Sabathia said on Sunday that he told manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland not to hesitate in bringing him back on short rest.
"It is not something you want to do a lot," Girardi said. "But in this series, it is something we will definitely consider and plan on doing, unless something comes up. If he got in a situation where he physically didn't think he was ready to go on three days' rest, then we'd make an adjustment."
Pettitte missed two months of the season due to a left groin strain, coming back to make three starts in September and early October, but the Yankees are banking on the veteran's postseason experience -- he tops all Major Leaguers in career playoff wins (18) and innings pitched (249).
"I understand the huge responsibility I have here," Pettitte said. "I understand the challenge I have ahead of me. I was out most of the second half. I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to embracing this all. I want to be good for this team, this organization, this city. I hope I can help us out."
Hughes faded a bit down the stretch, but he did go 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in his first full season as a member of the Yankees' rotation. He did not pitch well out of the bullpen in last year's postseason, allowing six runs on 11 hits over 6 1/3 total innings.
"I didn't necessarily know this was coming," Hughes said. "We had a lot of options we could have gone to. I'm just happy to be given the opportunity, and hopefully I'll make the most of it."
Despite the issues surrounding both Pettitte and Hughes, the Yankees appear confident with their three-man rotation in the ALDS.
"I don't see what you guys are saying about uncertainty," Sabathia said. "Andy Pettitte is the best pitcher in the playoffs in the history of baseball. So I think our rotation stacks up pretty good against anybody."
It's a rotation that won't include A.J. Burnett, who suffered through a disappointing season that saw him go 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA, including a 6.14 ERA in September and October.
"I'm here for a reason, and I haven't done [anything] to help this team this year," Burnett said last weekend in Boston. "That's my own opinion, and that's how I feel. But I don't sit and dwell on it. I think the other starters are guys that have picked up the slack."
Burnett did take a step in the right direction on Saturday in Boston, but his outing also included a mental lapse in which he argued a close call at first base, allowing a run to score. He was 1-0 with a 1.54 ERA in two starts against the Twins this year.
During the Yankees' World Series run a year ago, Burnett pitched well in his ALDS start, had one good and one bad performance in the AL Championship Series against the Angels, then did the same thing in the World Series against the Phillies. His one postseason win, however, did come in a crucial Game 2 of the Fall Classic, after Sabathia had lost to Cliff Lee in the first game.
Should any issues arise, the Yankees could still use Burnett in a pinch. They just aren't planning on it.
"If we have to change that, with the roster that we have, it gives us the flexibility to do that." Girardi said. "A.J. will pitch out of the bullpen, but if we need him to start a game, he will start a game for us."