CC Sabathia unlikely to make next start until ALCS Game 4

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Because of the unusual playoff schedule this year, the only way the Yankees will be able to get two starts out of CC Sabathia in the ALCS is by using him on short rest once.

That’s because the Yankees won’t have a day off before the ALCS begins Saturday in New York. The Tigers get did that day off, so they’ll be able to schedule Justin Verlander for Games 3 and 7 with no problem. The Yankees will have to use Sabathia on three days’ rest in order to get two games out of him.

Of course, it makes no sense for the Yankees to do that initially, since there’s a good chance the series won’t go seven games anyway. So odds are that Sabathia will start Game 4. Here’s are the likely matchups:

Game 1 – Oct. 13 – Doug Fister vs. Andy Pettitte (in New York)
Game 2 – Oct. 14 – Anibal Sanchez vs. Hiroki Kuroda (in New York)
Game 3 – Oct. 16 – Verlander vs. Phil Hughes (in Detroit)
Game 4 – Oct. 17 – Max Scherzer vs. Sabathia (in Detroit)
Game 5 – Oct. 18 – Fister vs. Pettitte (in Detroit)
Game 6 – Oct. 20 – Sanchez vs. Kuroda (in New York)
Game 7 – Oct. 21 – Verlander vs. Sabathia (in New York)

Perhaps the Yankees would choose Hughes on normal rest over Sabathia on short rest in a Game 7, but it seems highly unlikely. Regardless, the Tigers would seem to have a nice advantage in that one. The series winner would certainly prefer ending it in Game 6, allowing the ace to be ready to go in Game 1 of the World Series.

Update – I hadn’t considered that Kuroda would also be on three days’ rest in Game 2. It still seems to be that that would be the way to do it. Using him in Game 3 instead would put a potentially rusty Hughes in line to start Game 6. If they’re not willing to start Kuroda in Game 2, then it’d probably be David Phelps, with Hughes maybe working in relief on two days’ rest.

Update 2 – The Tigers announced that it’d be Sanchez in Game 2, not Scherzer, suggesting that Scherzer is still dealing with some shoulder soreness. That’d seem to be good news for the Yankees.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.