Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
With the Yankees rolling along toward a division title, fans are naturally turning their thoughts to the playoff rotation. This year, it's a particularly hot topic because the general manager declined to add to it at the trade deadline.
The Yankees insist, both publicly and in private, that they haven't begun to think in earnest about the playoff roster and rotation -- though we can report, as we did in June, that the team is eyeing a Chad Green/Luis Severino game, provided the latter is healthy.
Knowing that, we're ready to make a prediction: Monday, October 7 will be the day that the New York Yankees first use an opener in the postseason.
Assuming that they finish with a better record than Houston, that will be Game 3 of their division series against the Wild Card winner.
Picture the rotation going something like this:
Game 1: Domingo German
Game 2: Masahiro Tanaka
Game 3: Green
Game 4: James Paxton
Now, you can quibble with the placement of any of the other three. Some would want Tanaka in Game 1 because of his playoff experience, while others would choose German because of his recent success. Paxton could get the Game 2 assignment. The Yankees are not close to deciding any of this, and will make those calls based on September performance and matchups.
But we can suggest that Game 3 is the one for the opener, because it follows a day off, and the bullpen will be completely rested.
Other factors are aligning, too. The Yankees have been training Green for this role since spring training, having chosen him for his ability to get out both righties and lefties, and an easygoing temperament that makes him amenable to creative usage.
The experiment has proven successful. Prior to Thursday's assignment, Green posted a 1.80 ERA in 11 assignments as an opener, and the Yankees were 10-1 in those games.
Also on Thursday, Severino said that he felt strong after a 30-pitch bullpen session, and was ready to fly to Tampa to face live hitters this weekend. He still must clear many hurdles in order to return and contribute in October, but the team has seemed cautiously optimistic for a while now.
Even back in July, when rival GMs were asking Brian Cashman for far more than he was willing to pay for rotation help, there was a sense that the Yankees viewed a Green/Severino start as a viable alternative to acquiring outside help.
"He's been one of the better starters in the game," Cashman said on Thursday. "He's got to build up and then the potential of him reaching his ceiling would be very exciting for us. We know when he's right and he's on and he's in his groove, you know what he's capable of. It's pretty special. Certainly we hope for that, but I can't guarantee it."
With Severino progressing and the Yanks charging toward the best record in the league, let's call October 7 the night we see him trot out of the bullpen in the third inning, and try to get the Yankees to Adam Ottavino or Tommy Kahnle in the sixth or seventh.