DETROIT -- Rick Porcello's spot in the Tigers' postseason rotation wasn't hard for manager Jim Leyland to award. Brad Penny's spot in the bullpen was.
Leyland could have gone with a third left-hander in Duane Below, or he could've gone with a right-hander with a statistical knack for getting left-handed hitters out in David Pauley. But he didn't feel like those reasons were strong enough to outweigh what Penny brings -- or what Penny did this year.
He didn't say there was loyalty involved, but he strongly indicated that Penny's regular-season contributions played a major role. Essentially, it was a tiebreaker.
"When we ironed it all out, I felt like that was the right thing to do," Leyland said. "I felt like we couldn't get a slam dunk that any one of those three guys stood above the others so much. We felt we could've taken any one of the three, and we'd have felt OK. But under the circumstances, we try to do things right, and I don't think there's any question we did the right thing.
"You've got a guy that pitches 180 innings for you, wins 11 games in the five-hole and could be a long guy or might have to start if you get rain situations, because you don't really have anybody else who can do it. To me, it was a no-brainer."
Or, as Leyland later put it, "If you don't have a slam-dunk difference, to me, I can't look that guy in the eye. I couldn't look in the mirror and say, 'I kept that guy off.' I don't think that's fair. I just don't think you do that."
Porcello went 14-9 with a 4.75 ERA overall, but he finished with five straight quality starts in September en route to a 4-1 record and 3.55 ERA over the season's final month. His ERA was actually a higher at home compared with on the road -- 5.64 against 4.00. Still, he statistically outperformed Penny.
"I don't think that was the toughest of calls," Leyland said.
Penny hasn't made a relief appearance since 2008 with the Dodgers, when he came back from the disabled list and pitched down the stretch run of a playoff drive. He takes more time to warm up as a starter than many pitchers do, but if they can help it, the Tigers aren't likely to put him in a situation where he has to warm up in a hurry. Just in case, he was warming up in the Tigers' bullpen Wednesday to get a feel for it.
Leyland also cited the chance of a rain delay as a reason for including Penny. That scenario might have come to fruition Friday night had the rain eventually let up before Game 1 was suspended.
Leyland said high-strikeout right-hander Al Alburquerque's healthy return after right hip and quad problems played a role in his decision to stick with two lefty relievers instead of three. If Leyland needs a strikeout in a big situation, he can turn to Alburquerque and overlook righty-lefty splits. Alburquerque's slider is that good.
But another factor he cited was the fact that the Yankees' left-handed hitters aren't terribly hindered by left-handed pitchers, judging by the statistics.
"If you look at it, the Yankees do pretty good against lefties," Leyland said. "Some of them are better against lefties than righties."
Those include Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano -- dangerous hitters regardless of the pitcher.
Geared for CC, Tigers' lineup will face Nova
NEW YORK -- The Tigers missed Ivan Nova when they faced the Yankees in April and early May. They have no way to avoid him now, and they don't have first-hand observation to go on.
They have statistical splits that show he has been stronger against left-handed hitters than right-handed ones, and they have video to show them why.
"We're a little concerned about that," manager Jim Leyland said prior to the suspended Game 1. "We don't know a whole lot other than what we see on tape, what the scouts say. We have all that information. But really, the hitters will have to get a little better feel for that when they get in the [batter's] box. You can give guys reports. You never know how it's going to play out."
They couldn't have expected the scenario they'll face Saturday, when Nova enters a game that was suspended prior to the bottom of the second inning due to rain. He'll face a Tigers lineup that was put together with seven right-handed hitters to face left-hander CC Sabathia.
Leyland was well aware of that challenge Friday night.
"That's the one little dilemma probably," Leyland said, "but it will work out. I'm going to keep my lineup in there and see how the game plays out. I'm not going to change my lineup in the bottom of the second inning tomorrow. My lineup will be the same when we take the field."
Leyland empathizes with Red Sox, Braves
NEW YORK -- While Tigers manager Jim Leyland was happy to see his good friend Tony La Russa manage the Cardinals to a postseason berth with a late charge, he said he "felt terrible" for Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and erstwhile Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, whose teams collapsed down the stretch after holding commanding leads.
In Leyland's case, he knows how it feels.
"I know what a heartbreak it was for those guys," Leyland said. "I've been there."
