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10/08/2007 09:44:00 AM

ALDS: Wedge hedges his bets

Jake Peavy
Paul Byrd will get the start after winning 15 games this season.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
By Alex Belth

Last night, after the Yankees won Game 3 of the ALDS, Paul Byrd was the final player brought into the interview room to speak with the assembled media. Only the vast majority of the press left the room to work on their stories, leaving just one reporter to ask questions to the genial Byrd (who bares an almost uncanny resemblance to Kelsey Grammer), tonight's Game 4 starter for Cleveland.

Byrd was asked if he felt like he had anything to prove after being asked to start in place of C.C. Sabathia, one of the Indians' two "big guns."

Byrd smiled and said, "I'm kind of like a little gun." But there was no edge to his voice, and he quickly added that he was kidding. "I think Wedgie went with some matchups." Byrd said he would have been fine if Sabathia had gotten the call.

Still, he continued, "I'm excited that he gave me the ball. I've got a little extra rest. I feel good, arm feels good. I'm looking forward [to it]. Great fans here. Just overall great place to play."

Are the Indians making the correct move here? Sabathia has not pitched on three days rest all season. He's made 27 starts on 4 days rest (2.97 ERA), just three starts on five days of rest (4.05), and only four starts on six or more days of rest (4.33). Even though Sabathia threw a lot of pitches last Thursday in Game 1 and has only started on three days rest once in his career, wouldn't he give the Tribe a better chance than a veteran control pitcher like Byrd, who is facing a Yankee offense that is finally feeling confident?

After all, Fausto Carmona would be available to pitch on normal rest if the series moved back to Cleveland on Wednesday. Byrd actually pitched better this season the more rest he had, ending the season with 15 wins. But his ERA (4.59) was higher than league average (4.42), and while they would never admit to it publicly, you'd have to imagine that the Yankees would rather take their chances against Byrd than Sabathia.

For Wedge, there was never a question about who to pitch tonight. "We're going to move forward just as we had planned," he told reporters. "We knew we were going to need four starters if it went that far here in the series. And that's where we are at."

Bud Shaw thinks that in refusing to panic, Wedge is making the correct call.

Wedge was accused over over-managing in Game 1 by not only using Rafael Perez for two innings (a move that did not have a negative impact Perez's effectiveness in Game Two), and, even more to the point, pitching Rafael Betancourt in a blowout. Now though, Wedge has opened himself up to criticism by not going for the jugular.

If Byrd and the Indians win tonight, Wedge will come out smelling like a rose, of course, with Sabathia and Carmona lined up perfectly to face the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. If they lose, the Yankees will be alive with a chance to knock the Indians out, and Wedge will be feeling the heat.

Before the game last night, Joe Torre said that everyone, with the lone exception of Andy Pettitte, was available to pitch. You'd have to imagine the same holds true for tonight. Chien-Ming Wang will start for New York, not Mike Mussina.

"He's a 19-game winner," said Torre, "he's pitched well at the Stadium, and we relied on him so much. Taking nothing away from Moose. Moose hasn't pitched in a while. Certainly I made him aware before the game that we'll decide later who is going to pitch. And he was comfortable with that. I just told him afterwards that it was going to be Wanger and said, fine. So he'll be the one backing up [Wang], as Hughes was today."

Wang made 16 starts at Yankee Stadium this season, going 10-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 111 innings.

Joba Chamberlain, who pitched two innings on Sunday, will be available as well.

Mussina defending Torre to reporters. "We know expectations are high," he said prior to Game 3. "The frustration is out there and there is frustration in here too within our own players, within our own clubhouse. We've had a bulls eye on our back since I got here seven years ago. That's just part of playing with this team. It doesn't change anything."

Was this the last we'll see of Roger Clemens? You would have to think so. Look for Ian Kennedy to replace him on the roster should the Yankees make it to the next round.

