Lining up Sabathia

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(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

All season long, there have been questions about the pitching staff. It didn’t matter how well Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia or Ivan Nova pitched, they were going to be judged on a start-by-start basis. All three have exceeded expectations, no doubt, but they’re still being treated as question marks. One thing has never been in question though, and that’s who would start Game One of the ALDS. That would be CC Sabathia, regardless of how well everyone else pitched. There’s a slight problem though, Sabathia doesn’t line up to start that game, and it’s not even close.

Because of the continued use of the six-man rotation, Sabathia has either two or three starts left. If the Yankees keep the rotation the way it is right now, CC would have to start Game One on just two days rest, which obviously won’t happen. If they move him back a day, he’d have to start Game One on seven days rest. Move him up a day, it would be three days rest. Here, look at the schedule, it just doesn’t work without getting creative. There’s not much schedule left, so the Yankees can’t keep delaying this rotation decision like they have for the last month or so. Sabathia needs to get lined up for September 30th, the date of Game One, and it needs to happen soon. My solution: a simulated game on Thursday.

Sabathia last pitched on Saturday, so Thursday would be his turn with normal rest. The Yankees have to get him back on a regular five-day schedule at some point, the sooner the better. They’re off on Thursday, traveling from Seattle to Toronto, which is why it would have to be a simulated game. Sabathia gets his work in that day, the lines up to start on the 20th (Rays) and then on the 25th (Red Sox) before that Game One comes up. In an absolute disaster scenario in which the Rays catch New York and the two teams are tied for a playoff spot, they Yankees would have the option of pushing CC back to the 26th to have him face Tampa. I doubt it comes to that, though. They’ll be able to use that simulated game to have Sabathia pitch on normal rest for basically three full turns through the rotation, giving him (hopefully) enough time to get back into the routine before the postseason. This would be ideal given where we are right now.

Obviously the long and late night flight from Seattle to Toronto sucks (thanks for the getaway day on Wednesday, Mariners! [/sarcasm]), but the Yankees could simply send Sabathia to Toronto before the rest of the team. Have him fly out on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday, then show up to the park on Thursday afternoon ready to unload 100 pitches. Greg Golson, Chris Dickerson, Brandon Laird … all the September call-ups that might be rusting away on the bench can step in the box for some extra at-bats, and Jesus Montero could catch in order to develop some of that all-important familiarity with the staff ace. Even if he splits the catching duties with Austin Romine, it works.

Are the Yankees going to do this? Most likely not. They absolutely have to do something though, and they should probably do it pretty soon. Figuring out who starts Games Two and Three is enough of a concern right now, they don’t need to make things even more difficult by having Sabathia start Game One on some inordinate amount of rest. The idea of essentially skipping CC sounds crazy, but the team has built up enough of a cushion on the wildcard that they could get away with it. A few wins in Seattle would make the simulated game plan even more palatable.

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  • theyankeewarrior

    Why I love RAB:

  • theyankeewarrior

    Whoops, let me try again…

    Why I love RAB: Because I’ve been asking myself (and others) this question for a few days now and these cats put up a nice timely post on it for the followers to chew on.

  • theyankeewarrior

    My solution would have been to start CC on Friday instead of Bartolo and simply push Bart back to Saturday.

    That way, he can start the 14th on normal rest, and on the 20th on one day extra rest.

    Then he would be lined up for the 25th and 30th.

    With that scenario out the window, they will have so skip him at some point in order to line him up for the 20th/25th/30th.

    Seems odd that they waited this long to deal with it.

  • well you know

    I’d give him the Friday start against the Jays, limit him to five innings. Then bring him back on three days rest on the 20th, again not pushing the pitch count, and go from there.

    • Bill

      Yea that seems like the best option, but the Yankees will likely go for more rest over less so I doubt it. I think they line up CC to start on the last day of the regular season and only use him if absolutely necessary. So you give him extra rest and hopefully it doesn’t screw with his routine and in the off chance you actually need him to start a my must win game you have him available. Either that or they push his second start back to Sunday the 25th or at least Saturday the 24th. That would set him up for regular or 5 day rest for Game 1.

  • Paul Proteus

    They’d almost have to skip him to get him to pitch on the 20th, 25th, and 30th. Or do the simulated start. They’ve painted themselves into a corner here and no longer have the option of pushing him back a day or two.

    • Ted Nelson

      I wouldn’t just assume the Yankees didn’t see this coming… It’s possible, but it’s also pretty likely that they realize this is the situation and have a plan. Doesn’t mean it’s the best plan or it will work out… but I find it hard to believe that the Yankees organization as a group is so dumb that they didn’t realize this was coming up and get together to talk about it.

  • 24fan

    Why not just skip this go around all together, forget the simulated game. CC has pitched a ton of innings and had a few deep pitch counts lately. Give him some extended rest then two tune up starts heading into the playoffs. I know the big guy isn’t crazy about extra rest, but I think he might benefit from it.

