Reworking the Starting Rotation

After the Red Sox series concludes on Wednesday, the Orioles will be through a stretch of games where they played 20 games in 20 days (the game on May 10th against Texas was rained out and made up as part of a doubleheader the next day, but that really can’t be counted as an off day).  Their record during this stretch currently stands at 11-7 with two games left to play.  Regardless of what happens in the next two games, the run has to be considered at least a marginal success.  However, the 20-game stretch has not come without its fair share of casualties.  If 20 games in 20 days wasn’t taxing enough, during that period the O’s played games of 17 innings, 13 innings, and 12 innings.  The bullpen has been stretched somewhat thin and fatigue is clearly setting in.  These aren’t excuses.  As Buck is always quick to point out, all teams have these challenges throughout the course of the year.  However. that doesn’t diminish the impact a stretch of games like this one can have on a team. Fortunately, a break is right around the corner.  Thursday’s off-day kicks of a 6-week stretch where the Orioles have one day off every week.  During this upcoming period, they only play 6 games or more in a row once (a nine game road trip in late June).  The O’s finish the first half of the season with 13 games in a row leading into the All-Star break.

Besides the obvious rest the days off provide, they also provide an opportunity for some creative roster management decisions.  The most obvious one being the ability to skip a starter several times throughout the six week period.  At the risk of being slightly reactionary, Tommy Hunter’s stuff just isn’t good enough right now to consistently get out Major League hitters.  All of the pitchers in the rotation have struggled at one time or another this season, but there is little doubt that Hunter is the weak link in the group at this point.  It would be easy to say that Hunter’s spot should be skipped every time but not only is that not logistically possible, I am not sure it is the best solution either.  There are other factors to consider, including Jason Hammel’s sore knee and trying to keep Wei-Yen Chen healthy in his first Major League season.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, is that the current plan calls for Zach Britton to make his first rehab start with a minor league affiliate this Saturday.  Britton would almost certainly need to make two rehab starts, with a third not being entirely out of question.  Two rehab starts would have Britton back on the Major League team for the June 5th game in Boston; three rehab appearances would put him in-line to start on the 10th at home against the Phillies.  Barring injuries, it is difficult to imagine Britton replacing anyone other than Hunter in the rotation.  Obviously once Britton joins the rotation, the need to skip a starter will slightly decrease.

Given all of those considerations, here is how I would line up the rotation over the next six weeks.  I am assuming that Britton will be back on June 5th after completing two rehab starts.

5/22 – Matusz

5/23 – Arrieta

5/24 – OFF

5/25 – Chen

5/26 – Hunter

5/27 – Matusz

5/28 – Arrieta

5/29 – Hammel

5/30 – Chen

5/31 – OFF

6/1 – Matusz

6/2 – Arietta

6/3 – Hammel

6/4 – OFF

6/5 – Britton

6/6 – Chen

6/7 – Matusz

6/8 – Arrieta

6/9 – Hammel

6/10 – Britton

6/11 – OFF

6/12 – Chen

6/13 – Matusz

6/14 – Arrieta

6/15 – Hammel

6/16 – Britton

6/17 – Chen

6/18 – Matusz

6/19 – Arrieta

6/20 – Hammel

6/21 – OFF

6/22 – Britton

6/23 – Chen

6/24 – Matusz

6/25 – OFF

6/26 – Arrieta

6/27 – Hammel

6/28 - Britton

Essentially, I am skipping Hammel this upcoming start to allow him time for his knee to heal.  A healthy and effect Hammel for the rest of the season is far more important than avoiding having Hunter make a start against the Royals in Baltimore.  Chen, Matusz, and Arrieta would pitch on regular 5 days rest the next three times through the rotation, as Hammel and then Hunter are skipped due to the off days.  Once Britton joins the rotation on the 5th, the rotation stays a 5-man rotation through the end of June.   This gives every starter an extra days rest here and there to keep everyone hopefully healthy before the All-Star break.  Obviously, the likelihood of things working out just as I described above are slim, but I think as a general “plan”, it works and provides several different advantages.