Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced his starting rotation for the ALDS series against the Twins, but also made sure to note that CC Sabathia won't be on the roster.
It will be James Paxton getting the ball in Game 1, followed by Masahiro Tanaka in Game 2 and Luis Severino getting the first road start of the series in Game 3.
"Difficult decision," Boone told reporters about what went into the rotation configuration. "Frankly, I went back and forth on it daily, sometimes a few times over the course of a day. Really what it came down to -- the reason that was -- is because I feel like all those guys are in a good place. I throw J.A. Happ in that mix, too, I feel like is throwing the ball as well as he has at any point in the season. Felt like it was a good decision and then just trying to hopefully maximize those guys as best we can.
"Feel like James is the guy to get us off on the right foot."
Paxton has been stellar in the second half with the Yanks compared to a shaky first that saw a 4.01 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over 15 starts. In 14 outings since the All-Star break, Paxton won 10 of those starts with a 3.63 ERA and lowered that WHIP to 1.13. His opponent batting average also fell from .267 to .215.
Boone, then, goes with the experienced Tanaka in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. However, unlike Paxton, Tanaka's second half has been very shaky with a 5.26 ERA over 14 outings. He has been struggling getting his splitter grip down this season, messing with it to find the right break he wants.
The glaring stat that might have gone into the decision to start Tanaka here could be his home-road splits. Tanaka is much better in the Bronx with a 3.10 ERA compared to a 6.05 ERA on the road.
Finally, Severino proved that he deserved a rotation spot, and he was rewarded with Game 3. The 25-year-old made just three starts in September to gear up for the postseason, and he did so by pitching to a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings. He also had 17 strikeouts to six walks.
Severino's last start was against the Rangers on the road -- his first one of the season. He allowed two runs over three innings, with four walks to four strikeouts not helping his cause. He'll be in enemy territory again in Minnesota, and will hope for a different result than his last road start.
As for Sabathia, Boone noted that the Yankees didn't like what they saw as he's trying to work his way back from a shoulder ailment. Boone said he received a cortisone shot down in Texas, and threw a sim game on Tuesday. And while he was throwing the ball well, it just wasn't right in the Yanks' frame of mind due to the bullpen role he would've been playing in.
"It's actually more shoulder not bouncing back," Boone said. "Just wasn't bouncing back as well as we would've hoped in Texas."
So the table is set for this rotation. It will be interesting to see how short a leash these pitchers get considering the vast options in the bullpen.
But it will be up to Paxton to set the tone on Friday night at Yankee Stadium in his first postseason appearance of his career.