Ramifications of an 11-man pitching staff

It's a shame that MLB Network cameras aren't filming The Club for this season, because the roster decison scenes in the spring last year were all pretty obvious. Sergio Santos and Randy Williams earned spots on the club, and Daniel Hudson had obviously lost a numbers game.

Nobody was taken by surprise, whereas Jeff Marquez had expressed some confidence that he did enough to make the team. He was told differently on Saturday, and now he has to prepare for a move in the event that he's claimed on waivers.

Jake Peavy's injury and the previous cuts left Marquez running unopposed for the 12th pitcher spot. The Sox would have to choose a six-man bullpen in order for Marquez to miss making the team, and the Sox last carried 11 pitchers in 2005.

But Kenny Williams couldn't bear to decide between Brent Lillibridge and Lastings Milledge for the final position player spot, so now the Sox have six outfielders and Marquez has an empty locker.

Normally, I like the idea of an 11-man pitching staff, especially when there isn't a 12th man who isn't worth it. That opens up the position-player side of the roster for specialization and platoons (for instance, an 11-man pitching staff would have made it zero problem to retain Jim Thome last season).

The ramifications aren't so obvious this time around.

Looking at the pitchers, Tony Pena could be a very busy man. Out of the six relievers the Sox will carry, he's the only one with experience working two innings and beyond on a routine basis. The Sox do have an opportunity to skip the fifth starter in two of the first three turns through the rotation, so Phil Humber could join him for swingman work.

That would be a highly efficient way to deploy 11 pitchers. If Humber's a full-time starter, though, the Sox would have to hope that White Sox rotation spaces out its duds appropriately. Either that, or we'll be seeing two-inning Will Ohman appearances, and those won't end well.

Likewise, when trying to imagine how Lillibridge and Milledge will be utilized, my thoughts turned to Jayson Nix. As last year's last man on the bench, Nix only received 23 plate appearances over the first month and a half. Now, imagine if there were a player behind Nix on the depth chart. Where would he play?

That's a question with no easy answers, because the Sox don't have any obvious platoon situations. On paper, Juan Pierre should get right-handed help, but we know he's playing in 158 games unless his body betrays him. Milledge could spell Carlos Quentin against lefties -- Quentin has always had reverse splits -- but that also seems unlikely to happen on anything resembling a routine basis.

Right now, I envision Milledge serving as adequate insurance when Quentin has to miss three or four games for some kind of soreness. but you can't get reliable at-bats that way. Otherwise, his primary use will be as a right-handed pinch hitter. But unless Mark Teahen is starting in right field or maybe Brent Morel is a slow starter, it's hard to see who else Guillen would lift in favor of Milledge against a left-handed pitcher.

Lillibridge has clearly defined uses - he's the primary backup to Alex Rios in center, and the late-inning pinch-running option. But he's not a guy who you can roll out in center field for two straight weeks, because he simply can't hit well enough to make multiple starts in a row.

And then there's Teahen, who is further marginalized by the presence of a real corner outfielder. He's now the third choice at three positions, which would indicate he's not long for the team if anybody would take him.

Rolling around the scenarios in my head, there's one case where having Milledge, Lillibridge and Teahen would truly pay off: a Quentin DL stint. A Milledge-Teahen platoon would be worth a shot for two weeks. The Sox have certainly tried worse options.

Knowing the Sox, though, they'd probably replace Quentin with a 12th pitcher. I don't see this experiment lasting very long.

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