Because they are team players as well as aces, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander both volunteered to start Game 2 Sunday. Here is the way Verlander's conversation with Tigers manager Jim Leyland went, according to the pitcher:
Verlander: "Hey, Skip, I can go Sunday." Leyland: "No, you're going on Monday." Verlander: "OK."
And here is the way Sabathia's conversation with Joe Girardi went, according to the pitcher:
Sabathia: "There was no conversation. He just said flat-out, 'You are pitching on Monday.' That's what it is."
Neither manager was going to roll the dice with his team's most valuable arm, not after each got warmed up and hyped up, started and pitched briefly in Game 1 before it was suspended because of rain Friday night. There was no telling how they would have held up Sundayand, although both pitchers said they felt good, there is no telling how they will be Monday night when they match up for Game 3 in Detroit.
"I always feel if I take the ball, I'm healthy enough and feel good enough to go out there and give my best effort," Sabathia said. "I played catch and did my routine in the weight room. I'm ready to go."
Verlander, when asked early Sunday afternoon how he is feeling compared to the way he usually feels the day before a start, said: "I can't answer that question. I haven't played catch yet. I would assume I feel pretty good. I felt pretty good yesterday, so hopefully, if it progresses as normal, I'll feel pretty daggone strong today."
There are plenty of "ifs" on both sides of that marquee matchup, though, which is what you'd expect, given the uncharted waters left behind by that intense storm.
The two innings that Sabathia pitched and the one that Verlander pitched Friday could be seen as just an intense bullpen session, except for the adrenaline that flowed.
"Anybody who says there's not is full of it," Verlander said. "I can't really explain to you how it's going to be. I would think it might be a little easier than you might expect, having kind of gone through the motions, knowing what to expect, how my body is going to react. So I think this time around, it will almost be like I've already had one start, even though I haven't, obviously."
Sabathia was asked if it was good to get his feet wet in this American League Division Series, figuratively, before the puddles started forming. "I would have liked to have pitched the game," he said. "But, yeah, I know the game plan. We went over it a couple of days ago. I'll just try to go out and execute."
The managers aren't sure if they will be prepared with quick hooks or whether the two starters will be strong enough to go long.
"Either way," Verlander said, "it's going to be an exciting game."