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yankees

Joe Girardi Has Some Thinking to Do

No, not about the Cubs job — well, about the Cubs job, but that'll come after the season — but about his rotation. He's got a lot to consider after a weekend in Chicago during which the Yankees took two out of three from the White Sox and kept pace with Tampa Bay. For example, A.J. Burnett got pounded again on Friday night, allowing eight earned runs in just three-and-a-third innings. We're not sure which is scarier about Burnett, who's supposed to be this team's No. 2 starter: his August numbers (0-4, 7.80 ERA), or the fact that his August wasn't even close to his worst month.

But Girardi will also consider that Ivan Nova pitched very well again (amid a bit of controversy this time), earning his first big-league victory yesterday after the bullpen tossed three-and-a-third shutout innings. And Girardi will factor in that Andy Pettitte reported no problems after a bullpen session yesterday during which he upped the intensity of his pitches.

Right now, Girardi says he's keeping the rotation as it is, which means it includes Dustin Moseley and Ivan Nova, but not Javier Vazquez (who pitched well in relief last week). But Pettitte's on schedule to return in two weeks, and you could make a case for him replacing just about anyone this side of CC Sabathia: Nova (the least experienced), Moseley (a call-up who thus far hasn't pitched as well as Nova), Burnett (the increasingly unreliable veteran), or Hughes (the young arm with the innings limit).

After the game yesterday, Michael Kay argued on YES that the Yankees' 14-13 record this month is a product of the improved bullpen, and there's a certain logic to that. (It needs to be said, however, that with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list and with Mark Teixeira sidelined for half the weekend with a thumb injury, the Yankees got big contributions this weekend from Marcus Thames, Eduardo Nunez, and Francisco Cervelli.)

But a less optimistic line of thinking goes like this: Yes, the bullpen turned a corner a month ago, and they'd have certainly fallen behind Tampa by now if it hadn't. But the reason the race is so close — the reason a team that played .640 ball through July is barely .500 this month — is because the starters haven't been consistent. There's just a little over a month left for the rotation — whoever it consists of — to turn their seasons around, too.

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Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images