10:47 am Oct. 5, 2012
So now the Yankees get to relax, while the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers battle for the right to keep playing.
It's amazing how small their margin of error turned out to be, though. The Yankees' 95-67 record was just a game better than the Oakland Athletics, giving the Yankees home field throughout the American League playoffs. And they finished just two games ahead of the Orioles and Rangers, the difference between being able to set up their rotation and having to pitch Andy Pettitte again before they even make the playoffs proper.
It appears the Yankees have all but decided their roster's makeup at this point, though nothing has been formally announced. Manager Joe Girardi said Thursday that the team will carry 11 pitchers, and that Phil Hughes will likely get the chance to start a potential Game 4. That makes the starters Hughes, CC Sabathia, Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, with Sabathia on track for Game 1, Pettitte Game 2 and Kuroda Game 3.
The seven relievers would then project to be, from high-leverage to low-leverage, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Clay Rapada, David Phelps and best guess for seventh spot, Derek Lowe. Lowe as long man could allow Phelps to pitch in more important situations, which would be a luxury for the Yankees.
With everyone healthy, the lineup should be set: Russell Martin at catcher, Mark Teixeira at first, Robinson Cano at second, Alex Rodriguez at third, Derek Jeter at short, Ichiro Suzuki in left, Curtis Granderson in center, Nick Swisher in right and Raul Ibanez at designated hitter. That leaves five bench spots, with Chris Stewart a lock as backup catcher, Eric Chavez as top hitter, Brett Gardner as the dangerous late-inning speed and defense option, and Eduardo Nunez because someone needs to be a backup middle infielder, even if a nominal defensive option.
The final option can either be the long-slumping Andruw Jones, outfielder Chris Dickerson, or catcher Francisco Cervelli. The bet here is Dickerson gets the spot, even though Gardner makes him somewhat redundant.
Maybe the biggest adjustment for the Yankees this postseason will be constructing a roster without Mariano Rivera. He won't be pitching; instead, he'll be signing autographs at a local mall.
But even without, the group of Yankees that will board a plane for Baltimore or Arlington after Friday night's game is formidable.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Kurt Thomas turned 40 on Thursday.
Ahead of Saturday's match with Chicago, Thierry Henry reveals his tribute to Lothar Matthaus.