After a handful of at-bats during this home stand, the answer seems to be, yes. And if the answer is yes, then Gardner probably has a spot on the playoff roster. Chris Dickerson brings some of the same tools — a left-handed bat, good defense, good speed — but Gardner is more proven and probably more dangerous.
Who gets the final spot on the bench?
Assuming Gardner can play, and assuming the Yankees are going to carry an 11-man pitching staff, the Yankees have one more roster spot open. Count on these 13 players making the team: Russell Martin, Chris Stewart, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez and Gardner.
That leaves one more spot for Dickerson, Andruw Jones, Casey McGehee or Francisco Cervelli. It’s pretty easy to dismiss the idea of a third catcher considering how little the Yankees used Cervelli down the stretch, and McGehee and Dickerson rarely played despite the Teixeira injury and the Jones struggles. Could Jones make the postseason roster despite his numbers? Sure. Dickerson is fairly redundant in this outfield and McGehee’s numbers are awful too. If Jayson Nix were healthy it might be a different story, but without him, Jones might as good as any final bench option.
Does it make more sense to carry an extra pitcher?
It’s generally expected that a team will carry an extra position player in the postseason — drop a starting pitcher and add a pinch runner, something like that — but if the Yankees don’t like any of their final bench options, this might be a year when it makes more sense to use that roster spot on an eighth reliever.
Girardi mixes and matches a lot, and carrying eight pitchers would let him continue to use Eppley and Rapada as situational relievers, while also having Phelps available for middle relief and either Lowe or Nova waiting as an emergency long man. Most years, I don’t think it makes much sense to carry eight relievers — plenty of days off to rest guys, more valuable to have an extra guy on the bench — but this might be an exception because of the situational relievers involved and the lack of a standout option for the bench.
Associated Press photos