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More Games, More Decisions

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A look at the Yankees Postseason Roster

The Yankees are in the Playoffs for the 16th time in 17 years and even the most critical fans have to view this years’ regular season as a great success. There were only four days the entire season, and none since May 20th, the Pinstripes did not rank as one of the top two teams in the American League East; all four days they sat in 3rd place. The starting pitching held it’s own, Derek Jeter showed he still had something left in the tank, the bullpen proved once again to be a strength and the Bombers battled through injuries to key guys that could have derailed lesser clubs.

But as the grind and glory that is the baseball regular season ends, nobody will care about another AL East title. Or Jeter’s 3000th. Or Rivera’s 600th. Now the Yankees must turn their sights towards October once again and with the second season set to begin Friday there are still big questions concerning the postseason roster.

THE SHOO-INS
Hitters: 2B Robinson Cano, 3B/DH Eric Chavez, OF Brett Gardner, OF Curtis Granderson, SS Derek Jeter, OF Andruw Jones, C Russell Martin, INF Eduardo Nunez, 3B Alex Rodriguez, OF Nick Swisher, 1B Mark Teixeira,

Pitchers: RP Boone Logan, SP Ivan Nova, CL Mariano Rivera, RP David Robertson, SP CC Sabathia, RP Rafael Soriano

Assuming Francisco Cervelli is unable to return because of concussion-like symptoms, which is looking more and more likely, that’s 17 spots filled and 8 up for grabs…

3 and 4 starters:
Quiet possibly the two players that will decide whether the Yankees are hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy or cleaning out their lockers empty handed. A main topic throughout the season, the Yankees, once again, will only go as far as their starting pitching carries them. With Ivan Nova solidifying his spot as the number two starter, the candidates for the final two slots are Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes. Bartolo Colon, the Pinstripes second best pitcher for the first four months of the season, is winless since July 30th. At 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA (as of Sunday), Freddy Garcia seems like the obvious choice to fill one of these slots, but Garcia likes to pitch to contact which can get him in trouble when facing better lineups. The headache that is AJ Burnett has actually had a decent September, 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA including going 7.2 innings while only allowing 2 runs Sunday against the Red Sox. But it’s hard to forget that Burnett gave up almost two hits an inning (44 hits in 22.2 innings) and had an 11.91 ERA in August. Finally, there’s the oft-injured Phil Hughes who has struggled to find any consistency this season after recording 18 wins a year ago.

It’s not an ideal situation to say the least, but since the Yanks can’t have CC and Nova start every game, I’d have Garcia and Burnett take the ball in games 3 and 4 with Colon ready in case either of them get into trouble early (Burnett pitched his way into the rotation with his last start). Garcia has a 3.11 ERA in 9 postseason starts, though none since 2005, and has made a career of keeping his team in the game. He also has very similar numbers this year to Nova in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Burnett is all or nothing; hope for all, have Colon ready if nothing. Cut Hughes from the roster; this is not the time of year to stick with mediocrity (unless your name is Jorge Posada…), even giving him a spot in the bullpen would be foolish.

Back up catcher:
The loss of Franscico Cervelli leaves the Yankees with two options: 1. Keep Austin Romine as the backup, which he’s been doing since the Cervelli went on the DL on September 13th. 2. Have Jesus Montero take over the role and hope that Russell Martin doesn’t need a day off. Montero and his .350+ BA in 50+ At-Bats would be the obvious choice but he has caught a total of 15 innings in the big leagues. The light-hitting Romine is thought throughout the organization to be the better defensive option.

Manager Joe Girardi being a former catcher, I’d think he’d want a solid presence behind the plate. But Girardi has indicated that Montero will be on the postseason roster, which leads to the next debate…

Designated hitter/Pinch-hitter:
Would Girardi leave Jorge Posada, most likely in his last season, off the roster? It has been well documented that Girardi and Posada haven’t seen eye to eye on more than one occasion this year. But making Posada, one of the core Yankees and still a fan favorite, watch from the dugout would not go over well in the clubhouse or amongst the fans. The reason this is an issue is because the aforementioned Jesus Montero and Posada basically serve the same purpose. Girardi wants neither of them catching so their only defensive spot is first base. The reason this is an issue is the 21-year-old Montero is swinging a hot bat since his September call up, the 40-year-old Posada has struggled all season.

If the Yankees took both these guys, they’d have two pitch-hitters who would be liabilities in the field. It also makes Andruw Jones the lone outfielder and Eduardo Nunez the lone infielder on the bench and only 11 pitchers on the roster. But Girardi would get killed if he leaves either one off the roster. Probably the most difficult decision the Yankees will have to make.

Filling out the bullpen:
There are four candidates for the remaining two roster spots. Luis Ayala and Cory Wade have been rocks whenever Girardi called on them, both posting ERA’s under 2.00. But if the Yankees want to add another lefty in the pen to help Boone Logan they’ll have to pick either Raul Valdes or Aaron Laffey. Laffey’s ERA has hovered around 4.00 all season, splitting time between Seattle and New York. Valdes has only made a dozen appearances in the big leagues this season.

I’m taking Ayala and Wade, especially if Detroit is first up. One lefty in the bullpen has worked all year long and the Tigers do not have any scary lefty bats.