Back when we were reviewing the fifth starter fight between Dylan Axelrod and Hector Santiago, one of the biggest arguments against Axelrod was the fact that he would be scheduled to face the Cleveland Indians twice. Besides the fact that the Indians have seen him a couple times, they can also stack the lineup with lefties, which would make Axelrod's job even harder.
Axelrod still got the nod, but Robin Ventura still figured out how to take Cleveland out of the picture. He's using the off day to flip Axelrod and Jose Quintana in the rotation. Axelrod will now face the Washington Nationals on Thursday, and Quintana will start the three-game series against the Tribe on Friday.
It's still a difficult assignment for Axelrod, given that the Nationals are the favorites to win the National League East. Their lefties are tough ones. Besides Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Adam LaRoche, switch-hitting Danny Espinosa is also stronger against righties. But that's still half the amount of lefties as the Indians could field, and Axelrod has his precious novelty on his side as well.
Not to mention he'll be facing Dan Haren, who may be the weak link in the Nationals' rotation. He gave up four homers in four innings during a 15-0 loss to Cincinnati on Friday, although his velocity was higher than it had been in some of his 2012 starts.
Barring a rainout, this will be the last chance the Sox have to play with their rotation for the next 20 days, which puts Axelrod on this schedule:
The shift not only affects this start against the Indians, but if the schedule holds, Quintana would also be in line to start against Cleveland on April 22, too. With Chris Sale following Quintana, the Sox would throw lefties in four of their six games against the Indians this month. That's why Ventura said:
"We started looking at the rest of the month. We just liked that a little bit better than them being the other way."
One of the smaller ways Ventura stood out from his predecessor was the way he rearranged his rotation to leverage his starters against certain opponents. It didn't quite work out with Sale and Jake Peavy against Detroit, but maybe he'll be able to find an edge against a different divisional rival.