Series rotations field new, but rare, looks

Series rotations field new looks

New faces in new places always come into focus at this point in the baseball calendar. It is part of the game's tradition -- recent transplants ready for starting and starring turns behind the World Series curtain.

But the 2009 Fall Classic that kicks off Wednesday at 7:57 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium may set new standards for teams resting their fortunes on new arms imported exactly for this purpose.

While all the pre-Series attention is befalling the Game 1 matchup of the Yankees' CC Sabathia and the Phillies' Cliff Lee, the two erstwhile Cleveland left-handers will only lead off the parade of starters new to to their teams.

For the Yankees, Andy Pettitte looms as the only incumbent in their rotation, surrounded by Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and perhaps Chad Gaudin.

Philadelphia's 2008 postseason hero, Cole Hamels, will start Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park, with veteran Pedro Martinez -- late of the Mets -- set to go in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium, across the street from the old ballpark where he had many a battle with the Yankees as a member of the Red Sox.

Joe Blanton, a holdover from last season, could be a candidate to start Game 4. But if Phillies manager Charlie Manuel wants to lean more to the left and goes with rookie J.A. Happ over Blanton, that would bring the total of newcomer starters to six of the eight in the two rotations.

We've never been treated to such a pitching renovation, with or without Happ's inclusion.

In the 39 World Series played in the divisional-play era that began in 1969, teams have turned to newly adopted pitchers for 43 starts within the opening three games.

But never more than three of them in any one Classic.

NEW BEGINNINGS
Since the 1969 start of divisional play, there have been 43 starts within a World Series' first three games by pitchers in their first year with their teams. When CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee meet, it will be the first time such pitchers face off in a Game 1.
Yr. Starter Team Old club(s)
2008 M. Garza Rays Twins
2007 D. Matsuzaka Red Sox Lions (Japan)
2006 K. Rogers Tigers Rangers
2006 J. Weaver Cardinals Dodgers
2004 C. Schilling Red Sox D-backs
2004 J. Suppan Cardinals Pirates/R.Sox
2003 M. Redman Marlins Tigers
2002 K. Appier Angels Mets
2001 M. Mussina Yankees Orioles
2000 M. Hampton Mets Astros
1998 K. Brown Padres Marlins
1998 O. Hernandez Yankees None
1995 O. Hershiser Indians Dodgers
1993 D. Stewart Blue Jays A's
1993 D. Jackson Phillies Cubs/Pirates
1992 J. Morris Blue Jays Twins
1992 D. Cone Blue Jays Mets
1991 J. Morris Twins Tigers
1989 M. Moore A's Mariners
1988 B. Welch A's Dodgers
1988 J. Tudor Dodgers Cardinals
1987 J. Magrane Cardinals AA, AAA
1987 L. Straker Twins AAA
1986 B. Ojeda Mets Red Sox
1985 J. Tudor Cardinals Pirates
1983 C. Hudson Phillies A
1982 D. Sutton Brewers Astros
1982 J. Stuper Cardinals AAA
1981 D. Righetti* Yankees AAA
1980 B. Walk Phillies AA
1977 D. Gullett Yankees Reds
1977 M. Torrez Yankees A's
1976 D. Alexander Yankees Orioles
1976 D. Ellis Yankees Pirates
1976 P. Zachry Reds AAA
1975 G. Nolan** Reds AAA
1972 K. Holtzman A's Cubs
1972 J. Billingham Reds Astros
1971 B. Johnson Pirates Royals
1970 J. McGlothlin Reds Angels
1969 M. Cuellar Orioles Astros
1969 J. Palmer*** Orioles AAA
1969 G. Gentry Mets AAA
* - Pitched for Yankees in 1979
** -- Pitched for Reds in 1973
*** -- Pitched for Orioles in 1967

In 1969, Mike Cuellar and Jim Palmer started for the Orioles after having pitched the previous season in Houston and Triple-A, respectively, and Gary Gentry started for the Mets after having also spent the previous season in the Minors.

In 1976, Doyle Alexander (formerly with the Orioles) and Dock Ellis (Pirates) started for the Yankees against the Reds, whose Game 3 starter was Pat Zachry, who spent '75 in Triple-A.

Now the Yankees, chasing their 27th World Series championship, and the Phillies, bent on defending their title, will both lean heavily on newbies.