He was thinking back, of course, to 2009, when the Tigers held a three-game lead over the Twins with four games to play before losing their final five games, including the American League Central tiebreaker. That stretch didn't cost Leyland his job, because he had signed a two-year extension earlier in the year.
It also furthered a reputation for second-half struggles that brought questions before Detroit's 12-game winning streak in September silenced critics.
Francona will not return to the Red Sox next season after the club decided not to pick up his option.
"I felt terrible, especially for a guy that's won two world championships," Leyland said of Francona. "I don't know what's going to come of it."
Ilitch pledges to increase payroll next year
NEW YORK -- Tigers owner Mike Ilitch got the winning team he wanted this year. Now, he's already looking ahead to figure out how to keep it that way.
Ilitch told Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski that he plans to keep spending aggressively on the team to help keep it a winner.
"I'm challenged to keep [payroll] there like the Yankees and the Red Sox," Ilitch told the paper. "I haven't totally zeroed in on our payroll yet. What I'm still trying to figure out is what we need for next year. I want to be in a position to make one or two additions, and generally, they're pretty big additions."
That led to the question about possibly adding a couple more significant players.
"I'm already thinking about that," Ilitch said. "Can you imagine another big bat in our lineup?"
Superstitious Leyland taking no chances
NEW YORK -- As soon as Tigers manager Jim Leyland made it to the podium with the local media, the question about his superstitions was bound to be asked. And yes, after he wore the same underwear for much of the end the Tigers' 12-game winning streak, he isn't afraid to do it again -- though folks around him might be afraid if he does.
"There are stores in New York that sell underwear," Leyland said Friday. "I will be wearing some tonight. I will be wearing the same ones tonight. And if we win, I'll be wearing the same ones tomorrow."
Whether he'd wear the same ones after that remains to be seen.
Leyland was asked the follow-up question: Boxers or briefs?
"Long ones," Leyland said. "I guess those are boxers. Longer than the boxer trunks, normally."
He was referring to the pants he wears under his baseball uniform. Those remain the same. However, he clarified later, he also has the same superstition with his other underwear.
"For my personal, I wear the same pair," Leyland joked with a reporter before Game 1. "When I get fired, I'm going to have them framed and send them to you."
News of Leyland's superstition, as well as hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, has long since spread among the players. It's hard to tell how they feel about it."
"I didn't even know all that until about a week ago," center fielder Austin Jackson said with a shrug. "I didn't know that they didn't change their drawers or anything like that. I guess, you know, it worked."
He might not want to know. And Leyland might not want to talk about it much longer. But if it provides a distraction, he'll try to answer it.
"It's a fun thing, and we move on," he explained.
Rotten luck leads to Tigers allowing run
NEW YORK -- Two defensive plays helped lead to the Yankees' first-inning run on Friday, but the rain had little to do with either of them. Some luck did.
With one out and runners on first and second, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded a grounder hit by Robinson Cano. Cabrera has been aggressive in trying to retire lead runners this season, and his first thought was to try to start a double play or at least force out ex-teammate Curtis Granderson at second base. But Cabrera said he realized he didn't have a throw.
"I didn't have a good angle," Cabrera said. "Granderson was in the middle of the base path. It's going to be a bad play if I throw and hit Granderson right there, if I make the error right there. You can't give them any chances. You have to play good baseball and go for one out.
"It was a tough throw. If you're not sure you have the out, you have to play for one out. It was the right play."
The Yankees scored on the next batter, when Brandon Inge fielded a grounder off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. Inge may have had a play on Derek Jeter at the plate, but the ball took a bad hop, and he was forced to throw to first to retire Rodriguez as Jeter crossed the plate.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said there were no lingering problems with Victor Martinez's right big toe, which he injured fouling off a pitch in Wednesday's regular-season finale against the Indians. Martinez had a hole drilled into his toenail to drain it Wednesday.
Leyland said infielder Danny Worth was a consideration for making the postseason roster. In the end, however, there wasn't much question the Tigers were going to take Omir Santos as a backup catcher.
Outfielder Brennan Boesch, whose season ended with thumb surgery in early September, was able to suit up with the rest of the Tigers and take part in pregame introductions, even though he's on the disabled list. He wore a wide grin as he jogged out from the dugout and slapped hands with teammates.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.