ARLINGTON — Aaron Judge could finally rest Wednesday. After hitting his historic 62nd home run Tuesday night and pretty much eliminated from the batting title race, the Yankees slugger had his first game off since Aug. 3, sitting out the final game of the regular season.
But Aaron Boone and the staff still have work to do. They have a chance to figure out some of their final roster spots and figure out how to set their rotation for the American League Division series during the five days following their regular season finale. For the ALDS, they will matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays or Cleveland Guardians
While Boone had said definitively on his weekly radio spot that Gerrit Cole was his No. 1 starter in the playoffs, that apparently isn’t set in stone.
“No, it hasn’t changed. I just want to make sure that’s the way I want to go,” Boone said before the Yankees finished off the season against the Rangers at Globe Life Field. “And we’ll finalize that here, probably over the next 24 hours.”
While Nestor Cortes (2.44 ERA in 28 starts) and Luis Severino (3.18 ERA in 19 starts) finished strong, Cole struggled with the home run down the stretch. He allowed 12 home runs over his last eight starts. After taking the loss Tuesday, on a two-run home run, Cole finished the regular season 13-8 with a 3.50 ERA and a 3.46 FIP. Jameson Tallion had a solid season as well, but could be the odd man out as Wednesday’s starter, Domingo German, is likely headed to the bullpen.
Boone said that they would likely decide their rotation within the next 24 hours, before they know who they will be facing.
“There’s a case to be made to wait and see who you are facing,” Boone said. “I’ll probably lean towards getting it set ahead of time so we can kind of build their routines now these next five days going into that, how we want it to happen.”
That’s not the only question the Yankees have to answer before they submit their playoff roster to the league on Tuesday.
“I mean how we want to line things up. Getting some answers to some questions for some injured guys. ‘Are they going to be in play? How many pitchers are going to go with as opposed to position players? 12,13, What’s the number there,’” Boone said of what the staff needs to still settle on. “So there’s a few spots kind of up for grabs that we got to work through.”
The bullpen has quite a few questions, the biggest being who will the Yankees close games with? Clay Holmes hasn’t pitched since last Monday (shoulder strain). He is “very confident” he could be ready for the ALDS. But, Holmes also posted a 5.79 ERA in his last 18 appearances. Aroldis Chapman, who has been wildly inconsistent all year, has a 6.75 ERA in his last nine appearances, while walking 10 of the 33 batters he has faced during that span.
Zack Britton, a long shot to come back from Tommy John and close this season, shut down his return and went on the 60-day IL with arm fatigue on Saturday. Wandy Peralta began throwing live batting practice this week and the Yankees are hopeful he will be back for the ALDS.
The Yankees have a number of players they hoped would be able to help them this postseason back in New York or at the alternate site of their Double-A affiliate in Somerset, N.J. rehabbing. Holmes threw for the first time since being shut down with the rotator cuff issue. Peralta is throwing live BP and Frankie Montas, who the Yankees acquired at the deadline specifically because of his success against potential playoff opponents like the Rays or Astros, just began throwing long toss. Matt Carpenter (fractured foot) is getting consistent live at-bats this week in an effort to get back and Andrew Benintendi (hook of the hamate bone surgery) has taken swings at a ball off a tee or coach toss for the last two days.