Tonight, the Tigers and Yankees face off in a winner take all battle, and just like both teams drew it up, the pitching match-up for the elimination contest will be Doug Fister versus Ivan Nova. Okay, so that’s not how either team drew it up – the rain in Game 1 on Friday made for some wonky rotations, and now both teams will try to keep their seasons going without their best pitchers on the mound.
Understanding that a round one exit will be looked at as a failure, Joe Girardi has stated that CC Sabathia is available out of the bullpen if needed tonight, despite throwing 106 pitches on Monday. However, Jim Leyland has categorically stated that Justin Verlander will not appear in tonight’s game.
Maybe Leyland is bluffing. Maybe he’ll change his mind if the Tigers are trying to preserve a small lead as the game goes on. If he doesn’t, though, this might be a decision he regrets for quite a while.
Verlander only threw 14 more pitches on Monday night than Sabathia did, and given that those pitches were spread out over a larger number of batters, you could make a case that he may have actually put less stress on his arm in Game 3. Traditionally, starting pitchers have a throw day in-between starts, which usually comes after two days of rest – today would be Verlander’s normal throw day. And, of course, there’s a decent amount of historical precedence for teams using starters out of the bullpen in the playoffs on short rest without seeing them suffer significant arm injuries.
But, Leyland insists that Verlander is unavailable today, and that he’s not willing to risk his health by having him take the mound on two days rest. I will say, though, that this is a bit of an odd time to begin worrying about Verlander’s workload.
During the regular season, the Tigers allowed Verlander to throw 3,941 pitches, the third highest total any starting pitcher has had in the last 10 years. The fourth highest total on that list belongs Verlander as well, as he threw 3,937 pitches in 2009. Last year, he “only