10/14/09 3:27 PM EST
Angels split lefties in setting rotation
Scioscia goes with Saunders, Weaver, Kazmir for Games 2-4
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
The Angels will keep the same 25-man roster from the Division Series with 10 pitchers but will have a different starting rotation after Game 1 starter John Lackey with Joe Saunders making his first start of the postseason in Game 2 before Jered Weaver and Scott Kazmir start Games 3 and 4 at home, respectively.
It's a change from the Division Series, when Lackey was followed by Weaver and Kazmir in the Angels' three-game sweep over the Red Sox. But after weighing his options for the past few days, Scioscia decided Saunders was the best choice to start in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
"I don't think it's a tough decision, but we wanted to evaluate some things and see where guys were," Scioscia said. "I think it makes sense for Joe to pitch Game 2 in that ballpark and then have Weav and Kaz come back home for Games 3 and 4 before John comes back to pitch Game 5."
Scioscia made the decision to start Saunders in Game 2 for various reasons, noting that Saunders had success in the old Yankee Stadium and that as a left-hander with a sinking fastball, he could limit the effects of the new park, such as the short porch in right field.
But the biggest question is how Saunders will perform on 12 days rest, as his last start came on Oct. 4 against the A's.
Saunders, though, has pitched well after long layoffs, compiling a career 3.29 ERA in 20 starts after getting more than six days of rest. He also threw a simulated game on Tuesday to prepare for his start scheduled on Saturday.
"Joe's history says that when he has a couple extra days he's effective," Scioscia said. "It's not a perfect world and sometimes you have long layoffs. But he stayed as sharp as he could, and I think his shoulder feels good."
Saunders' shoulder has certainly responded well since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 26 after he battled through tightness in his left shoulder for most of the season. But in his eight starts after his trip to the disabled list, Saunders went 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA.
It was simply another factor Scioscia considered when he selected Saunders as his Game 2 starter over Weaver and Kazmir.
Another factor was that Weaver made two starts this season at the new Yankee Stadium but had a 6.08 ERA compared to a 2.90 ERA at home this season. And Kazmir, who has yet to start at the new Yankee stadium, struggled at the old stadium with a 5.04 ERA in five career starts while also allowing five runs over six innings in Game 2 of the ALDS at Fenway Park.
"I don't think it was just one [factor]," Scioscia said of his decision. "We just wanted the best environment for our guys to win games. I think we could have rotated it a few different ways, but I think this one was best."
So while Scioscia announced his starters for the first five games of the series with Lackey coming back to pitch if there's a Game 5, he said he's not ready to determine who will start Games 6 or 7, if they are necessary.
The weather could also be a factor, as rain is in the forecast this weekend in New York, causing Scioscia to joke that the Angels "might face [Yankees Game 1 starter] CC Sabathia seven times."
In reality, however, Scioscia will have to choose between Saunders, Kazmir and Weaver over those last two games, but he's just not quite ready to do it yet, especially because there are no guarantees the series will last that long.
"We're only going to go through Game 4 and then Lackey will go Game 5 and then we'll take it from there," Scioscia said. "We have some options. It's an extremely drawn out seven-game series."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.