The Chicago White Sox have decided against using a six-man rotation.
As reported on the Twitter feed of MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, Philip Humber will now be the long reliever in the bullpen as the White Sox return to a five-man rotation. Pitching coach Don Cooper told Chris Rongey, from WSCR AM 670, on Sunday night that the time is right.
Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, Cooper intimated, have been given the rest they need and will continue to be monitored while the Sox are comfortable letting Francisco Liriano, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd go as long as they can each game, thereby saving the bullpen to be called upon when needed.
Giving Sale and Quintana as much rest as possible between starts is ideal, so the six-man rotation could have been very beneficial for the White Sox. It could only have worked, however, if the starters were capable of pitching late into their games. That did not happen.
Humber got shelled on Friday, Floyd barely made it into the seventh inning on Saturday and Liriano left Sunday’s game because of a left leg contusion after the fifth inning. The plan did not exactly come together the way it was envisioned.
The switch back to a five-man rotation makes sense for three reasons.
First, because of the starter’s inability to pitch late into games, the bullpen was undermanned and overused.
The Sox only had six relievers available, five actually if Addison Reed’s limited availability as the closer is taken into consideration, which is problematic when the starters are not going deep into ballgames. Nate Jones and Brett Myers, for example, appeared in all three games against the L.A. Angels while Matt Thornton appeared in the first two and took the loss Saturday.
An overworked bullpen is not what general manager Kenny Williams pictured when he brought in Myers from the Houston Astros and traded for Liriano.
Second, the Sox did not have a long-relief man available and Humber can eat innings for the Sox. How effective he is at keeping games within reach for the offense is something to keep an eye on, but he can go for more than two innings which is something the White Sox did not have.
Finally, and most importantly, it takes Humber out of the rotation. Humber, along with his 5-5 record and 6.14 ERA, had become too unreliable to continue starting. He could no longer pitch effectively on a regular basis and put the Sox in catch-up mode almost every time he toed the rubber.
In the middle of a division race, that is not an acceptable scenario.
So, the six-man rotation is, for today at least, dead. It could have been a very effective means of controlling the innings for Sale and Quintana, but was doomed from the start.
On the plus side, Humber cannot be as bad of a reliever as he was a starter, can he?