Yankees’ Reliance on Three-Man Rotation in Postseason Won’t Work This Time Around

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Yankees' Reliance on Three-Man Rotation in Postseason Won't Work This Time Around The New York Yankees know that winning a World Series with a three-man rotation is possible, even if it’s not recommended.

In 2009, the Yanks went with three established starters — CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte — in all three rounds of the postseason en route to their eventual World Series victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. Each pitcher threw on short rest at least once along the way.

On Tuesday, New York manager Joe Girardi announced his team will be employing the same strategy for the 2010 ALDS series against the Twins, only this time Phil Hughes will be taking the place of Burnett.

The three-man rotation can obviously work, but it won’t this year for the Yankees.

The logic is, of course, getting Sabathia the ball as much as possible, because he has the most proven and durable arm on the staff. Bottom line, he’s a horse.

But Sabathia is human, and humans get tired. And in 2010, Sabathia is being called upon even more than in 2009.

Last year, Burnett and Pettitte were solid all season long, and both looked like bona fide No. 2 starters heading into the postseason.

This year, the Yankees' rotation, save Sabathia and his 21 wins, has been anything but a sure thing.

Burnett’s unprecedented struggles have been well documented, as he lost a career-high 15 games and his ERA skyrocketed from 4.04 in 2009 to 5.26 in 2010.

Pettitte was as strong as he’s ever been in his career during the first half of the season, but a groin strain on July 18 forced the 38-year-old to go on the disabled list for two months. Since his return on Sept. 19, Pettite has posted a 6.57 ERA in three starts, two of which he didn’t pitch past the fourth inning.

Then there’s Hughes. The 24-year-old had a sensational season, winning 18 games and holding opposing hitters to a .244 batting average while pitching in the AL East, but there’s one major concern — he’s never started a playoff game.

While the Yankees have pitching problems on the surface, those problems are exemplified even more when their starters are forced to throw on short rest.

Luckily for New York, the only guy who would have to pitch on three days of rest in the ALDS against the Twins would be Sabathia, who starts Game 1 on Wednesday and would pitch a potential Game 4 on Sunday. Pettitte will start Game 2 on Thursday and would pitch a potential Game 5 the following Tuesday.

But if the Yankees move on to the ALCS, a three-man rotation would entail each starter to pitch on short rest in a seven-game series, with Sabathia being forced to pitch on short rest twice. The same effect would apply to the World Series, as well.

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