Every team can take advantage of extra time off in the postseason, but perhaps no team benefits more from a five-day respite than the Yankees. By taking care of the Twins in three games, New York can palliate its two greatest weaknesses this postseason.
The first is the Yankees' increasing age and, thus, their declining health. In the month of September, manager Joe Girardi was forced to strike a delicate and not-always-satisfactory balance between pushing some ailing players in an attempt to win the division and resting them to get them healthy for the playoffs. Now, the team can focus solely on the latter objective for a few days; the Yankees won't even hold an official team workout until Tuesday.
"We need a couple days off," said veteran catcher Jorge Posada. "Some of the guys need a couple days off."
That means there's time to heal for Nick Swisher's balky left knee, Brett Gardner's sore right wrist, Alex Rodriguez's tender calf and Mark Teixeira's broken toe and bruised right thumb. The Yankees appeared re-energized in the AL Division Series after a pair of days off following the close of the regular season; a full five days could help even more.
Asked about the break, second baseman Robinson Cano exhaled and smiled.
"Oh yeah, of course. Now it's good," said Cano, who led the Yankees by playing in 160 games. "All the travels, hotels, the practice -- now it's good, we can get some guys some rest."
Even before Game 3, Girardi was happy with his team's physical well-being.
"I think we are better off than we were," Girardi said. "Nice thing about the playoffs is you never have the situation where you play 13 days in a row. We had two days off. You play two. You get another day off. And I think their bodies recover a lot better. And I think that when you have a team with some age, I think that really helps out."
Not everyone is a fan of the time off, which does break up the rhythm the Yankees established in their three-game sweep of Minnesota.
"I like to get right after it," said Lance Berkman, who homered and doubled in his only start of the ALDS in Game 2 on Thursday. "Five days off -- that will be a challenge to try to maintain it. I don't like doing that, but that's the way it's set up."
At the same time, the break offers the Yankees the chance to rest their starting pitchers and line up their rotation for the ALCS. Finishing the Twins off on Saturday saves CC Sabathia from a Game 4 start on short rest while also setting him up to start Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday.
It's not yet clear whether the Yankees -- one season after becoming the first team to win the World Series with a three-man rotation in the Wild Card Era -- will try to emulate that pattern this year. If so, the extra time can help prepare Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes for the added workload, with the possibility of the two of them each having to pitch on three days' rest in the ALCS.
But it was clear on Saturday that all those logistics were on hold for another day. With the popping of corks punctuating another ALDS sweep, the Yankees could, for seemingly the first time in six months, relax for a moment.
"We're just living day-to-day," said Swisher, who contributed his second career postseason homer in the seventh inning on Saturday. "For the next couple days, we'll relax, chill and keep our minds mentally wrapped around what we've got to take care of."