DETROIT — At a steamy Comerica Park, definitely a ballpark and possibly weather conditions that won’t factor into the Yankees’ postseason, Aaron Boone offered his vision of Domingo German’s October.
“I view Domingo playing a really big role for us in the postseason, hopefully,” the Yankees’ manager said on Tuesday, before his team opened a three-game set with the worst-in-baseball Tigers. “I could see it being a lot of different things. I could see him absolutely starting and being that guy for us. I could see him coming into a game in a huge spot and picking up innings both short and [long].
“Nothing has been defined yet there, and it’s something that will probably remain fluid until we’re finished playing.”
Yet one could argue that a term already exists for German’s role, courtesy of the 2018 Brewers:
The right-hander, like virtually everyone else on the Yankees’ pitching staff, will be an out-getter.
The closer we get to these playoffs, the more it looks like the Yankees’ best path to overcoming the Astros, a club relying on a powerful starting rotation, will be a strain of bullpenning: A bunch of “Go as hard as you can for as long as you can” performances, strung together on the hopeful foundation of high ceilings across the board. The Yankees will launch a test run of sorts on Wednesday when they start CC Sabathia and relieve him with German, whose prior 22 appearances have been starts.
Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild, understandably hesitant to commit to a game plan, said, “We’ll see when we get there. It’s hard to tell right now. We’ll see who we’ve got back and how it all fits together.”
Nevertheless, Rothschild acknowledged that he followed the Brewers’ unconventional path to NLCS Game 7 last year. It was Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell, close enough to his Yankees counterpart that Boone reached out to him for advice when interviewing with Brian Cashman and company two offseasons ago, who popularized the term “out-getters” as his club routinely went early and often to its bullpen.
Of the Brewers’ 10 postseason games, their starting pitcher qualified for the win (by recording at least five innings) only three times. In none of those three contests, two by Jhoulys Chacin and one by Wade Miley, did a starter last as many as six innings.
I don’t think the Yankees want to go quite to that extreme. With the way James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka have pitched lately, especially Paxton, you’d be quite open to them going six or seven innings if they’re cruising. Yet the principle stays the same: Pull rather than push. Everyone should be an asset.
Imagine games being started by Paxton, Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Luis Severino and maybe even German or Chad Green if the Yankees see an optimal matchup. Then picture a second wave, perhaps occupied by some of these same guys, in the third or fourth inning. For you wouldn’t ask Severino, having missed all season to date on the injured list, to go far, and you’d probably be thrilled with Happ, who has recently pitched better after performing terribly for the bulk of the season, if he made it twice through the opposing lineup.
Your other six pitchers, assuming everyone’s good health, would appear to be Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle, Aadm Ottavino and Sabathia.
Each of this dozen, you’d trust somewhat in a big spot. If this formation underwhelms you from the standpoint of, “I doubt any of these guys will join Don Larsen by tossing a Fall Classic perfect game,” its strength stands out when you think about how the Yankees won their last two titles: In 2009, they relied upon a three-man starting rotation featuring Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. And in 2000, they trusted, essentially, six pitchers: Starters Roger Clemens, Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez and relievers Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera.
Those clubs of course didn’t have to upend the 2019 Astros. This plan can work, though — as long as the Yankees’ out-getters live up to their job title.
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