Sabathia and Burnett, high-profile free agents signed last offseason for an aggregate of $243.5 million, have been Yankees pillars all season. But Gaudin was acquired from the Padres in early August and immediately made his presence felt.

Among occasional relief outings, Gaudin made six starts and the Yankees won each of them, although his personal record was only 2-0. Manager Joe Girardi has been keeping him "on ice" for a possible World Series assignment: Gaudin has appeared in only one postseason game, logging a hitless ninth inning against the Angels in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

The Phillies' situation is even more remarkable, considering they will defend their championship with new arms.

Hamels could be their only returning starter from the rotation that repelled the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 Fall Classic. To compensate for Brett Myers (right hip surgery), Jamie Moyer (torn tendons in left groin) and possibly Blanton (who could be used out of the bullpen), the Phillies reeled in:

• Lee, this non-waiver Trade Deadline's biggest catch, for a package of four blue-chip prospects.

• Martinez, unemployed until signing in mid-July; the Phillies won eight of the nine starts he made in the final two months of the regular season.

• Happ, the 27-year-old who stepped up as a leading National League Rookie of the Year candidate by going 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA, after five mediocre Minor League seasons (including 8-7 with a 3.60 ERA at Triple-A in 2008).

These are the arms that will continue the tradition of newcomers and latecomers going above the World Series marquee.

Two pitchers turned the newcomer act twice.

Jack Morris did it in consecutive World Series, starting for the Twins in 1991 after having pitched for the Tigers in '90, and the following October starting for Toronto. And John Tudor started Game 1 in 1985 for the Cardinals after having spent '84 in Pittsburgh, and in 1988 started for the Dodgers after having left St. Louis.

As an inset to that broad picture, Lee and Sabathia will also be continuing one of the prevalent themes of this entire postseason. New faces have been extending lifelines all along: 24 games, 48 starts -- 21 of them by pitchers who had undergone wardrobe changes since 2008.

However, the Lee-Sabathia duel will also be unique on multiple levels.

For openers, it will be the first instance in which pitchers new to their teams will oppose each other in a Game 1.

This will also be the first World Series meeting of Cy Young Award winners from the immediately preceding two seasons.

Not too surprising, given that, historically, there have been only five prior World Series pairings of Cy Young honorees:

• 1999, Game 4: Braves' John Smoltz vs. Yankees' Roger Clemens.
• 1996, Game 3: Braves' Tom Glavine vs. Yankees' David Cone.
• 1995, Games 1 and 5: Braves' Greg Maddux and Indians' Orel Hershiser.
• 1983, Game 3: Phillies' Steve Carlton vs. Orioles' Mike Flanagan.

Ironically, Lee and Sabathia are both pitching in the same postseason for the first time. In 2007, when Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award and pitched the Indians to the brink of the World Series, Lee was left off the Tribe's postseason roster at the end of what was a woeful year for him.

Lee marvelously reversed course in 2008, inheriting both Sabathia's ace mantle and his Cy Young Award.

The left-handers, who combined for 154 wins in their 6 1/2 seasons together in Cleveland, developed a tight kinship that has survived their separation, and which has spiced their runs to the World Series with added anticipation.

"I've been pulling for him every step of the way," Lee said when the Phillies finished off their five-game victory over the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series -- when the Yankees' fate was still undecided.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

"But if we have to match up against him, that might be the first time that I pull against him. He's a class act, one of my most favorite teammates. I highly respect him as a person and a player."

Both have been class acts through the first two acts of this October.

Sabathia has posted an ERA of 1.19 while going 3-0, two of the wins over the Angels earning him MVP honors in the American League Championship Series.

Lee has gone 2-0 with an even more miniscule ERA of 0.74.

"I think that's a pretty good matchup," said Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel, ever a master of the understatement. "We have two Cleveland Cy Young Award winners going against each other."

Manuel knows them well, having both in his starting rotation in 2002, the last of his three seasons as manager of the Indians.

"Both of them are good pitchers," Manuel said. "CC loves to pitch and he's very competitive, and Lee has the same kind of makeup, too. It has a chance of being a good game."

On Wednesday night, something will have to give, or not -- if they maintain their mutual brilliance, Lee and Sabathia could simply bequeath a tight game to their respective bullpens.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Change for a Nickel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.