Then Girardi considered the possibility that the Yankees might lose to Cole Hamels and the Phillies, which would put them down 2-1 in the Fall Classic and portray the Sabathia decision as a panic move. That, he stressed, was not the case.
- 2009 Regular Season
- Overall: 34 GS, 19-8, 3.37 ERA, 197 K, 67 BB.
- Overall: 31 GS, 12-8, 4.05 ERA, 163 K, 59 BB.
- Key stat: Opponents hit .232 off Sabathia.
- Key stat: Allowed career-high 30 HRs.
- 2009: 4 GS, 3-1, 1.52 ERA.
Career: 9 GS, 5-4, 4.45 ERA.
- 2009: 3 G, 1 GS, 0-0, 4.66 ERA. Career: 7 G, 4 GS, 2-0, 3.45 ERA.
- At CITIZENS BANK PARK
- 2009: No starts. Career: 1 GS, 0-1, 12.27 ERA.
- 2009: 16 GS, 7-4, 3.77 ERA. Career: 23 GS, 9-4, 3.71 ERA.
- Against this opponent
- 2009: 1 GS, 0-0, 3.38 ERA. Career: 4 GS, 1-2, 5.55 ERA.
- 2009: No starts. Career: 4 GS, 0-3, 8.18 ERA.
- Loves to face: Jayson Werth, 0-for-6.
Hates to face: Ryan Howard, 3-for-7.
- Loves to face: Robinson Cano, 1-for-9.
Hates to face: Alex Rodriguez, 4-for-7, 2 HR.
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Not facing Lee.
- Why he'll win: Great in '08 WS.
- Pitcher beware: Crushed in PHI in '08 NLDS.
- Pitcher beware: Bad history vs. NYY.
- Bottom line: Will the ace deliver?
- Bottom line: Can he reward Manuel's trust?
"I started thinking about it today," Girardi said. "I talked about it, thought about it, and I said, 'You know what? Our plans are to use CC tomorrow, so I'm going to [announce] it now.'"
Sabathia was informed that he would have the ball upon his arrival at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, and as expected, the $161 million southpaw was on board with the decision. The early notice provides Sabathia with more than 24 hours to mentally prepare for the start.
"I think that it's important that he knows what he's doing," Girardi said.
The move could set up A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte to pitch on short rest in Games 5 and 6, if needed, bypassing Chad Gaudin and giving the Yankees just a three-man rotation.
Girardi wasn't ready to declare his starting pitchers for those games, but said that he would check with Burnett regarding his availability on Sunday. As Girardi noted, Burnett was 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in three starts on short rest for the Blue Jays in 2008.
The Yankees' management in September, plus their heavy load of off-days during October, has provided this opportunity to feel comfortable giving their starters shorter rest without lack of command.
"It was important what we did in the month of September to give us this option," Girardi said. "You're going to think about it, but physically, we think we've done a pretty good job and they've had plenty of rest over these four weeks. They physically all feel really good."
Another consideration could still be to start Gaudin in Game 5. The right-hander was listed among the candidates to start Game 4, but will instead be assigned to long relief as an emergency option, where he has spent all of the postseason.
Gaudin was 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 appearances (six starts) after being acquired by the Yankees from the Padres in August, but has pitched just one inning during the Bombers' playoff run. He has been told -- as has Burnett -- to prepare as though he is starting Game 5.
Girardi allowed that if the Yankees were heading into Game 4 up 3-0 in the series, he probably would have pitched Gaudin in the potential clincher, but of course that is not the case.
There is a track record of success with giving the ball to Sabathia on shorter rest. The Brewers pushed Sabathia's final three regular-season starts on short rest in 2008, and he responded by going 2-1 with an 0.83 ERA before struggling in the National League Division Series against the Dodgers.
Sabathia fired 113 pitches in Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, the same number he threw in Game 1 of the ALCS before returning on three days' rest to pitch Game 4. He is 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA in four postseason starts, and should the World Series go the distance, Girardi said that physically, Sabathia would be able to handle making another start on short rest.
"I've said all along, this is a big strong person," Girardi said. "We cut back his workload during the season some, knowing that this could be a possibility.
"He went a couple of times without throwing for seven days, and I think that helps recharge a pitcher. Sometimes I worry more about pitchers on extra days rest than I do on short rest, because it might take them an inning or two to find the zone."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.