    • Monteroisdinero

      nah-the big guy would get bigger.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    There is no need for concern because the solution is in the binder. Girardi has worked out the complex formula based on our need for wins in the playoff race. When the 30th comes,CC will be on the mound with the correct amount of rest. I praise God for the binder.

  • John

    great plan. use your best pitcher in a game that doesnt count!

    • Ted Nelson

      Read the article. Mike specifically addresses this.

      The Yankees are far enough ahead in the Wild Card that not making the playoffs is less of a concern at this point than doing well in the playoffs. There is a 1% chance the Yankees don’t make the playoffs at this point. If this is the plan that will make CC and the team most ready to succeed in the playoffs, there is certainly an argument that it supersedes the marginal gain of having CC start one more regular season game.

  • MikeD

    Another option is have him start Friday the 16th and then one of the double-header games on Wednesday the 21st. From there, the Yankees can either have him start on three day’s rest on Sunday the 25th or regular four day’s rest on Monday the 26th. In the latter, that means he’d be going on only three days rest to start the playoffs, so if he’s going to absorb one short-rest appearance, it might make sense to make it on the 25th so he’s on full rest.

  • mustang

    “Jesus Montero could catch in order to develop some of that all-important familiarity with the staff ace. Even if he splits the catching duties with Austin Romine, it works.”

    This is a bit off topic, but I’m wondering why didn’t the Yankees have Montero learn a second position in the minors if they think he is that bad of a defensive catcher? I mean if they think that he can’t handled catching for a bit until people get healthy without having to be defensively replace or splitting time with Romine then what is he doing catching in the first place?

    • Rainbow Connection

      They planned on trading him and letting that be someone else’s problem.

      • mustang

        I have been thinking the same thing for a while now. It would explain why they been basically hiding him from catching om the MLB level.

    • MikeD

      No reason to. His other likely position is 1B, which is locked with Tex now. They might as well continue to develop his catching skills so that he can serve as a DH/part-time catcher. Any team trading from him could then give him some reps at first. The Yankees wouldn’t gain anything by having him abandon catcher and learn first at this time.

      • Bill

        Yep the Yankees have Tex at 1B with Swisher, Chavez, and Posada as backups. Even if he played there it wouldn’t make a difference plus his future is at C even if he’s not the best defensive option there.

        • CS Yankee

          His future could also be DH/backup catcher.

      • CS Yankee

        Agree, he will likely end up being “Jorge 2.0”.

        So-so glove with a (more) powerful stick. Long way to go to reach his career WAR, but he has a five year headstart age-wise for the position.

        If he bombs or a better glove with a decent stick is available, he’ll DH 100 times a year, and catch another 30-35 games.

      • mustang

        “The Yankees wouldn’t gain anything by having him abandon catcher and learn first at this time.”

        I wouldn’t want him to abandon catching, but having him learn some 1B/Outfield would given them a bit more flexibility. Who knows he might be a better outfielder then catcher.

        • mustang

          Plus if Montero’s bat is what everyone predicts it is I rather him play a less arduous positon.

  • CS Yankee

    I could see them giving him a 4 IP (60 pitch) start and then get him lined up for a 29th/30th start and go 6-7 (90-100) against the Saux.

    Having his workload be solid just before postseason but not taxing. The other clubs (or 4 of 5) are even more likely to have a challenge as they aren’t in the same good shape as NY.

    I glad they currently have the best AL record and therefore have more room to adjust prior to seasons end. The extra rest to Colon & Garcia, along with seeing who the fourth pitcher would be (Nova?) and who would go pen (Hughes?), was solid planning. CC should adjust nicely and the most probable outcome will be securing postseason before the final week thus making this moot.

  • StanfordBen

    Really interesting post. Great job, Mike.

    As Mike said, the Yanks probably won’t actually do this. Any guesses as to what they will do? It seems like the options are:
    1. Mike’s proposal
    2. Start the 16th, 21st, 26th, start Game 1 on 3 days rest
    2a. Start the 16th and 21st, and if they’ve already clinched by the 26th, start Game 1 on 8 days rest
    3. Start the 16th, then sometime between the 22nd and 25th, splitting 12 days of rest between those starts, with a max of 7 days, min of 4 days rest before Game 1
    4. Two starts spaced out somewhat evenly between the 17th and 25th, with a max of 7 days, min of 4 days rest before Game 1

    If the Yankees aren’t really planning this out well, I’d guess they go with #2 or 2a, which is unfortunate. If they don’t go with #1, I’d prefer #3 or 4, pitching him on the 24th or 25th against the Sox so that he has normal rest before Game 1.

  • A.D.

    My guess is they go a half start on short rest to end the season so that CC is ready on regular rest going into game 1