The Yankees' scheduled starting pitchers this week probably should be listed with an asterisk next to their names, because going forward, the rotation is a work in progress.
Unable to clinch a postseason berth this past weekend, the Yankees - who held a nine-game lead over Boston after last Tuesday's games and were in jeopardy of seeing it cut to 4 1/2 games last night - can't begin resting their starters this week and putting them in line for their first playoff starts, as they had hoped.
Instead, they must focus their immediate attention on officially making the postseason. That's still a strong likelihood, but clearly it isn't going as easily as it appeared entering the weekend.
So after reversing course on Phil Hughes and starting him last night instead of stand-in Dustin Moseley, Joe Girardi also announced Sunday that the Yankees are remaining "on rotation" for the foreseeable future.
It certainly didn't look as if that would be the case Friday afternoon, when Girardi opened his daily news conference by announcing that Hughes was being pushed back until Wednesday night and that it would be his final start of the regular season.
Then, with a smile, Girardi added that the Hughes switch could be the first of several changes he was going to make to his rotation. "We're still looking at the division in our sight, but you also have to think about mapping it out as well," he said then.
But there was no smile on Girardi's face Sunday afternoon as he explained why Hughes suddenly was back to starting last night, that it might not be his last start of the season and that there were, in fact, no further changes to the rest of the rotation.
It was an uncomfortable spot for the manager, exacerbated somewhat by Sabathia. He already had told reporters two days earlier that his next start was being pushed back until Friday night in Boston, therefore putting him in line to start the American League Division Series opener on his regular four days' rest. But with a postseason berth still not clinched and the Yankees struggling, they know they can't possibly push Sabathia back. So therefore he remains in line to pitch Tuesday night in Toronto.
"I never said CC was going to pitch on Friday," Girardi said yesterday. "We've been on rotation. CC is scheduled to go on Tuesday. We're still trying to win our division and win games."
For the mment, Pettitte remains on schedule to start Wednesday. How long will they stay "on rotation," as Girardi says? That all depends on how long it takes the Yankees to clinch. And Girardi gave no hints what might happen after they clinch, for obvious reasons.
"Then we'll look at it and see what's best for us," he said. "But the point is, we have to get in first. We need to win ballgames and play better."