ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Yankees aren’t rushing their decision on who will start the American League wild-card game against the A’s on Oct. 3.
“I would say not close,” Aaron Boone said of making a call between J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino. “It’s something we kick around and talk about every day, but really I would say we’re not close.”
The Yankees (95-60) entered Monday night's opener of a four-game series against the Rays with a 1 ½-game lead over the A’s (94-62) for home-field advantage in the wild-card game. They also have a tiebreaker advantage over Oakland, meaning that they had a magic number of five entering Monday's action.
“Obviously, these are still really important games for us, so we’re playing with that kind of urgency right now,'' Boone said. "We’ll continue to have conversations and hopefully by the end of the week, we’re in a position to where we can kind of shape it and manipulate it how we want and make a good decision.”
Severino, who allowed one run in seven innings against the Red Sox last Wednesday in his best start of the second half, will start Tuesday night against the Rays. He’ll be followed by Tanaka, who with a 2.62 ERA has been the club’s most consistent pitcher since the All-Star break, on Wednesday night and CC Sabathia on Thursday afternoon. Happ, 6-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 10 starts since joining the Yankees, is slated to start Friday night against Boston, which would line him up to start the wild-card game on regular rest.
Boone said not to extrapolate from that. “I think a lot of people have read too much into how Happ is set up right now,” he said. “Happ is very much in the picture as a possibility for us. How it lines up right now isn’t by design or anything. We’re trying to line us up to be the most effective to try and win games this week.”
Boone also said Severino pitching Tuesday doesn’t take him out of contention for the wild-card start, even though it potentially would be made on seven days’ rest.
“I would say anything’s possible,” Boone said. “Sevy’s certainly a part of that conversation. There’s a lot of ways, when you get toward the end of the week, to kind of set things up.”
Boone reiterated what he previously has said regarding the Yankees’ choice. “Again, I feel like whatever decision we make is potentially a really good one,” he said. “I feel like we’re choosing from some really good options. But I wouldn’t say we’re close to making that decision.”
In order to get his starters extra rest, Boone took a page from the Rays and A’s on Monday night, going with an “opener” rather than a traditional starter. That meant righty reliever Jonathan Holder getting the ball, lefty reliever Stephen Tarpley pitching the second inning and Sonny Gray taking the mound for the third with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of Andrew McCutchen's home run.
“We were kind of toying around with yesterday or today and decided today would be the day we would go with,” Boone said. “Hopefully it’s something we can do half as effectively as the Rays.”
There has been conjecture that the Yankees will go with a bullpen game in the wild-card game, but Boone said, that isn’t likely to be an option.
“No, I don’t think we’d necessarily do that,” he said. “Especially with the three starters we’re considering, I would expect it to be that. Anything can happen as the week unfolds and whatever, but I feel like it will probably be one of those three.”