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Six-man rotation gets more interesting

Most White Sox fans remember that crazy day in Oakland back in April of 2005, when Jermaine Dye ended up playing shortstop in the ninth inning because starting shortstop Joe Crede was ejected by Hunter Wendelstedt after Wendelstedt ruled that Crede took one for the team a little too well.

I love that sentence and I love that game. Seeing the 6-foot-5-inch Dye manning short remains one of the greatest spectacles I've ever witnessed. At the same time, I still wish that we could've seen Dye try to turn two. A runner even reached first, but a sacrifice bunt swiftly took a double play out of play.

That game came to mind when reading about how Ozzie Guillen will wind down his unprecedented six-man rotation when the calendar flips to June. It's cool to see a manager break from conventional wisdom when it makes sense, but there's the possibility for much, much more. This nugget dropped by Mark Gonzales is what set my mind a-racin':

In order to compensate for the loss of a middle reliever, one of the starters will be available in relief during the middle of their extended break. The exclusions to that possible role are Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd.

Up until this point, there wasn't any official proclamation that the starters would be used in such a fashion (at least to my knowledge). However, John Danks did warm up in the bullpen/pitch a side session at Coliseum over the weekend, which did indicate that Guillen was open to some ideas.

But I'd been mulling over the possibility since seeing it discussed underneath Rob Neyer's post on the "grand experiment." Specifically, this comment by DanDotLewis:

A six-man rotation isn’t very interesting, in and of itself.

But it’d be very cool if the did something else on top of this: make starters into available relievers on their bullpen throw days. If Humber goes on Monday, with an off-day in there, he’ll not start again until the following Monday. That’s crazy. He’ll definitely be doing some sort of work on, say, Thursday or Friday. Why not make him available on that day?

Even better: Have the bullpen-throwing-guy come in and toss the first inning. Give the "starter" some extra time to warm up and have him come in to face weaker hitters. Maybe you’ll get an extra IP out of him, too (maybe — experiments, remember!).

That would be grand.

The third paragraph is probably a bridge too far, although it's awesome. Outsiders treat an inning as an inning as an inning, much like a leadoff man is just another hitter after the first plate appearance of the game. To the principal parties involved, any deviation from the traditional game plan is met with, at best, skepticism. Having the starter enter the game from the bullpen would be a little too great, I'm guessing. Baby steps.

(At least Jake Peavy is pre-empting anybody who wants to blame a poor start on extra rest: "Any bad comes out of this thing, as far as guys doing bad or saying they are not sharp, I'm going to have to say that's a hoax." He also mentioned that the six-man rotation would allow a guy to throw 110-120 pitches, so maybe he's up for some craziness.)

But now that Guillen has given the green light to the not-as-nutso idea of a starter pitching in relief, I'm starting to get my hopes up. We have two more weeks where we could see Danks or Edwin Jackson come out of the bullpen to serve as a setup man for Sergio Santos, or maybe record a save themselves in extras. Then we'd look at their pages and see that odd "1" in a column otherwise full of zeroes, like a tattoo that just showed up on the arm of somebody who said they'd never get one.

It might not quite match this...


...but it's still something.


More pitching novelties

*When Guillen consolidates the rotation, it's not a given that Humber will be the guy to go, Scot Gregor says. It's still the most likely outcome, but Humber is currently carrying the lowest ERA of any starter and a sub-1.00 WHIP. I'm sure everybody's preparing for the other shoe to fall, but publicly planning an ousting for the staff's lone overachiever doesn't seem like the best reward for a job well done.

*Humber credited Don Cooper for helping him add a slider to his arsenal:

‘‘[Before] I was fastball, curve, change,’’ Humber said. ‘‘The slider takes a lot of pressure off my other breaking ball because it gives hitters something else to think about.’’

Humber has been using his slider early in counts and throwing the curve as his put-away pitch.

*Jesse Crain elaborated on his new pitch in the same article:

Right-hander Jesse Crain tinkered with a split-fingered grip on his changeup last year in Minnesota, refined it in spring training and has mastered it this season.

The pitch looks like a fastball, then sinks late.

‘‘It’s been good, something else to keeps hitters off balance,’’ said Crain, who also throws a good curve and plus-fastball. ‘‘It’s slower [around 83 mph], it kind of fades into a righty and fades away from a lefty. Got some jams from righties and swings and misses and rollovers from lefties.’’