There is a feeling that this might finally be the end of the Yankee dynasty. Clemens is a sure-goner, and if New York doesn't win this series, George Steinbrenner has made it clear that Joe Torre will not be asked to return. If Torre is gone, how will that affect the futures of Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, both free agents? Posada, in particular, may consider leaving the Bronx if Torre does not come back.

As the Yankees' young players (Chamberlain, Hughes, Cano, Cabrera) continue to develop, aging veterans like Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and, in particular, Jason Giambi, continue to fade (Giambi is owed a boat-load of money next year, but I wonder if the Yankees won't eat a majority of that and cut ties with him anyway).

Another notable change for the worse at Yankee Stadium last night was the absence of longtime P.A. announcer, dubbed "the voice of God," by Reggie Jackson, Bob Sheppard. Sheppard has laryngitis and hasn't worked in weeks. His presence is most certainly missed.


posted by SI.com | View comments |  


Posted: October 8, 2007 1:52 PM   by Anonymous

Eric Wedge is a moron. Thanks for letting the Yanks back into this thing by pitching the old man tonight.
Those comments from Byrd sound like the words of a loser.

Thanks Mr. Wedge, for giving this series away.
Posted: October 8, 2007 2:40 PM   by Anonymous
Carmona and Sabathia are lined up to face the Red Sox in Game 1 + 2, no matter what Wedge does tonight and whether it goes to game 5.

Game 1 of the ALDS is on Friday and Game 2 of the ALDS is Saturday. The only question is whether Sabathia would pitch first or Carmona would pitch first. Both would be on full rest regardless of what happens in the Yankee series (except if both were used in Game 5).

Wedge's decision has nothing to do with "hedging his bets." It has to do with deciding whether going with going Byrd and CC on full rest gives the team a better chance than using CC on short rest, followed by Carmona in Game 5. That is all it is about. Nothing to do with Boston.
Posted: October 8, 2007 2:45 PM   by Anonymous
Wedge is making a huge mistake? HUGE!

Indians biggest asset: Carmona and Sabathia. He affectively has cut there advantage in half. The Yankees must be loving it.

If the goal is to win 1 game, the best chance is to throw Sabathia on three days rest in game 4 and Carmona game 5. I would rather pitch Carmona game 5 then Sabathia anyways. Why can't he have Sabathia pitch four innings, Perez 3, Betancourt 1, Lewis/Boroski 1. It's over.

What is Wedge doing? He kept Westbrook in too long and Trot Nixon. I will say it again...I WOULD RATHER HAVE CARMONA PITCH GAME 5.
Posted: October 8, 2007 3:18 PM   by Anonymous
Wedge has miscalculated. If he threw Sabathia at them tonight, and they won, Carmona could pitch game 1 on friday and Sabathia could do game 2 on saturday. They'd still have the big guns going 1-2; the order would just be switched. Sabathia can easily go on three days.
The Indians have the Yankees against the ropes, but they're still the Yankees. Toying with them is swimming with sharks. Bad idea. You throw everything at them until the 27th out of the clinching game. Then you can relax. Bad move by Wedge.
Posted: October 8, 2007 4:33 PM   by Anonymous
Absolutely the wrong decision. Pettite would beet Sabathia in a game 5, the tribe had a better chance with Carmona in the mount anyways, so why not pitch C.C. today? This is going to cost them the series
Posted: October 8, 2007 5:58 PM   by Anonymous
wedge is doing fine by putting byrd there. its a smart managerial move because indians bats can come alive...(there is a reason he won 15 with an era above league average)

as for the yanks, its a definent gamble. but if wang can do a bit better than game one, yankees bats should click well enough for a win. petitte and sabathia will make a great matchup and with pettitte's expierience, yanks should win.
Posted: October 8, 2007 10:14 PM   by Anonymous
Enough sour grapes, already! Wedge is a genius! The Tribe is 6 outs from firing Joe Torre, retiring Roger Clemens, ane having A-Rod and Mariano declare free agency.

You can take that $200 Million NY World Series dream and flush it down the drain for yet another year!
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