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NEW YORK -- Reporters filed into Eric Wedge's office in the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Monday, and the Indians' manager knew exactly what was coming.
"Let me guess what you want to ask me about," Wedge said with a smile.
Wedge makes it known that he doesn't read newspapers or Internet accounts of the goings-on with his club, but he nonetheless was well-aware that his decision not to start C.C. Sabathia on three days' rest for Monday's Game 4 of the American League Division Series was drawing plenty of attention -- and debate.
So Wedge calmly and carefully laid out a three-pronged rationale for going with veteran Paul Byrd.
"One, [Byrd] has won 15 games for us, and we wouldn't be here without him," Wedge began. "Two, if you look at the history of [using pitchers on] three days' rest, it's nothing spectacular. Three, C.C. threw 114 pitches in five innings [in Game 1] and worked as hard as he has all year, and he's pushing 250 innings. We're very consistent with not putting our pitchers in harm's way, especially not our ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball."
For Wedge, the decision -- which, essentially, was made before this series even began -- was a matter of "common sense," as he put it.
"We're just not going to do it," Wedge said. "For us to even consider it, [Game 1] would have had to have been a very short day for C.C."
Nor would Sabathia, who would start Game 5, if necessary, have gotten serious consideration for Monday's start if the Indians were down, 2-1, in the series, rather than up, 2-1.
"If you talk about putting a player in harm's way, it doesn't matter where you are in the series," Wedge said. "Up, 2-0; up, 2-1; down, 2-1 -- it doesn't matter."
For what it's worth, Sabathia, who has only pitched on three days' rest one time in his seven-year career, sided with the decision, which was agreed upon by all of the organization's higher-ups.
"Byrdie is a veteran," Sabathia said. "He's been here, he's been in the postseason, he's been in this position before. He definitely deserves to start, the way he pitched this year. We have confidence that he's going to pitch a good game."
And Byrd pitching a good game is likely the only way this topic will be put to rest.
Six up, six down:
Two rookie relievers have made two appearances for the Tribe thus far in the ALDS, and the Yankees are still waiting to get their first baserunner against them.
Rafael Perez worked four perfect innings overall in Games 1 and 2 and has drawn raves from those in the national media.
Jensen Lewis, meanwhile, has flown a bit further under the radar, but he's nonetheless pitched a pair of perfect innings, striking out four of the six batters he's faced.
[Lewis has] been OK, huh?" Wedge said with a smile. "He's been real good for us the past couple months. He has a prominent role in our bullpen, and he's done a good job for us. He hasn't missed a beat so far here in the postseason."
Lewis is merely picking up where he left off in September, which saw him go 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 10 appearances. Having a hard-thrower such as Lewis, who can come out of the 'pen and notch a strikeout, is every manager's dream.
"Everybody looks for it in a bullpen," Wedge said. "The ability to call on that is definitely a strength."
As promised, with Byrd on the mound, backup catcher Kelly Shoppach made the start in the nine hole in Game 4.
The next time Byrd and Shoppach aren't paired this season will be the first.
"The success they've had over the course of the season is why we've stuck with it," Wedge said. "Early on in the season, we wanted to find a way to get Shoppach in there on a regular basis and get Victor [Martinez] out from behind the plate as much as we could and still keep him in the lineup at first base."
But the Indians have found unintended benefits to the pairing, Wedge said.
"I think the relationship has just grown between Shop and Paul. Paul has his own way of doing things out there, and he knows himself well and he pitches to his strengths and understands what he needs to do. Now that they've been together so much, Kelly understands his nuances, as well. That's important."
The negative, of course, is that having Shoppach in the lineup and moving Martinez to first takes Ryan Garko's bat out of the picture. Garko is batting .364 with a homer and three RBIs in the ALDS.
Finding a loophole:
The Yankees found a way to add a left-hander -- and a fresh left-hander, at that -- to their bullpen Monday, taking the injured Roger Clemens off their postseason roster and adding Ron Villone.
It was a wise move by the Yanks, considering Clemens, who was bothered by a left hamstring strain Sunday night, wouldn't have pitched again in this series, anyway.
"That's the rule, and they're taking advantage of it," Wedge said. "I'm sure we would probably do the same thing, if we were in that situation. I don't have any ill will toward that."
The Indians' bullpen didn't allow an earned run over the first three games of the series. ... The Yankees pushed their first run across on Sunday night after Martinez made the ill-fated decision to throw to third to try to nab Hideki Matsui after Melky Cabrera hit a swinging bunt in front of the plate. Matsui beat out the throw to put runners on the corners, and the Yankees cashed in on Johnny Damon's RBI single. Wedge said Martinez's decision was a poor one. "He got a little greedy," Wedge said. ... The Indians lost their first playoff game, but Wedge's beard was still intact Monday. "I told Shoppach, 'I'm not shaving again until he plays,'" Wedge said, so consider the beard gone by midweek. ... Beyond the final score, how did the Indians handle the mystique of a postseason game in front of a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium? "I thought they did a pretty good job," Wedge said. "They've got a nice pace to them. Not much fazes these guys. They rely on each other and derive strength from each other. I think a lot of confidence comes from that, too, regardless of the situation."
No offense to their fans, and no disrespect to their home park, but the Indians have no desire to be at Jacobs Field on Wednesday -- unless, of course, it's for a workout in preparation for the ALCS.
But should Monday's Game 4 not turn out the way the club hopes, The Jake would be the setting for Game 5 between the Indians and Yankees on Wednesday night. C.C. Sabathia would get the 8:37 p.m. ET start opposite fellow left-hander Andy Pettitte.