Once more, Sabathia pitched well, allowing two runs over seven innings in Wednesday's Game 1 against the Phillies. And once more, Girardi removed him after 113 pitches.
And though the Yankees have not yet announced their plans for Sabathia going forward, it's a good bet he will start Sunday's Game 4 on short rest so that the Yankees have the option of using him again in a potential Game 7.
"I feel good," Sabathia said. "I'm fine. Like I've been saying all postseason, I've had enough rest that I'll be able to be ready to pitch whenever they need me to."
If Game 1 was any indication, they may need him often. Two mistakes led to two Chase Utley home runs and an eventual 6-1 loss at the hands of the Phillies, putting the Yankees in an immediate World Series hole.
On another night, allowing merely two runs in seven innings would have been more than enough to win. But against Cliff Lee, his former Cleveland teammate, Sabathia instead ended up with his first defeat of the postseason.
"You've got to tip your hat to their guy," Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland said. "That's probably the best pitching performance against us that we've seen all year. CC was far good enough to win on most nights, but two mistakes cost him the loss."
Sabathia, respectfully, disagreed. Though the two pitches to Utley -- both fastballs that caught too much of the plate -- accounted for all of the tangible damage, Sabathia struggled with his command throughout the game. At no time was that more evident than in the first inning, when Sabathia walked two batters to load the bases before escaping.
OFF HIS GAME
|ALDS, Game 1||6 2/3||8||2||0||8|
|ALCS, Game 1||8||4||1||1||7|
|ALCS, Game 4||8||5||1||2||5|
|WS, Game 1||7||4||2||3||6|
After reaching a three-ball count against just four of the 30 batters he faced in Game 4 of the ALCS, Sabathia did so against six of the first 12 batters he faced Wednesday.
"I was behind everybody," Sabathia said. "I wish I could stand here and say it was just two pitches, but I was behind pretty much the whole game. I was able to battle back and make some pitches when I needed to, but that's not at all how I've been pitching in the postseason."
The two home runs though -- they hurt most.
Catcher Jorge Posada said that "other than that," he did a great job.
Now, the Yankees must discuss when Sabathia can do that job again. Though Girardi did not hesitate to use the left-hander on short rest in the ALCS, he did so knowing that with a scheduled off-day before Game 5, Sabathia would have been available to pitch a potential Game 7 on regular rest.
The World Series schedule is not as forgiving, with no such off-day in Philadelphia. So if Sabathia were to pitch in Games 1, 4 and 7, he would twice have to come back on short rest.
It's a maneuver that's not without precedent. Last season, with the Brewers, Sabathia started his final three regular-season games on three days' rest, winning the latter two and pitching increasingly well in each of them.
"I pitched a lot on three days' rest last year and figured out that I can do it," Sabathia said. "I'm pretty confident I can go out there and do it again."
Pitching Sabathia on short rest in Game 4 won't do the Yankees much good if A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte are not capable of repeating the trick in Games 5 and 6, respectively. Either the Yankees will proceed with a three-man rotation in the World Series with all three members taking their second turns on short rest, or they will use Chad Gaudin in Game 4 and potentially forgo Sabathia's start in Game 7.
Prior to Game 1, Girardi remained coy when discussing his plans, noting that the progression of the series should dictate how he uses his pitchers. Until then, speculation will reign.
"Physically, [Sabathia] is fine, and we'll make that decision when the time comes," Girardi said. "We're not going to rush to any decisions after one game, that's for sure. But physically, I think he's good."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.