The White Sox decision to throw Clayton Richard on short rest against the Indians Thursday was an odd choice even before he gave up 6 runs in only an inning-plus of work. The Sox wanted to get Mark Buehrle an extra start, and perhaps limit his availability for the All-Star Game, so they used Monday's off-day to move him up a spot and give him 2 of the final 6 starts of the first half; a perfectly rational baseball move given that Buehrle has been the Sox best, most consistent starter in the first-half. The curious move, however, was deciding to move Clayton Richard up a day in order to pitch against the Indians rather than in the Metrodome against the Twins as normal rest would have dictated.
Last season, the Sox were extremely reluctant to go to a 4-man rotation in September in an attempt to keep innings off the arms of Floyd and Danks, but eventually caved as rainouts and dwindling division lead forced their hand. Yet here they were voluntarily giving Richard a start on short rest in order to avoid(?) a more lefty-driven lineup. Obviously, the decision spoke volumes about how the White Sox feel about the relative strength (and importance) of the two opponents, as they clearly didn't want their weakest starting pitcher throwing against another division title contender (and chief rival.)
As I mentioned in the gamethread, it all smelled a little Manuel-ian, as if the Sox felt a win against Twins, or rather a better shot at a win against the Twins, was worth sacrificing a a win, or decreasing the likelihood of a win, against the Indians. It was the wrong play when Manuel did it in a 2-team race in late-August '03, and it just seemed a little out of place in a 3-team race in the second week of July.
Anyway, I don't want to focus on the short-rest decision, because doing so would diminish the point of this post. It would give Ozzie and Richard the opportunity to use the short-rest as an excuse for Richard's brutal outing. But Richard has been bad for a while now, and it has nothing to do with short rest. He's lasted a total of 4.2 in his last two starts -- but the short rest! -- and averaged 4.1 innings a start over his last 8. That's not getting it done. No excuses necessary.
But Ozzie was still reluctant to say that Richard had pitched himself out of the rotation after the game, seemingly at a loss for who would take his place.
"I don't know. We don't have any other choice right now."
In Ozzie's defense, there aren't exactly a whole lot of candidates to take Richard's place, but that's partially his own fault. Aaron Poreda, the only realistic and healthy internal candidate, pitched a career high 2.1 innings Thursday, and all it took was the pitcher leaving in the first inning.
I was strangely confident after Richard was pulled, as I figured Poreda was good for at least 3 innings of solid relief work and was counting on the Sox offense eventually getting into the Indians league-worst bullpen. It didn't quite work out that way, but it was close.
Poreda was effective, though not exactly impressive. He wasn't forcing groundballs with his fastball, and got a couple of strikeouts on get-me-over sliders that caught Indians hitters by surprise. That being said, how is that any different than Richard? Well, for one, he's gotten hitters out. He's now allowed a total of one run, which, while earned, wouldn't have scored if the Sox had a true 3B, in 10 innings pitched in the majors.
The Sox comeback stalled, however, when Poreda exited and the Cleveland pen entered. Five relievers combined to hold the Sox to just 2 hits, with Chris Getz' slow chopper in the 9th as the only hit after the 5th. Getz reached base in all 5 plate appearances, but he was followed in the order by Gordon Beckham, who went 0-5, which was nearly as damaging as Richard's brutal start.