clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Six starters? Four closers? Why not?

Pitching against a downtrodden Tampa Bay lineup helped get the White Sox rotation rolling -- John Danks and his sixth-inning struggles excepted -- and it's giving Don Cooper some ideas.

In the event that, as Larry put it, rehabilitation assignment pro Jake Peavy is able to live up to his billing and return to the rotation around the beginning of May, Cooper thinks Humber might still belong in the rotation. Humber won't have a permanent spot, but as an occasional sixth starter when long, rough stretches arise.

In short, Tony Pena might be bummed out:

"Overall, long term? No," Cooper said. "Short term, one time here or there, giving our starters an extra day depending on the schedule with off-days and rainouts, it's certainly something that has popped in my mind.

"Let's just say the first time through we have a lot of games in a row, and maybe we would think about. I like thinking out of the box. Everyone gets an extra day and has a chance to catch your breath. It's a long season, and you want guys sprinting across the finish line, not falling across."

This is putting the cart ahead of the horse, because we have no idea whether Humber is anything close to legit. We should get a better concept in the last week of April, because it looks like Humber will have to face the New York Yankees even if he's skipped in his next turn. The Bombers are usually a pretty good litmus test for phonies.

That said, it would be an incredible bonus if Humber were able to pull it off. Most importantly, it would give Ozzie Guillen a way to skip Peavy every time his first instinct says Peavy needs time off. Having a credible stopgap might just give Guillen the conviction he needs to listen to his gut for once.

Down in the bullpen, Guillen discussed the Sox's ninth inning issues in depth on Saturday, and what he said was music to an old blogger's ears:

"I've got three or four guys who can close," Guillen said. "I got [Jesse] Crain, [Chris] Sale, [Sergio] Santos and Thornton that can close the end of the game. Don't be surprised if you see one of those guys. We'll do that because someone needs the rest or we like the matchup better. There's a lot of things going through our minds about who's going to be pitching the ninth." [...]

"I didn't use Thornton yesterday because we used him too much the night before -- he got too many pitches," Guillen said. "If Thornton was ready yesterday, I would have put him in. That's the way it should be. Meanwhile, don't be surprised when you see Santos on the mound in closing situations."

If this works as well as I think it could, then Thornton's early struggles could be the best thing to happen to this bullpen. Had Easy Heat made easy work of his first two save attempts, he might be cemented in the ninth inning for good. Instead, Guillen might be encouraged to do what he did so well in September without Bobby Jenks - manage the late innings as the situations dictate.

Guillen did give some credence to the traditional mindset of the ninth inning, but he turned the "guts" part into something that actually makes sense:

"The closer has to do [three] things: have one pitch to strike you out and a very short memory. And deal with the media every day," Guillen said. "If you don't have those three things, you can't be a closer because when you save the game, the media's going to be with you and when you blow the game, the media's going to be with you. And when you lose the game today, you have to be ready to go tomorrow. That's why I think Bobby [Jenks] was a great closer."

It's nice of Guillen to give Jenks a nod, because his act did work well. Regardless of how awful he looked, Jenks always had the confidence to react to doubtful questions with mild surprise, followed by contempt. Sometimes it didn't play well, and made him look oblivious to the events, but Guillen made sure to let Jenks know when the flops were actually his fault.

(Hell, you could say the same thing happened in February.)

Of course, Guillen has to be ready for the same if he chooses his own adventure in the ninth inning. If it's Sergio Santos, Jesse Crain and/or Chris Sale fumbling the occasional save opportunity, Guillen is going to get tougher questions than any of those guys - especially if an effective Thornton is tanned, rested and ready.

Hopefully everybody's up to the task, because this would be an awesome way of reclaiming conventional wisdom and turning it into something that makes more sense.