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09/26/11 2:10 AM ET

Yankees shift Hughes to bullpen role

Noesi to oppose Rays on Monday, followed by Colon

NEW YORK -- Hector Noesi and Bartolo Colon have been slotted to start the first two games for the Yankees at St. Petersburg, while Phil Hughes is destined for the bullpen for the rest of the regular season -- and for at least the start of the playoffs.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi made the announcement after Sunday's 7-4, 14-inning loss to the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium wrapped a doubleheader, but he did not yet know who would start the regular-season finale on Wednesday. "It might be a bullpen day," Girardi said.

The last three games come against the Rays.

As for Hughes, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 12 because of back issues, the right-hander -- who made himself available to pitch on Monday -- said he was disappointed he wouldn't get a chance to start in the American League Division Series but also took blame for that.

"Yeah, but I did it to myself," said the right-hander, who has gone 5-5 with a 6.00 ERA in 15 outings, 14 of which were starts. "I had the back issue coming off the start in Seattle, so therefore I didn't have an opportunity to pitch."

Hughes, who reported no problems with his lower back one day after throwing about 35 pitches in the bullpen at Yankee Stadium, said he would be available to pitch in back-to-back games during the playoffs if the Yankees felt his physical condition was up to it. He also said the decision to put him in relief was only for the first round, not beyond. Girardi did not specify.

"Right now, yeah, that's how we're going to look at it," Girardi said of Hughes going to the 'pen. "We might need some innings of him just because of this crazy game tonight, and we'll have to look at that."

Mariano recognized for record before Game 1

NEW YORK -- The Yankees honored Mariano Rivera for his all-time saves record before the first game of Sunday's day-night doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox.

Rivera surpassed Trevor Hoffman for the most saves in baseball history on Monday against the Rays, and in recognition, the Yankees commissioned a Waterford Crystal fireman's helmet bearing the record-setting No. 602 as well as an image of Rivera. The crystal was hand-crafted in Ireland with copper-wheel engraving.

Teammate Jorge Posada first presented Rivera with a Fire Department of New York helmet bearing No. 602, then helped unveil a framed, matted collage that features 15 of Rivera's Topps baseball cards and the title "Best Ever."

In addition, Steiner Sports presented Rivera with a "602nd Save Timeline Collage" and a check for $25,000, made out to the Mariano Rivera Foundation and earmarked to help with the restoration of the North Avenue Church in New Rochelle, N.Y.

The event was similar to one held earlier in the season to honor Derek Jeter for becoming the first Yankees player to reach the 3,000-hit plateau.

The gifts for Rivera were plenty. The Yankees, Hublot and Manfredi Jewels also presented him with a one-of-a-kind Hublot Aero Bang Steel Ceramic watch, featuring a steel case and bezel with black skeleton dial and black rubber strap. The custom job carries the "Mariano Rivera 602 Save" logo on the back of the case.

Yanks set to bring Montero on postseason ride

NEW YORK -- Jesus Montero has spent less than a month at the Major League level, but the hot-hitting rookie appears to have locked up a spot in the playoffs.

"I can't envision a scenario where he won't be on our postseason roster," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Montero, 21, is hitting .346 (18-for-52) with four homers and 12 RBIs in 15 games for New York, including a three-hit, four-RBI performance in a 9-1 win over the Red Sox on Saturday.

"I've been doing a good job, thank God, and just trying to do my best," Montero said. "I'm helping and doing whatever they want me to do to help the team to win. I don't decide anything else."

With Francisco Cervelli sidelined as he comes back from a concussion, Montero's role in the playoffs could be as the backup catcher to Russell Martin, as well as an option to mash left-handed pitching.

"I feel fine. I've been doing my work, I've been doing my routines every day," Montero said. "Good things are going to happen."

CC tunes up for ALDS with simulated start

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia emptied 65 pitches over four simulated innings on the Yankee Stadium mound on Sunday, tuning up for his Game 1 start in the American League Division Series.

The left-hander's workout takes the place of what would have been his final outing of the regular season, ensuring he will finish the year 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 33 starts.

"I feel good. My arm feels great, body feels great," Sabathia said. "I'm pretty much ready to go."

Sabathia said it was a little odd to be getting ready for the playoffs without facing another club, instead pitching to teammates Chris Dickerson, Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena, but he was OK with it.

"I was able to work on a few things and have it not be as intense, and I can get my work in," Sabathia said.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that they did not want to risk injury to Sabathia, pitching him on short rest to line him up for Game 1, and felt they could better control the circumstances under simulated conditions.

"Obviously our idea was to get him ready for the postseason," Girardi said. "There's a lot clubs that have to fight near the end to get there and then, when they get there, they change their plans.

"That's what happened to us, we changed our plans. If we needed CC, we were going to use him. I didn't feel good about taking a chance."

Home-field locked up, but Yanks' work not done

NEW YORK -- The Yankees weren't staying up late on Saturday to watch the final pitches of the Orioles' 6-5 win over the Tigers, though it did carry implications they are quite pleased with.

Detroit's loss, coupled with New York's 9-1 victory over the Red Sox on Saturday, secured home-field advantage throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs for the Yankees.

"It's something that we worked very hard for during the course of the season, and it's nice because I've always said that our club is built around our ballpark," manager Joe Girardi said.

"We're still going to go out and play hard. It's not going to change my approach, in a sense, but we'll be smart with guys these last four days."

There was evidence of that in Girardi's lineup for the first game of Sunday's split-admission doubleheader, as Jorge Posada batted cleanup and the batting order featured starts by Chris Dickerson, Brandon Laird and Ramiro Pena.

"I've said all along that I'm not taking my foot off the gas," Girardi said. "I want our guys playing well. I'm not going to abuse guys, but I said going into this week, this was a big week and it's been a big week for us. This week's not over."

At worst, the Yankees would finish tied with the Rangers for the AL's best record. The Yankees were 7-2 against Texas this year.

Bomber bits

• Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after Sunday's doubleheader that Francisco Cervelli's exam went well. "He's going down with us to Tampa," Girardi said. "At some point maybe in the next day or two, he might catch a bullpen [session]; we'll see how he feels." Cervelli suffered a concussion in a home-plate collision on Sept. 8 in Baltimore.

• Red Sox manager Terry Francona had an issue with the pickoff move A.J. Burnett used to nab Jacoby Ellsbury stealing in the first inning of Sunday's Game 1. "It's a good balk move," Francona said. "They didn't call it. He breaks that leg, and I wish we could've had somebody call it."

• Jorge Posada hit fourth in the Yankees' lineup Sunday for the first time since Sept. 28, 2009, vs. Kansas City, scoring his 900th career run with his home run off the Red Sox's Tim Wakefield.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryanhoch. Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.