Mark Teixeira #25 (L) and Derek Jeter #2 of the...

Mark Teixeira #25 (L) and Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees celebrate after they both scored against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (April 23, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

BALTIMORE

I don't want to say the Yankees are playing this 2011 season at a leisurely pace, but if they actually kept up this frequency of rainouts and off days, they'd complete only 129 games by Sept. 28.

Put another way, if they maintained this rate of actually playing games -- more like a hockey or basketball schedule -- they wouldn't get 162 contests done until Nov. 13.

Four scheduled off days and three more rainouts (including Friday night's game against the Orioles) in a 23-day span present an annoyance to the players trying to get into a rhythm, and to manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild as they try to keep all of their pitchers happy.

However, it says here that this confluence of Mother Nature and Father Selig actually works to the Yankees' advantage. And that it adds to the forces, both real and intangible, that have made this such an encouraging April for the industry's biggest spender.

Take Saturday night, for instance, the Yankees' first game in three days and third of the week. CC Sabathia picked up his first win of the year with a strong performance as the Yankees pounded the O's, 15-3, in a busy game that also featured Alex Rodriguez's grand slam and Russell Martin's two homers (followed by Josh Rupe throwing way too high and tight to Martin and hitting him in the upper back in the ninth).

"I was happy we had the rainout," said Sabathia, who has been ailing. "I was able to get some rest."

In the greater picture rests this notion: The Yankees' starting rotation looks pretty shallow at the moment. The fewer games they can play now, the better.

So they'll work harder come August and September? You never know for sure, but the safe bet says they'll have more pitching options at that point.

Sabathia pitched Saturday night on five days' rest, one more than usual. Freddy Garcia will start Sunday having last pitched April 16. A.J. Burnett goes Monday night at home against the White Sox, with five days off. Then comes Nova, who hasn't started a game since April 15 -- he took the loss in relief last Tuesday night in Toronto -- and Bartolo Colon, who will start on six days' rest.

In the wake of losing out on Cliff Lee and seeing Andy Pettitte retire during the winter, the Yankees began this season with the full knowledge that their pitching staff represented a work in progress. Veterans Garcia and Colon arrived, very likely, with a limited number of bullets to fire. Nova, the rookie, still has much to learn, as we've seen. Maybe he won't make it.

Others could come shortly. Kevin Millwood pitched well Saturday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Phil Hughes said he felt good during Saturday's bullpen session and could throw in a minor-league game this week.

Down the road? Maybe Manny Banuelos or Adam Warren earns a promotion and helps. Probably, the Yankees use some pieces from their respected farm system to trade for a veteran; how about the White Sox's Edwin Jackson?

The Yankees are 11-6, and neither Boston nor Tampa Bay has reached the .500 mark yet after each began 0-6. The Yankees' offense has produced as they hoped, albeit with more production from some (Martin, Eric Chavez) and less production from others (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada) than they anticipated. The bullpen has performed well enough, even with Pedro Feliciano's injury.

And this is the time of year in which the Yankees are supposed to be relying on a patchwork of sorts to get through.

The schedule has aided that process. If the Yankees' vision of this season plays out properly, they'll look back fondly at their lazy April.