Manager Terry Collins is toying with the idea of flip-flopping them in the rotation, not only to give Santana extra rest, but to make sure both pitch against the N.L. East-leading Nationals this week in Washington.
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Collins said his tentative plan calls for Chris Young, who is coming off shoulder surgery and has completed four rehab starts, to make his season debut Tuesday against the Nats. Depending on the outcome of the bullpen sessions, Dickey would pitch Wednesday and Santana would go Thursday.
That means Santana would have five full days of rest, but Dickey would be on just three days' rest following his complete-game shutout Saturday. If Dickey isn't ready, then Collins will plug in Jeremy Hefner as the Wednesday starter. If that happens, Dickey could go on normal rest Thursday, and Santana could wait another day to open at the Yankees on Friday.
Asked if Santana is locked in for a Thursday start, Collins hedged, saying: "As of right now. That could change [Monday] when he throws, but we'll see how it goes."
One thing Collins made abundantly clear is that beating the Nationals, who lead Miami by percentage points and were half a game ahead of the Mets before their game against St. Louis Sunday night, is a big priority even over the Subway Series that follows. Collins said he discussed his plans with general manager Sandy Alderson and pitching coach Dan Warthen.
Discussing the idea of starting Dickey on short rest, Collins said: "I'm going to wait to see his bullpen. If he's a little rough, we may back off that.But he's up for it. I talked to Dan and Sandy about it. I just want to go in there, and . . . those are the guys we've got to beat."
Whenever Santana does take the mound, he will be on a shorter pitch count than usual to compensate for his career-high 134 in the no-hitter.Asked what the exact count might be, Collins alluded to the fact he said Santana would get 115 on Friday and then went way beyond that. "I told the guys the other day I'm not going to bring that up again," Collins said to laughter. "No, it'll be less. It will be a lot less."
As for Dickey, he is likely to be affected the most by the need to get extra rest for Santana, but as a knuckleballer who taxes his arm less, Dickey is best equipped to handle it. On the other hand, coming off a complete game, Dickey could use his share of rest.
"Might also means 'might not,' " Dickey said. "I can't give you a definitive answer at this point."
"For me, I'm able to get up on the mound quite a bit being a knuckleballer and operating at about 80 percent capacity. I was going to pitch against Washington anyway. So, it will just be one day early."
Dickey said his experience should allow him to give Collins an honest gauge after the bullpen session. He said he last did it in 2010 with good results. But Dickey said he has one condition if he does it.
"If I am given the ball on short rest, one of the prerequisites I would have is that you've got to treat me like it's my normal day," Dickey said. "I don't want to be cheated. If it's time to come out, it's time to come out. But I don't want them to baby me simply because it's on three days' rest, or I wouldn't go out there."