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Yankees confident in short-rested Sabathia

Steve Henson
Yahoo Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The decision would smack of panic had it not been made days earlier. It would seem imprudent except that everyone associated with the New York Yankees seems 100 percent behind the idea.

CC Sabathia(notes) will start on three days rest against the suddenly animate Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

One day after the Angels prevailed, 5-4, in 11 innings to cut the Yankees' lead to 2-1.

One year after short rest contributed to Sabathia fizzling in the postseason for the Milwaukee Brewers.

"We can't wait to get him back on the mound," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada(notes) said. "We play with confidence when he's out there."

Manager Joe Girardi has worn a path from the dugout to the mound in the series. He used seven relievers Monday. He used the same seven relievers in the 13-inning Game 2 victory Saturday night. A few of them could use a day off, and they should get one if Sabathia is right. In Game 1, the 300-pound, $160 million left-hander sailed through eight innings in a 4-1 victory.

As Game 4 progresses into the middle innings, Girardi might be torn between staying with Sabathia to rest the bullpen or lifting him earlier than usual because of the short rest. Most likely he'll stay harnessed to the dugout for a change.

"We'll just watch carefully like we would any other start, and make sure that location is there and physically he feels fine and doesn't have any long innings," Girardi said. "As far as the pitch count, I would have no problem letting him go 110, 115 if that's what it took.

"But more, you look at the results and how he's throwing."

Girardi will break out the hook at the first sign of the Sabathia who gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings to the Philadelphia Phillies in last year's NL Division Series four days after he clinched the Brewers' playoff berth with a complete-game win. Phillies pitcher Brett Myers(notes), who carried a .047 batting average the three previous seasons, confounded Sabathia by working him through 19 pitches in two at-bats, and Shane Victorino's(notes) grand slam highlighted a five-run second inning.

But the Sabathia who took the mound on three days' rest his last three regular-season starts in 2008 would be a welcome sight. The Reds scored one earned run against him in 5 2/3 innings on Sept. 20, the Pirates scored one run in seven innings Sept. 24 and the Cubs scored one unearned run in the complete game Sept. 28.

This year he all but took a September sabbatical, getting five days rest after starts Sept. 7 and Sept. 13, and six days after a start Sept. 19. He had five days between his last regular-season start and the ALDS opener.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Sabathia said. "I got the rest in September. So I'm feeling fine physically."

He's reflected plenty on last year's October nosedive.

"You know that going on certain rest you're not going to have your best fastball," he said. "So you've just got to stay under control and make sure your delivery is good, and make sure you throw strikes."

Should the ALCS go seven games, Sabathia would start Game 7 on regular rest because of off-days after Games 4 and 5, a scenario that would keep him from starting Game 1 of the World Series. If the Yankees can put away the Angels in fewer than seven games, Sabathia could start Game 1 of the World Series on extra rest, then Games 4 and 7 on three days rest.

Don't think the Yankees haven't thought that through. Sabathia signed an eight-year free-agent contract for precisely this situation. What's three days rest for a pitcher on board until 2016?

"We're good with CC on the mound," Posada said. "Pitching on three days rest is absolutely no problem for him. It's the least of our concerns."

The Angels will counter with hard-throwing but sometimes erratic Scott Kazmir(notes), a left-hander acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in an August waiver deal. He posted a 1.73 ERA in six starts with L.A. after struggling with a 5.92 ERA in 20 starts in Tampa.

Kazmir has been tough on the Yankees, who are batting .221 against him in 87 2/3 innings. If anything, he ought to dampen their power – Kazmir has surrendered only five homers to the Yankees, who belted four Monday.

"I'm going to have to be very good facing Sabathia because he's not going to give up much," Kazmir said. "You have to match him every inning."