Paxton (15-6, 3.82 ERA), a 30-year-old left-hander in his first season with the Yankees, will be followed by Masahiro Tanaka (11-9, 4.45) for Game 2 on Saturday and Luis Severino (1-1, 1.50) for Game 3 at Minnesota on Monday.
“I’ve been talking to teammates, asking them what it’s been like pitching in the postseason,” Paxton said Paxton won a career-best 10 straight starts before leaving his final regular-season start after one inning last Friday because of a tight glute muscle in the left buttocks.
“It’s good. It will be a non-issue,” he said. He struggled in the first inning, allowing 12 of his 23 home runs, but he gave up just six homers in his final 11 starts. “I threw a few more pitches in the bullpen second half of the season,” Paxton said, “so I could kind of get the first few hitters out of the way in the bullpen just so to try and sharpen myself up, and that seemed to help a little bit _ and also trying to be really aggressive from pitch one.”
Masahiro Tanaka (11-9, 4.45) starts Game 2 for the Yankees on Saturday and Luis Severino (1-1, 1.50) for Game 3 at Minnesota on Monday. José Berríos will start for Game 1 for the Twins after going 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA and 195 strikeouts in 200 1/3 innings. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli did not announce a Game 2 starter. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (15-7, 3.51) is the most likely candidate.
Sabathia, who is retiring after the postseason, made his first regular-season relief appearance on Sept. 24 at Tampa Bay. “It's been something that we've been trying to deal with the past couple months. Thought that we had a pretty good handle on it,” Sabathia said. “I threw in that game in Tampa, and it felt pretty good, but I woke up a couple days later, and it was pretty sore.”
Sabathia hopes to be able to pitch in the AL Championship Series if the Yankees advance. “He ended up getting a cortisone shot, was able to go out and throw in a sim game Tuesday and, frankly, threw the ball pretty well,” manager Aaron Boone said, “but just not quite where it needs to be, to be in the kind of role we're going to ask him to be in where he's potentially getting up on the spot and then maybe having to get up later in the game.”
Sabathia was 5-8 with a 4.95 ERA, leaving his career record at 251-161 with 3,093 strikeouts in 19 major league seasons. “It's tough, obviously, being here and not being able to participate in playoffs,” he said. “I didn't want to put the team in jeopardy. I want the best opportunity for this team to win a championship. I feel like we have a good opportunity. I didn't want to be selfish and go out there hurt and put the team in a bad spot.”
Left-hander J.A. Happ (12-8, 4.91) will start the series in the bullpen but could be an option to start Game 4. “We'll try and have him prepared for a lot of different roles, but he'll certainly, in some way, shape, or form, be in play the first two games,” Boone said.
Boone anticipates Edwin Encarnación will be on the roster. Encarnación, who hasn't played since Sept. 12 because of a strained left oblique, hit in a pair of simulated games this week.
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