ARLINGTON — Aaron Judge could finally rest Wednesday. After hitting his historic 62nd home run on Tuesday night and virtually eliminating the Yankees from title contention, the Yankees slugger played his first game since Aug. 3, sitting out the final game of the regular season.
But Aaron Boone and staff still have work to do. They have a chance to figure out some of the final spots on their roster and figure out how to adjust their rotation in the American League Division Series five days after the regular season finale. For the ALDS, they will face either the Tampa Bay Rays or the Cleveland Guardians
While Boone put it definitively in his weekly radio spot Gerrit Cole was his No. 1 starter in the playoffs, which is apparently not set in stone.
“No, it hasn’t changed. I just want to make sure it’s the way I want to go,” Boone said before the Yankees finished the season against the Rangers at Globe Life Field. “And we’ll wrap it up here, maybe within 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 throughout the stretch. He has allowed 12 home runs in his last eight starts. After Tuesday’s two-run homer in the loss, Cole finished the regular season 13-8 with a 3.50 ERA and 3.46 FIP. Jameson Tallion also had a solid season, but could be the odd man out as Wednesday’s starter Domingo German will likely head to the bullpen.
Boone said they will likely decide their rotation in the next 24 hours before they know who they will face.
“You have to wait and see who you run into,” Boone said. “I’m probably going to lean toward setting it up ahead of time so we can kind of build their routines now in these next five days, looking at how we want it to happen.”
That’s not the only question the Yankees have to answer before sending their playoff roster to the league on Tuesday.
“I mean, how we want to build things. Getting some questions answered for some of the injured guys. “Will they be in the game? How many pitchers will be used versus position players? 12,13, What’s the number there?”’ Boone said of what the staff still needs to settle on. “So there are a few places we have to work through.”
There are quite a few questions in the bullpen, the biggest being who will the Yankees finish the game with? Clay Holmes has been out since last Monday (shoulder strain). He’s “very confident” he can 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 over his last nine appearances while striking out 10 of the 33 batters he’s faced over that span.
Zach Britton has no chance to return from Tommy John and close this season, halted his comeback and went on the 60-day IL Saturday with arm fatigue. Wandy Peralta began taking batting practice this week, and the Yankees hope he’ll be back for the ALDS.
The Yankees have several players they hoped could help them this postseason in New York or at their Double-A affiliate’s alternate rehab site in Somerset, New Jersey. Holmes pitched for the first time since being shut down with a cuff issue. Peralta is throwing live BP and Frankie Montas, who the Yankees acquired at the deadline precisely because of his success against potential playoff opponents like the Rays or Astros, has just started throwing length. Matt Carpenter (fractured foot) has been playing steadily live this week as he tries to recover, while Andrew Benintendi (hamate bone surgery hook) has been swinging the ball from the tee or trainer for the past two days.