I've given Joe Girardi a hard time these past few years over his affinity for the sacrifice bunt, his reliever/inning rubric, and for his consistent unwillingness to think outside the box. The one thing I haven't really given him credit for was what he did with the startion rotation during the 2009 playoffs. In hindsight, lining up all of your starting pitchers for short rest throughout the playoffs is a gutsy, gutsy move, especially knowing what we know now about him, and thanks to that decision, New York has both another World Championship and perhaps the only starter in the 2011 postseason who can be asked to start on 3-days rest.
We know that the Yankees will use a 3-man rotation during the ALDS, and I propose they do the same, as much as possible throughout the rest of the playoffs. Here's who I'd start from that point, and why:
Game 4 ALDS - Tuesday October 4th - CC Sabathia starts on 3-days rest. This makes sense for a couple of reasons:
1.) he's better on short rest than either Bartolo Colon or AJ Burnett are on full rest.
2.) starting Game 4 rather than Game 5 still keeps him in line to start Game 1 of the ALCS, albeit on short rest, which also lines him up to start Games 4 and 7 of that series.
3.) somebody is going to be up 2-1 in the series if Game 4 happens. That means the Yankees will have their ace on the mound to clinch the series, or they'll have him to stave off elimination. If the Yankees are up, I'd rather use Sabathia to prevent Game 5 than hold him back to plan for it.
Game 5 ALDS - Thursday October 6th (if necessary) - Ivan Nova starts on normal rest.
Game 1 ALCS - Saturday October 8th - CC Sabathia starts on 3-days rest.
Game 2 ALCS - Sunday October 9th - Ivan Nova starts on normal rest if the Yankees won the ALDS in four games. Freddy Garcia starts on 5-days rest if the division series went five games.
Game 3 ALCS - Tuesday October 11th - Freddy Garcia starts on 7-days rest of the ALDS went four games. Ivan Nova starts on normal rest if ALDS went five games.
Game 4 ALCS - Wednesday October 12th - CC Sabathia starts on 3-days rest
Game 5 ALCS - Thursday October 13th (if necessary) - Bartolo Colon, AJ Burnett, Hector Noesi, or a cavalcade of relief pitchers starts (kidding about the last two....mostly). Nova could be asked to start on short rest if the Yankees face elimination, but I'll gamble that it's unlikely the Yankees are going to be down 3-1 at this point with Sabathia starting twice, and one of these guys is going to have to start a game eventually. Might as well get it over with.
Game 6 ALCS - Saturday October 15th (if necessary) - The ALCS Game 2 starter pitches on 5-days rest.
Game 7 ALCS - Sunday October 16th (if necessary) - CC Sabathia starts on 3-days rest
From here, it gets sketchy. If the Yankees win the ALCS in less than seven games, then Sabathia is lined up to start Games 1, 4, and 7 of the World Series. If they also won the Division series in less than five games, Ivan Nova will make two starts, Freddy Garcia will make one, both on semi-regular rest, and we'll have to stomach one start from Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett, or perhaps more realstically, 6 innings from the bullpen that night.
If the ALCS does go to seven games....well, at least the Yankees get the World Series. Sabathia can still start Games 2 and 5 on short rest, and I'd assume he'd be available for 2-3 innings out of the bullpen in Game 7 if necessary. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia would each get two starts, and the fourth starter would get Game 4.
The bottom line is that the Yankees will need to win 7 of 12 games to reach the World Series, and another 4 of 7 games to win it. Let's hope Joe Girardi rediscovers his outside the box thinking from 2009 and uses CC Sabathia's durability to his advantage.