The Chicago White Sox have made a return to the six-man starting rotation that the team employed for a large portion of the 2011 season. Zach Stewart will make his first start of the season on Monday against the Cubs in the U.S. Cellular portion of the Crosstown Classic.
Is this a short-term move designed to provide some extra rest for what has been a struggling staff lately? Or is Don Cooper on board for the extra starter for a longer period of time? No explanation has been given for Stewart's spot start Monday, but recent pitching performances tell part of the story.
Regardless of the size of the rotation, Chicago pitchers have to avoid the big inning that has plagued them in Los Angeles this weekend. Both Chris Sale and Phil Humber were torched for big innings in the first two games of the Dodgers series.
Jose Quintana can still pace the White Sox to a series victory thanks to a solid night from the bullpen on Saturday. Despite a Dodger hit parade in a four-run third inning, Humber and four relievers blanked Los Angeles the rest of the way in a 5-4 win.
Chris Sale let the floodgates open Friday, allowing four runs in a five-run sixth that led to the Dodgers winning 7-5. Sale scuffled for the first time in a while. Maybe an extra day off is just what the doctor ordered.
For this week at least, White Sox starters are going to get that extra day.
Stewart is set to throw the first game of the Cubs series, followed by Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd, who has also struggled of late.
The White Sox have had to out-slug teams, as the team ERA slid to 4.02, putting them in the middle of the pack in the American League.
Humber, who allowed nine hits in five innings on Saturday to pick up his third win of the season, would appear to have six days off before taking the ball against Milwaukee next Saturday. An off day Thursday gives Humber and Sale an extra night off.
That is, unless one of them is skipping a start.
There is yet to be word out of White Sox camp, but I think we all thought the staff might lose a starter following the return of John Danks. Now that such a return doesn't look like it will happen this week, will the team remove a starter anyway?
Cooper wouldn't mind Sale missing one turn in the rotation, as the team is very mindful of the innings he piles up. Humber responded well to extra rest last season. And Peavy won't admit it, but his surgically-repaired arm isn't going to suffer from an extra day off.
The future of this most recent six-man loop might depend on how well Quintana throws in Sunday's finale with the Dodgers, as well as how Stewart's start Monday goes.
Danks' status and the use of Stewart in the rotation opens up some questions on how the rest of the starters will be used in the next few weeks. At this point of the season, the starters should welcome an extra day of rest.