Few spots TBD on projected playoff roster

Few spots TBD on projected playoff roster

NEW YORK -- The bubbly was still damp on Joe Girardi's uniform top as the Yankees manager started running through the machinations of the lineup card that he might send to home plate should his team participate in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3.

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"I think you start thinking about it now," Girardi said. "It's not the center of my focus right now, but I think trying to make sure that everyone is prepared and everyone is available to help if you do play in the Wild Card Game, I think is important. Part of that is when you pitch your starters. Those are decisions that we have to make."

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Many of the decisions seem obvious, but as the Yankees whittle down their September list of expanded personnel into a more workable 25-man roster for a potential AL Division Series, Girardi and his coaching staff figure to have several tough calls on the horizon.

No fewer than 20 players appear to be locks for the Yankees' postseason roster. Catchers Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine should appear, with infielders Greg Bird, Starlin Castro, Todd Frazier, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley and Ronald Torreyes all set. The outfielders will include Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge, and Matt Holliday will be the designated hitter.

Girardi is able to reset the roster between the Wild Card Game and the ALDS should the Yankees advance, so he would likely opt to leave at least one man -- the ALDS Game 1 starter -- off in favor of an extra reliever. The Yankees carried just nine pitchers for the AL Wild Card Game in 2015.

For an ALDS, Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia should comprise the rotation, while Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle appear to be in the bullpen. Here are some of the other decisions that Girardi and his staff will evaluate:

Third catcher: The Yankees carried Sanchez as a third catcher for the 2015 AL Wild Card Game, a break-in-case-of-emergency behind Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy. Though Erik Kratz has had just two at-bats in four games this season, he is the only option should they choose to do so again.

Long reliever: Jaime Garcia and Jordan Montgomery have been taking turns as the Yankees moved to a six-man rotation down the stretch, but neither hurler is expected to be needed as a postseason starter. Though Garcia has postseason experience, his 2 1/3-inning, five-run effort against the Blue Jays on Sunday could tip the scales in Montgomery's favor.

Another reliever: Adam Warren has not pitched since Sept. 1, but is expected to return shortly from a stint on the disabled list with lower back spasms, giving the Yanks another multi-inning reliever. Chasen Shreve would be another choice as a left-hander out of the 'pen.

Extra infielder: Tyler Wade has appeared mostly as a pinch-runner or defensive sub, but his versatility and athleticism could serve the Yankees well off the bench. Another choice is Miguel Andujar, whose right-handed bat has more pop than Wade's. The Yankees don't seem comfortable with Andujar's defense at third base, though with Frazier and Headley on the roster, there's little chance Andujar would appear in the field.

Extra outfielder: Aaron Hicks is set to return from his left oblique strain before the end of the regular season, and he appears to have a leg up on 23-year-old Clint Frazier -- as long as Hicks can prove that he is healthy. Hicks was in the midst of a breakout season before the injury bug bit. Frazier has played sparingly since being activated from the DL, starting just three games. The Yankees could carry both for a Wild Card Game. Tyler Austin also would merit consideration.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.