Major League Baseball had to compress the playoff schedule this season to fit in the new Wild Card game at the last minute. One change that had been talked about frequently was the 2-3 format for the Division Series, but the other change (that hadn’t really been discussed until just recently) was that the winner of the Baltimore-New York series wouldn’t receive an off-day between the Division Series and the Championship series. This causes a dilemma when it comes to setting up their pitching rotation for the series against the Tigers.
The big conundrum rests in New York’s decision for their Game Two starter. It will be their fifth game in five days, so their choices are: starting Hiroki Kuroda on three days’ rest, using David Phelps for a spot start, or adding Ivan Nova to the ALCS roster (if he’s even healthy). I think the two most likely options are Kuroda on short rest or Phelps. The team trusted Phelps with a start on the second to last day of the season when the division title was still in doubt. Anibal Sanchez will be going for the Tigers, so perhaps the Yankees will feel a little more comfortable with Phelps (while saving Kuroda to go against Verlander). Then again, if Kuroda doesn’t pitch in game two, he’s either only used in the series once, or pitching on short rest for game six.
If they elect to use Phelps in game two, then Kuroda will be in line to pitch in game three. If they go with Kuroda in game two, then Phil Hughes is the likely starter to match up against Justin Verlander in game three.
CC Sabathia’s normal rest schedule lines him up for game four. It’s possible they could pull him up a day to match up with Verlander (and put him in line to pitch game seven on normal rest), but that doesn’t really add any value in the grand scheme of things. Pitching Sabathia in game four allows for the possibility of the Yankees advancing without needing their big fella to pitch on short rest at all.
Game five will be a Pettitte vs. Fister rematch. That much is certain, if not 100% official.
Game six will likely be Kuroda; the only question will be whether it’s on short rest after game three or normal rest after pitching in game two. I think he goes in game two, so he would be in line on normal rest for the sixth game. If the Yankees don’t want to use Kuroda on short rest in the series, then Phil Hughes be the likely game six starter (unless, that is, they decide to keep Phelps in the rotation).
Game seven will be Sabathia again. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. He’ll likely be on short rest, but there isn’t anyone else on the staff that they would be comfortable with in a matchup against Justin Verlander.