For Yankees, Three Adds Up to More Than Four

Girardi "definitely considering" keeping a three-man rotation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    If you had to choose one guy to start a playoff game, would you start CC Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain or Chad Gaudin? Unless you're a family member of Chamberlain or Gaudin, the answer is pretty clear. Heck, the answer is probably clear to some members of the Chamberlain and Gaudin clans, even if they are only hoping for a slightly better Christmas present thanks to a bigger playoff share paid to players on teams that succeed in the postseason.

    Sabathia is miles ahead of either other pitcher, which is probably why Joe Girardi told reporters Tuesday that he's "definitely considering" using only three starting pitchers against the Angels in the American League Championship Series. He'd be foolish to come to a conclusion that gives a start to either Chamberlain or Gaudin. An extra start for Sabathia is the right move for the Yankees for several reasons.

    Sabathia was signed by the Yankees to be an ace and aces are the kinds of guys that can start three times in a seven-game series and carry their teams to the next round. Given his size, the carrying is easier for him than it would be for a slimmer ace, while his limited workload means that he's rested enough to take on some extra innings at a crucial time. The team cut back on his innings in September with the idea of keeping him fresh come the postseason, so it's not like this decision is coming out of left field.

    The ALCS is also set up with an extra off day between games 4 and 5 which means that the team would be altering the rotation on only one day. A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte would be in line to start games 5 and 6 on normal rest while Sabathia would be fully rested if they needed him to throw a seventh game at Yankee Stadium. That's a very limited disruption that does little to mitigate the clear advantage of having Sabathia on the mound instead of Chamberlain or Gaudin.

    And it's not like Chamberlain and Gaudin will be left twiddling their thumbs if Sabathia starts a third game in this series. Girardi made it clear in the Division Series that Chamberlain is a key cog in the late innings for the Yankee bullpen and keeping him there at this point would make life easier for the team and for all of the people tired of hearing the endless ruminations on his role. Gaudin, on the other hand, is a pretty decent option as a long man if the starting pitcher runs into trouble and/or in extra inning games. Keeping him off the mound to start a game means that he'll be available to work in more games which lengthens an already deep bullpen even further.

    The only way that going with a fourth starter could concievably make sense is if the Yankees were up 3-0 and wanted to preserve Sabathia's arm for Game 1 of the World Series. Anyone seriously considering that notion should pick up a copy of the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Championship DVD for a remedial course on why you don't let teams hang around longer than necessary.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.