Leyland could have gone with a third left-hander in Duane Below, or he could've gone with a right-hander with a statistical knack for getting left-handed hitters out in David Pauley. But he didn't feel like those reasons were strong enough to outweigh what Penny brings -- or what Penny did this year.
He didn't say there was loyalty involved, but he strongly indicated that Penny's regular-season contributions played a major role. Essentially, it was a tiebreaker.
"When we ironed it all out, I felt like that was the right thing to do," Leyland said. "I felt like we couldn't get a slam dunk that any one of those three guys stood above the others so much. We felt we could've taken any one of the three, and we'd have felt OK. But under the circumstances, we try to do things right, and I don't think there's any question we did the right thing.
"You've got a guy that pitches 180 innings for you, wins 11 games in the five-hole and could be a long guy or might have to start if you get rain situations, because you don't really have anybody else who can do it. To me, it was a no-brainer."
Or, as Leyland later put it, "If you don't have a slam-dunk difference, to me, I can't look that guy in the eye. I couldn't look in the mirror and say, 'I kept that guy off.' I don't think that's fair. I just don't think you do that."
Porcello went 14-9 with a 4.75 ERA overall, but he finished with five straight quality starts in September en route to a 4-1 record and 3.55 ERA over the season's final month. His ERA was actually a higher at home compared with on the road -- 5.64 against 4.00. Still, he statistically outperformed Penny.
"I don't think that was the toughest of calls," Leyland said.
Penny hasn't made a relief appearance since 2008 with the Dodgers, when he came back from the disabled list and pitched down the stretch run of a playoff drive. He takes more time to warm up as a starter than many pitchers do, but if they can help it, the Tigers aren't likely to put him in a situation where he has to warm up in a hurry. Just in case, he was warming up in the Tigers' bullpen Wednesday to get a feel for it.
Leyland also cited the chance of a rain delay as a reason for including Penny. That scenario might have come to fruition Friday night had the rain eventually let up before Game 1 was suspended.
Leyland said high-strikeout right-hander Al Alburquerque's healthy return after right hip and quad problems played a role in his decision to stick with two lefty relievers instead of three. If Leyland needs a strikeout in a big situation, he can turn to Alburquerque and overlook righty-lefty splits. Alburquerque's slider is that good.
But another factor he cited was the fact that the Yankees' left-handed hitters aren't terribly hindered by left-handed pitchers, judging by the statistics.
"If you look at it, the Yankees do pretty good against lefties," Leyland said. "Some of them are better against lefties than righties."
Those include Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano -- dangerous hitters regardless of the pitcher.