Now it appears he'll have company.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Saturday there was a possibility A.J. Burnett(notes) would start Game 5 and Andy Pettitte(notes) Game 6, of course depending on how the series stands, how their arms feel a day before those starts and, in Pettitte's case, how effective he was in Game 3. Girardi's alternative in those games is Chad Gaudin(notes), who has pitched a single inning in the postseason and would appear to be an emergency option.
Sabathia, who made his reputation pitching on short rest late last season for the Brewers and risked some of what became a $161 million free-agent contract for it, has pitched once on short rest this postseason. He beat the Angels in Game 4 of the American League championship series, allowing an earned run in eight innings.
After giving up a pair of home runs to Chase Utley(notes) and losing in Game 1 of the World Series, Sabathia gets the ball in Game 4, to no one's surprise, though it took the Yankees some time to make it official. The Phillies, conversely, have said they will hold back their ace – Cliff Lee(notes) – to start Game 5 on Monday, on regular rest. Right-hander Joe Blanton(notes) is scheduled to pitch Game 4 for them.
“This is the World Series,” Girardi said. “There is no baseball after the World Series for four or five months, so there will be plenty of time to rest.
“It's not necessarily something that you want to do a lot of during the course of a long season, but we're not in a long season anymore.”
Sabathia spent the early evening shagging flies in the Citizens Bank Park outfield and then taking big swings in the batting cage. A light rain fell and turned his hoodie a dark blue. Girardi had asked him Saturday afternoon what he thought about making Sunday night's start. Sabathia told him he'd take it.
“I told Joe that at the beginning of the playoffs,” Sabathia said. “I'm here and available whenever you need me.”
Girardi previously hasn't had to choose between regular rest and starting Burnett or Pettitte, primarily because of the playoffs' airy schedule. They both have experience with it. Burnett made a short-rest, regular-season start in 2004 and three in 2008; he is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA. Pettitte is 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA in his career on short rest, but has made only four such starts since 2000.
They both seem game, which certainly is another benefit to having Sabathia around. If he's willing, then how could other pitchers decline similar assignments?
If the series goes seven games, Sabathia likely would get the finale, as well.
“That's really not an issue, back to back on short rest,” Sabathia said. “Like I said, we'll take it one game at a time. All I'm going to focus on is [Sunday]. After that, it's up to them.”