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Joba's role for playoffs remains uncertain

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain wipes sweat

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain wipes sweat from his brow in a two-run first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. (September 4, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Joe Girardi didn't name a lot of names, but he has started to voice some of his ideas regarding what the Yankees postseason roster, particularly the pitching staff, might look like.

When asked before last night's game against the Angels whether the Yankees are leaning toward going with a 10- or 11-man staff for the best-of-five division series, Girardi said: "We've talked about both situations. You look at who you're facing, No. 1, but you could probably get by with 10."

The question becomes: Which 10?

The Yankees will need just three starters in the first series, so after CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte, there are seven spots left.

The most immediate intrigue surrounds Joba Chamberlain, who took a step back with his outing Sunday in Seattle. Though he doesn't appear to be in danger of being left off the division series roster, his role is a long way from being determined.

The assumption is Chamberlain would be used as a one-inning reliever, though Girardi didn't immediately endorse that suggestion.

"We're going to have to make that evaluation," the manager said. "I want to see how he throws these last couple times out before I truly assess that, but I don't see why he couldn't."

Chad Gaudin, who allowed two runs in 42/3 innings last night, shutting out the Angels through the first four, made a strong statement toward earning a spot. Girardi said he liked the option of having potential starters such as Gaudin and Chamberlain at his disposal in the playoffs.

"You never know what's going to happen," Girardi said. "Funny things have happened. You start a game, you get in a long rain delay and you don't want to bring your starter back in. There's a lot of benefit to having guys that can give you distance. A lot of years you won't use them, but just in that rare case . . . you get in an extra-inning game, there can be a lot of value to that."

Locks to be in the bullpen are Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves and, likely, Phil Coke. Dave Robertson's ability to strike out batters - he has 61 in 41 innings this season - probably makes him the 10th pitcher, provided he gets in games early next week and there are no signs of the tightness in his right elbow that caused the Yankees to shut him down after his last outing Sept. 5.

If the Yankees went with 11 pitchers, that spot probably would come down to Damaso Marte - Girardi would like to have a second productive lefthander - and Brian Bruney.

Bruney certainly didn't help himself Monday night when he replaced Pettitte to start the seventh inning and gave up a one-out home run to pinch hitter Kendry Morales that increased the Angels' lead to 4-1. The Yankees had cut a 3-0 deficit to 3-1 in their half of the inning on Alex Rodriguez's homer.

"He's one of those guys that needs to pitch better," Girardi said of Bruney. "And we know he's capable of doing it because we've seen him do it. He had a good month of August; September has not been the same month as August. We still have 1½ weeks, so these are important games."

And though a body of work might be taken into consideration, Girardi isn't inclined to ignore a hot hand.

"You have to go with what you see," Girardi said. "It's difficult because we have a lot of quality arms. That's the hard part about it."

Girardi said those decisions can change "if you're lucky enough to get to the second round," then noted the Yankees hadn't quite secured anything just yet.

"We still need another win before we have to make any decisions," he said. "But there's going to be some hard decisions.''

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