The Yankees aren’t about to start Phil Hughes on three days’ rest, so even if CC Sabathia were to pitch Tuesday night on short rest, it still would leave Joe Girardi with no other option but Burnett in Game 5.
And if you’re looking for a miracle from Burnett, well, yanking someone so emotionally fragile at the last minute would only be asking for further disaster. In addition, the absolute last thing you want is him being asked to save the season if the Yankees are down 3-1 to the Rangers in the series.
Even if Burnett puts the Yankees in a 3-1 hole Tuesday, I’d rather take my chances with Sabathia, Hughes and Andy Pettitte coming back, all of them on regular rest for the first time in this postseason.
If the response is “well, we need to win tonight, so just pitch Burnett tomorrow night,” you’re still loopy, because tonight’s matchup is way more suited for Burnett. The Rangers are pitching Tommy Hunter. Hunter has started two games against the Yankees. In those games he has given up seven runs on 14 hits in nine and a third innings. In other words, he’s hittable and thus the Yankees do not need a shutdown start in order to win this game. They simply need to hit the ball for once and hope for no worse than a mediocre start from Burnett. If the Yankees can’t hit Hunter, well, they’re screwed anyway. Assuming you get past Hunter with a win, the Yankees then throw Sabathia and Hughes on regular rest, and both of those games are winnable.
Look, I know it’s tempting to bring back Sabathia. But the series is at 2-1 right now, not 3-1. You can’t punt Games 4 and 5 simply because you’re freaked out over what happened in Games 2 and 3 and scared to death about facing Cliff Lee in Game 7. By throwing Burnett against Hunter and then Sabathia and Hughes on their regular schedule, the Yankees give themselves the best chance they have to win all three of those games. And that’s all a manager can do. Ultimately, the players have to perform.
The most popular alternative was to have CC Sabahtia pitch on short rest, taking Game 1, 4, and 7, but that wouldn’t have eliminated the need to have Burnett start unless they also asked Hughes and Petitte to pitch on short rest as well, and there are some legitimate problems with that. Hughes has never pitched on three days rest, and Pettitte has a pretty long list of arm problems in his background. Getting potentially reduced performance by both, not even factoring in Sabathia’s two starts on short rest, makes that idea unappetizing.
That’s where the “we don’t know Hughes can’t pitch on short rest” argument rests, but to me, it’s less about Hughes and more about the other two on short rest.
Let’s see what AJ does tonite. We’ll know quickly if he has his stuff or not. And if he doesn’t the hook will be swift and quick.