NEW YORK -- After hinting that the Yankees would finally trim their rotation to five men following weeks of auditions and deliberations, manager Joe Girardi said Sunday the Yankees would stick with a six-man rotation for at least one more turn.
The decision means Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett, the two presumed candidates for a reassignment to the bullpen, have at least one more start to make an impression on their manager. Hughes will pitch Tuesday night against Baltimore, and Burnett will follow in Wednesday's day game.
"We kind of liked what we saw from our guys in Boston," Girardi said. "I know Hughesie gave up some runs, but I thought he threw the ball better than the numbers indicated. We liked what A.J. did, and I want to see him build on it."
Hughes took the loss Wednesday at Fenway Park when he allowed six runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. Burnett, working with different mechanics, gave up two runs on five hits in a no-decision Thursday. The Yankees won that game, 4-2.
"What makes it even more incredible to me, here's a guy fighting for his spot," Girardi said of Burnett. "There's been discussion about how he might come out of the rotation, he had a tough August. [And so he says,] 'You know what, I'm going to try new mechanics against the Boston Red Sox.' That takes a lot of guts."
Girardi had expressed a desire to thin the rotation earlier, but doubleheaders and Freddy Garcia's cut finger made a sixth starter necessary. Garcia, Ivan Nova, and Bartolo Colon have all turned in impressive -- and in many ways surprising -- seasons to go with the usually strong CC Sabathia, who won again Sunday.
The delayed decision makes it more likely that neither Hughes nor Burnett will be permanently assigned to the bullpen during the regular season. The Yankees have one more scheduled off-day, but they will also need a sixth starter at least one more time this season. Tampa Bay visits for a four-game series that will take place from Sept. 20-22. One of those days will be a doubleheader, but the Yankees have not announced which one.
This plan will mean the Yankees must again choose between giving Sabathia extra rest or re-jiggering their rotation to keep him on normal rest. Sabathia said Sunday that he would prefer to pitch every fifth day, but that such a desire is only natural for any starting pitcher.
"I think that's for everybody," Sabathia said. "We all came up with five-man rotations, so I don't think it's just me, I think it's everybody."
Girardi said he was conscious of the uncertainty created by a six-man rotation, but that he thought Burnett and Hughes would not mind the extra time as starters.
"I do think people like to know where they're going to be every five or six days, but life's not always that way, this game's not always this way," Girardi said. "The good thing is they're getting another chance."
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.