What do you do when a big-time starting pitcher returns from the disabled list, and you’ve got a rotation of five good starting pitchers, each of whom has a very good case for staying in the rotation (be it performance, long-term role, or trade value)?
Well, the obvious answer isn’t so obvious in baseball, because six-man rotations aren’t really used for a variety of reasons. When folks have suggested it in the comments, my response has largely been, “Yeah, this is one of those situations where it’s as close of a call as it comes for using six, but I still don’t think they’ll do it.”
I could be wrong. Today, Dale Sveum told reporters that the Cubs might use a six-man rotation when Matt Garza returns from the disabled list, which could happen as soon as five days from Thursday. That is to say, the Cubs haven’t formally ruled it out, apparently, even if they also haven’t discussed it extensively.
Garza has at least one more rehab start left, on Thursday with AAA Iowa, but he could be ready to rejoin the rotation for his next start. That has put the Cubs in something of a good bind, what with Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson seemingly un-bump-able from the rotation, given their track records, and each of Travis Wood, Scott Feldman, and Carlos Villanueva pitching extremely well to start the season. The prevailing wisdom was that the Cubs would bump Villanueva to the pen, since he’s been in a swing role before, he’s cooled a bit in his last few starts, and the move would likely be temporary.
Surely it’s better to inconvenience one starter a great deal than to inconvenience six starters a little bit, right? But maybe the “little” inconvenience is so little that it doesn’t really matter?
I’m going to let this play out a little bit before reacting too strongly (not that I necessarily have a strong reaction either way), as Sveum may have just been shooting the breeze. My gut says I don’t like it, mostly because there are only so many starts to go around before the Trade Deadline, and I’d rather the Cubs focused those few starts on getting the right guys the ball. It also really puts a squeeze on the roster, because it’s one less arm available in the bullpen, or one less player available on the bench.
On the other hand, who knows? Maybe the extra day of rest for everyone enhances the starters’ individual performances, and the Cubs either succeed wildly over this six-man stretch because the pitching is crazy good, or at least the individuals with trade value outperform what they would have done without extra rest.
I suspect we don’t actually see a six-man rotation, and, if we do, it would just be for a couple weeks while things sort themselves out. Either way, it’s nothing to get worked up about. It sure is a fun discussion piece, though.