- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi complained Monday night about the quick turnaround between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs, with the implication that this year's one-day break could negatively impact baseball's remaining playoff races.
"I think we're in a tough position and one of the reasons we're in a tough position is you only got one day off,'' Girardi said. "I think you should have two days off. Then you can manage the last game of the season accordingly.''
The regular season ends on Wednesday and the Division Series begins on Friday. The Yankees, with the American League's best record, will open at home against an as-yet-to-be-determined opponent, either the Detroit Tigers, the Texas Rangers or the longshot Los Angeles Angels.
Girardi said the short turnaround could affect the way he uses his bullpen in the final three regular season games against the Tampa Bay Rays, who are in a dogfight with the Boston Red Sox and the Angels for the AL wild card.
Girardi's problem is compounded by the fact that he has no starting pitcher for Wednesday's finale and will likely have to go with a collection of relief pitchers, which could compromise the readiness of some of the Yankee relievers for Game 1 two days later.
"It is kind of weird,'' Girardi said. "Because if you did have two days off you could use all of your relievers on Wednesday if you wanted to, but as I said you have to be careful. It's tough when you're playing teams that need to win games and they're part of the playoff picture.''
Due to the back injury suffered by Phil Hughes and Girardi's subsequent decision to move him to the bullpen, the Yankees will start Hector Noesi, a reliever, Monday night against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Bartolo Colon will pitch Tuesday night but Girardi has yet to decide who will start on Wednesday.
Whoever he comes up with is likely not to be a candidate for the postseason roster, but it is expected the Yankees will need plenty of bullpen help behind him. That puts Girardi in the position of trying to protect as many of his playoff-eligible pitchers as possible while still trying to preserve the integrity of a game that could decide the AL wild card.
Heading into Monday night's game, the Rays trailed the Red Sox by a game in the wild-card race, with the Angels three games back.
"You could get in a situation where they would have to throw three out of four games and they might have to give you multiple innings and you don't want them taxed,'' Girardi said of his relief pitchers. "So we have to be smart about this week. We're still trying to win games, there's no doubt about it but we have to be smart about it. As I said, I'm not taking my foot off the gas. We're trying to win every game, but my first objective is to make sure our team is ready and healthy to go on Friday.''
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.
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