For the 15th time in 16 years, the Yankees are going to the playoffs.

After CC Sabathia delivered 8.1 innings of one-run ball for his league-leading 21st victory Tuesday night, the Yankees immediately put their postseason plans into motion.

The old axiom says you win with pitching and defense, and the Yankees need to do some juggling to line up their most dependable starters for the first round.

Andy Pettitte, who was originally slated to start Wednesday in Toronto, will now take the hill Friday in Boston. As a result, Pettitte will be on five days rest for Game 2 of the ALDS, when he’ll presumably pitch on Thursday, Oct. 7. 

Girardi will have to be more creative to prepare undisputed ace Sabathia for Game 1 on Wednesday, Oct. 6, but has confirmed that the Cy Young candidate will indeed open the series. In fact, that’s all Girardi will reveal about his playoff rotation right now as he cites uncertainty surrounding the opponent and setting for the Yankees in the ALDS.

Despite Girardi’s reticence about officially announcing his intentions, the Yankees are compelled to employ just three starters in the first round. Sabathia is a workhorse and thrived in the playoffs last year on short rest,so the Yankees expect more of the same this time around.

The schedule calls for Sabathia to pitch on three days rest in Game 4, with Pettitte or Phil Hughes (whoever starts Game 2) on a normal turn for a decisive Game 5. 

Hughes has logged a career-high 175.1 innings, meeting his regular season innings limit. Though Hughes’ 4.96 post All-Star break ERA is distressing, he’s thrown back-to-back quality starts to complete his season with a commendable 17 wins.

The left-handed mainstay in the Yankees rotation, Andy Pettitte was on pace to record the best season of his illustrious career before being saddled with a groin pull. It sidelined him two months and since he was activated from the DL, he’s started twice with mixed results. It’d be safe to say he’s built enough equity with the Yankees’ brass to be entrusted with precious playoff starts.

Sabathia, Pettitte, and Hughes are the only worthy candidates while AJ Burnett and Javier Vazquez continue to languish through a myriad of struggles. Expect Burnett, however, to be given the ball in the ALCS if the Yankees advance. 

Burnett still has three years left on his massive contract beyond this year, and the Yankees must instill confidence in the shaken right-hander if they plan to get any return on their investment going forward. However, no one can justify Burnett garnering a first round start based on his inconsistent performance and a schedule conducive to skipping him.

Meanwhile, Vazquez was an ill-conceived acquisition and he will most certainly be wearing another uniform next season as his torturous second tenure in pinstripes mercifully comes to its conclusion. Vazquez’s latest disastrous outing in Toronto should cement his exclusion from the playoff roster.

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