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Yankees plan to piggyback starters during postseason

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Tom Verducci of SI spoke with Yankees manager Aaron Boone about his playoff pitching plans:

“We’re going to be a little untraditional,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The only one we might use as a traditional starter is [James] Paxton.”

By traditional, Boone means a starting pitcher who goes as deep as he can into a game. Otherwise, New York is prepared to script each game with piggyback starters and six key relievers. That doesn’t make the Yankees vulnerable. It makes them smart.

We live in the age of The Opener and Bullpenning™ so this is not necessarily novel, but it is novel for the Yankees. At least in the postseason. Due to injuries and ineffectiveness of multiple starters they’ve been doing a whole heck of a lot of bullpenning in the second half and it’s worked out for them pretty well. The key to that is that Boone has been pretty good of not overworking everyone. Which, to be fair, is pretty easy to do when you have a massive lead in the standings and your offense is able to carry you.

The postseason is a difference beast, of course. Whereas in August or early September Boone can afford to leave Aroldis Chapman on the bench as the opposition threatens in the ninth in order to save his arm, you can’t really do that in October. Yes, there are off days for travel, but the higher-leverage of each and every postseason out makes it more likely that the relievers will be ridden harder. Having six of them, and multiple starters who can go on shorter rest due to shorter outings can work, but all it takes is one disaster game — and in the mega juiced ball postseasons we’ve seen the past couple of years, there are a lot of them — to mess up such plans. If that happens, Boone’s ability to improvise will be tested.

Freddie Freeman has elbow surgery

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Freddie Freeman‘s elbow began barking in the second half of the season and he was a shadow of himself in the month of September. The Braves rested him for half a minute in the season’s final week but he still played 158 games in 2019. They said he was good to go for the NLDS but he was clearly limited, going 4-for-22 in the Braves’ series loss to the Cardinals.

Today the Braves announced that Freeman underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow on Wednesday. The team said today that the procedure involved the removal of three fragmented loose bodies and the cleaning up of multiple bone spur formations.

It’s not clear if more rest down the stretch would’ve made a difference for him — and it’s not clear that the Braves had options at first base for the postseason that were substantially better than even a limited Freeman — but it’s clear that not having Freeman feeling like himself in the heart of the order was a problem.

Freeman is expected to be good-to-go for spring training.