Several variables could affect rotation

Several variables could affect rotation

NEW YORK -- Tuesday's revelation that CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett are scheduled to pitch this weekend, in that order, was not quite as telling as it might have been. Yankees manager Joe Girardi, after all, was merely referring to three tune-up games in St. Petersburg -- not to the American League Division Series games that await New York next week.

"There are still questions for us to be answered," Girardi said, revealing that he spent an hour Tuesday meeting with his coaching and front office staffs to discuss October plans. "It's kind of hard to put your roster totally together and know exactly what you're going to do, because you don't know who you're playing."

That looming question, which grew murkier after the Twins beat the first-place Tigers early Tuesday to move within one game of the AL Central leaders, may not be answered until later in the week. And it is just one factor that the Yankees will consider when scheduling their Game 2 and 3 starters.

Considering Pettitte has been far more effective on the road this season (8-3 record, 3.59 ERA) than at home (6-4, 4.59), that would seemingly make him a better choice for Game 3. But Pettitte has started 35 postseason games in his career -- which is 35 more than Burnett. Perhaps, then, Game 2 makes more sense for Pettitte.

"There are still decisions to be made," was Girardi's only answer.

Presumably, the Tigers -- and their lineup laden with right-handed power hitters -- would be a better matchup for Burnett. And indeed, Pettitte has a 7.50 ERA against the Tigers over the past two seasons and a 5.27 mark against the Twins. Burnett has a 4.13 mark against the Tigers and a 4.26 ERA against the Twins.

Normally, those distinctions would matter little. But because the Yankees are likely to choose the Division Series with an extra off-day, their No. 2 starter would be in line to pitch a decisive Game 5.

That Pettitte will throw before Burnett this weekend does not necessarily mean that he will also man that slot come postseason play. All this weekend's rotation order does is make it possible for the Yankees to use either Pettitte or Burnett in Game 2 -- Pettitte on an extra day's rest, Burnett on five days.

The more specific answers will have to wait.

"There are probably three or four things that go into it," Girardi said. "Opponent? How a guy's pitching? Whether he pitches better at home or away? Is it more of a right-handed-hitting lineup or a left-handed-hitting lineup? There are some things that just need to be answered, and we don't have all those answers yet."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.