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How should the Yankees line up their starting rotation?

Texas' Cliff Lee gets a hug from a

Texas' Cliff Lee gets a hug from a teammate after winning Game 5 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Oct. 12, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

So it's the Rangers. Good Lord, is Cliff Lee good.

Now the Yankees, armed with their scouting reports, will meet today and start discussing what specific steps they should take to defeat the specific opponent they've been waiting to get. Some thoughts:

1) The big question: How should the Yankees arrange their starting rotation? We know that A.J. Burnett will be part of the mix this round. 

CC Sabathia will obviously start Game 1, and that will put him on line for Game 5. A.J. Burnett should start Game 4. The only way he shouldn't start is if the Yankees are down, 3-0. If they're trailing, 2-1, they should stick with Burnett. 

That leaves us with Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes and Games 2 and 3 (and, in line with that, Games 6 and 7). 

It's tempting to flip-flop the order from the ALDS and Hughes in Game 2 and Pettitte in Game 3. The Rangers' lineup is more righty-dominant than the Twins' and Pettitte pitches better at home (.725 opponents' OPS) than Hughes does (754).

But I don't know. We saw how well Hughes pitched at home in ALDS Game 3. And the Rangers' offense still hit righties (.772 OPS) better than lefties (.718).

So I'd go with Pettitte in Game 2 and Hughes in Game 3. I think, however, there's a strong chance that Joe Girardi will take the opposite route, just based on a way he answered a question in Boston a couple of weeks ago.

When the Yankees were playing to see if they'd open the playoffs against Texas or Minnesota, a reporter asked Girardi if he'd be open to starting his lefties Sabathia and Pettitte out of the gate. Girardi said something like, "Yes, if the other team had a lot of lefties."

This team doesn't have a lot of lefties. And if the Yankees go with Hughes in Game 2 and Pettitte in Game 3, that's fine, too, IMO.

2) Should the Yankees shake up their roster at all? I'll continue to say that Austin Kearns, as nice a fellow as he may be, should be left off. Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner started against Twins lefties Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing, which left Kearns with zero games played.

Just to be sure, I checked Lee's head-to-head numbers against all of the Yankees. Kearns is 2-for-11, Granderson 12-for-42, Gardner 3-for-8. How about C.J. Wilson? Kearns is 3-for-7, Granderson 0-for-6, Gardner 0-for-5.

So that's a no on Lee, and tiny sample sizes on Wilson. Kearns is out. I'd replace him with Chad Gaudin. The seven games in nine days makes for a busier pace than the Division Series' five games in seven days, and with Burnett starting a game, I'd go with the extra pitcher.

3) Should Francisco Cervelli catch Burnett? Yes, I think so. You want to make Burnett as comfortable as possible. Save Jorge Posada as a pinch-hitting weapon, and use him in the right spot (probably for Cervelli). Of course, you could argue that it's optimistic to think that Burnett will keep the game close enough for managerial decisions to be relevant. But then again, Tommy Hunter, the Rangers' likely starter, ain't exactly Walter Johnson.

--Here's all of our Yankees coverage

--Add Logan White to the Mets' list of GM candidates, but this search process has taken on a different shape with Sandy Alderson in the mix. If Alderson somehow does not get the job, the Mets better have a very convincing explanation why not. The White development isn't as interesting as it would have been prior to Alderson's inclusion.

--In the worst-held secret ever, Fredi Gonzalez will replace Bobby Cox as the Braves' manager. A very good hire. And on the opposite side of the secret spectrum, Toronto has interviewed Bobby Valentine. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has managed to run a very tight ship (regarding information leaks) since taking over last year.

Valentine in Toronto would be arguably more fascinating than Bobby V. in Miami. He'd go to work drumming up enthusiasm in that city, which loved baseball long ago, and he'd have a blast trying to upend the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox and making sure that Buck Showalter's Orioles didn't pass the Blue Jays.

-Here's the update on our preseason predictions contest, with the Division Series completed:

1) Jim 21; 2) Dennis 20; 3) RichieG, 19; 4 (tie) Bob Tufts, Islander505 and The Mask, 18; 7) (tie) LosMets and Poppy, 17; 9) Sandy, 16; 10) Expatriate Mets Fan, 15; 11 (tie) Cathy N., Michael H. Polak and NaOH, 14; 14) Gary M., 13; 15) WhyNot, 11; 16) JE, 10; 17) Kev M., 9

If I were competing, I'd be tied with Sandy, with 16.

--I'll check in later from Yankee Stadium.


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