SEATTLE -- Joe Girardi has offered a stock answer when asked about how his playoff rotation might look.
"It's still way too early to talk about postseason, and we're not there," he said after Monday night's 9-3 victory over the Mariners.
Latest Yankees stories
But Girardi also acknowledged the obvious: It's only natural for every starter not named CC Sabathia to take the mound thinking about what a good start, or a bad one, does for his postseason prospects.
"I'm sure it's in the back of their minds," Girardi said. "But I think they're probably more focused on winning games and trying to win the division. I think that's their main focus."
Phil Hughes, who allowed one run and five hits in six innings Monday in outpitching Felix Hernandez, freely acknowledged the postseason is on his mind.
"We're coming up on the last part of the year," Hughes said. "At this point, I'm just trying to finish off the year strong and see what happens when October rolls around."
Hughes improved to 5-5 with a 6.00 ERA, which are unimpressive numbers.
"I can't change what's already happened," Hughes said. "But from this point on, I can try and pitch well enough to have a job when the playoffs come around. I'd love to be out there and help this team as much as I can because you know we always have a good chance of winning. So that's really the only goal I have right now."
Girardi wouldn't bite when asked about Hughes' recent performances -- two runs and five hits in six innings Sept. 6 against the Orioles -- bolstering the righthander's chances.
And realistically, there's no reason for Girardi to tip his hand. Ivan Nova hasn't lost since June 3, but four of his last five starts have been merely OK. Bartolo Colon spent the first half of the season pitching like a No. 2, but those kinds of outings have been less frequent the second half. Freddy Garcia hasn't been great of late -- and there's worry about how his slow-stuff repertoire will translate in October -- and A.J. Burnett, Tuesday night's's starter, is a long shot to make the ALDS roster.
"It's important for [Hughes] to throw well because we're trying to win the division," Girardi said. "So I look at every start our guys make as important."
Notes & quotes: Although Girardi said he still hoped Alex Rodriguez (sprained left thumb) would return to the lineup Friday in Toronto, the third baseman has not swung a bat yet. If he doesn't swing Wednesday, it's unlikely that the Yankees, who are off Thursday, would reinsert him without such a test. Girardi said when A-Rod would swing was being discussed . . . Nick Swisher, who started at first base Monday after missing the previous three games with tendinitis in his left elbow, started in rightfield Tuesday night. Curtis Granderson received a routine day off . . . The Yankees announced they were donating $100,000 to help the victims of Hurricane Irene, with the money split between the Salvation Army and Red Cross, and giving another $25,000 to those affected by the Texas wildfires, with those funds also going to the Salvation Army and Red Cross.