Spin Forward: Key rotation decisions

Spin Forward: Key rotation decisions

NEW YORK -- It may turn out to be the pivotal decision of their American League Division Series, but the Yankees' manager chose to move up his top pitcher to Monday night's now critical Game 4, while the Indians' skipper stayed with his planned series rotation.

The net result could be a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday night back at Jacobs Field and a seismic shift in the best-of-five series.

The long and the short of it is that Paul Byrd, a 15-game winner, will start for the Tribe on Monday at Yankee Stadium because manager Eric Wedge decided to save C.C. Sabathia for the possible climactic fifth game. Meanwhile, Joe Torre opted to start Chien-Ming Wang on three days' rest instead of Mike Mussina in the penultimate game and will have veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte on his regular rest for the possible finale.

"Yeah, yeah, we're going to move forward just as we had planned," Wedge said after the Yanks came from behind to win Game 3, 8-4, and halve the deficit to 2-1 in the series. "Byrdie will be on the mound and we'll go from there. You know, it's where we are. We knew we were going to need four starters if it went that far in the series. And that's where we're at. That's what we're going to go with."

Wedge has two 19-game winners to juggle. And his decision leaves Fausto Carmona, who three-hit the Yankees over nine innings in Friday's 2-1, 11-inning victory at the Jake, out in the cold for the remainder of this series. Carmona will get Game 1 of the AL Championship Series, which opens on Friday night in Boston, if the Indians get that far. But the point is getting that far.

Torre, who finds himself under threat of losing his job if the Yanks succumb in this series, isn't taking any chances.

Wang may have had an awful Game 1, allowing eight runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 12-3 loss, but Torre has every confidence that he'll rebound at the Stadium after Thursday's 94-pitch performance. After all, in finishing 19-7 this season, Wang had a 4.91 ERA on the road and a 2.75 ERA in New York, where he was 10-4.

Short rest in Game 4 of DS since Wild Card
(1995-2006)
Since Wild Card play began in 1995, starters pitching on short rest in Game 4 of the Division Series are 5-7.
Pitcher Year IP H ER W-L Team Result
Tim Hudson 2005 7 6 3 ND L
Roger Clemens 2004 5 6 2 ND L
Johan Santana 2004 5 7 2 ND L
Tim Hudson 2003 6.2 10 3 ND W
Russ Ortiz 2003 5 7 2 W W
Jarrod Washburn 2002 5 6 1 W W
Tim Hudson 2002 3.1 5 2 L L
Tom Glavine 2002 7 7 7 L L
Roger Clemens 2001 5 6 6 L L
Bartolo Colon 1999 1 6 7 L L
Shane Reynolds 1999 5 9 4 L L
Randy Johnson 1997 8 7 3 L L
Mike Mussina 1997 7 2 1 W W
David Wells 1996 6.2 8 4 W W
Charles Nagy 1996 5.1 9 7 L L
Chris Bosio 1995 2 4 5 ND W
Greg Maddux 1995 7 10 4 W W
ERA: 6.3391115645-77-10
"Well, he's a 19-game winner, he's pitched well at the Stadium, and we relied on him so much," Torre said about the decision. "Taking nothing away from Moose [Mussina], he hasn't pitched in a while. Certainly I made [Mussina] aware before the game that we were going to decide later who was going to pitch. And he was comfortable with that. And I just told him afterwards that it was going to be Wanger, and he said, 'Fine.'"

Then, of course, there's the specter of having Pettitte ready for Game 5. The left-hander is 14-9 in postseason play and would be making his 36th playoff start. In Game 2, he pitched into the seventh inning, allowing seven hits, but no runs, putting the Yankees squarely in position to win the game, which they didn't.

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Sabathia, for his part, was shaky himself in Game 1, throwing 114 pitches through five innings, while walking six and allowing three runs on five hits. Sabathia's started on three days' rest only once in his career, on the last day of the 2001 season when he pitched five innings against the Royals, allowed only two hits, and earned the win.

"I would've been ready to go if [Wedge] asked me, no doubt," Sabathia said. "But Byrdie has been coming through for us all year. That was not even a question, I don't think. He's pitched well. He's a 15-game winner. He definitely deserves it."

The Indians have been through this well in the past with disastrous results, using the likes of Jaret Wright, Charles Nagy and Bartolo Colon on three days' rest. There's also the fact that the Yankees are desperate for a win to tie the series, while the Indians still have two shots at it.

"It's all situational," Indians GM Mark Shapiro said before the game. "I don't have a categorical opinion on it. I'm a believer in it in the right situations. It depends on how many pitches that guy threw the outing before, how hard he had to work, where your team is, what's at stake and who the alternative is. Everything has got to be examined. I think you have to be down 2-1, not up 2-1, to think about doing it."

If Wedge thought about it, he didn't give any indication. Torre in contrast, made the move.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.