Why the Yankees have to go with A.J. Burnett tonight
I said earlier that who the Yankees pitch tonight is not a debatable point because Joe Girardi has already made up his mind. But it’s still obviously a discussable point, so let’s discuss it.
My take: pitching CC Sabathia tonight would be a panic move that would accomplish little. Why? Because it doesn’t eliminate A.J. Burnett from the rotation, it only pushes him back a day. That’s because pitching Phil Hughes on short rest is simply not a viable option as he has never done it before and he is already well beyond any workload he has ever had. While Sabathia is a horse, the numbers for pitchers on short rest overall are fairly poor. As such, there is no reason to expect you’d get a particularly sharp Phil Hughes.
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.