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The New York Yankees have officially submitted their roster for the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers. The series begins tonight as aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia square off in the Bronx.
Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli (DL), Raul Valdez, Hector Noesi, Bartolo Colon, Aaron Laffey, Scott Proctor
In all likelihood, the Yankees will roll with the same lineup throughout the series. Detroit doesn’t have any left handed starting pitchers, which, according to Joe Girardi, means Jorge Posada is expected to start each game as the DH. Surely, Posada’s numbers this season are greatly better from the left side of the plate, but his post-season experience and signs of resurgence as the regular-season wrapped up also factored into Girardi’s decision. With Posada assuming the DH responsibilities, Jesus Montero is the only catcher on the roster behind starter Russell Martin on the depth chart – which certainly is a bit of a risk given Montero’s adequate defensive abilities and lack of experience behind the plate. Austin Romine was on the bubble to make the roster, but ultimately was left off.
Otherwise, the lineup has no other surprises or question marks heading into the first round of the playoffs. Derek Jeter will lead off, Curtis Granderson will bat second. It appears Girardi is going to go with Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira respectively batting 3, 4, 5 in the lineup against right-handed starting pitchers – a little late season tweak the manager experimented with the final week of the regular-season. Nick Swisher will bat sixth and Posada, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner will round out the lineup.
Andruw Jones will be ready off the bench for Girardi to pinch hit against a lefty reliever (Dan Schlereth and Phil Coke). Montero can pinch hit, and will be another tempting option against lefties, but as the only catcher on the bench, Girardi may be reluctant to use him in a pinch-hitting role. Eduardo Nunez had a very impressive season filling in on the left side of the infield for the aging (and somewhat injury plagued) stars.
Off the bench in the post-season, his biggest asset to the team will be his speed, in which he will be the first man Girardi will go to in any pinch-running situations (unless of course, in the rare event Gardner doesn’t start a game). Eric Chavez could get some action pinch-hitting against right-handers, or could even get a start to spell Posada a game if he struggles to begin the series. Also, if Rodriguez’s knee develops into a deeper concern, Chavez could take over at third with A-Rod bumped to DH. Chris Dickerson figures to be a defensive replacement/pinch runner off the bench.
Stating the obvious, Sabathia assumes the role of staff ace. Unfortunately for him that likely will result in two head to head match-ups against a fellow ace in Verlander, the favorite to win this year’s Cy Young (if the series goes past three games). Nova will start Game 2 at home. When it was all said and done, Nova became an obvious choice, winning 16 games and only losing four – having not lost a game since June 3. The progression he has made over the course of the season, in correspondence to an astounding amount of maturity and poise for a rookie, is thoroughly impressive. Garcia gets the nod to start Game 3. The veteran will be asked to start what could turn out to be the most crucial game of the series, pitching on the road in Comerica Park – a very familiar ballpark to the former Mariner, White Sox and Tiger. CC will start the if necessary Game 4 on three days rest, and Nova would get the call on normal rest for Game 5 if necessary.
Mariano Rivera will look to add to his legacy, closing out games at a pace unmatched by any other man. Having already entrenched his name as the most dominating relief pitcher in history with a record 603 career regular-season saves, the future Hall of Famer will look to add to his reputation and post-season brilliance. The Yankees hope David Robertson continues his dream season as the best eighth inning reliever in the game. Additionally, they hope the guy who was supposed to be the primary setup man entering the season, Rafael Soriano, can live up to his potential and do the job as the seventh inning guy. Boone Logan will be the sole lefty used to match-up against All-Star catcher Alex Avila, the sole left-handed bat in Detroit’s lineup. Cory Wade and Luis Ayala provide effective middle relief depth, while A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes convert to bullpen roles. Girardi acknowledged Burnett may appear situationally to get a key strikeout in a key spot.
Because the Tigers have Austin Jackson as their only legitimate stolen base threat, Girardi felt he could live with Montero as the only other catcher on the roster. During his time in the majors, Romine showed he can handle his own behind the plate. However, it was at the plate, where he looked over-matched. Ideally, had Francisco Cervelli not suffered his fourth career concussion this month, he would have been the backup catcher and maybe Montero would have made the roster instead to serve in a different role. But because Girardi chose to go with Dickerson for the final bench spot, it’s likely he is going to play a pretty significant role. Girardi would not have put Dickerson on the roster ahead of (Romine or another bullpen arm for that matter) if he weren’t going to use him. Against the Tigers, a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup, Girardi saw no need to have an additional left-handed reliever (Valdez, Laffey) on the roster. Bartolo Colon’s ineffectiveness over his past handful of starts ultimately lead to his exclusion from, not only the post-season rotation, but the roster entirely. It seems his stuff had became so mediocre to the point where it would not translate well enough to a bullpen role. Hector Noesi became invaluable as a long-reliever throughout the season, however, with Hughes and Burnett better options out of the bullpen (because of raw stuff, strikeout ability and experience), Noesi’s role became much less significant.