A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like we had three--well, MAYBE three--respectable starters, and if Rick Helling wanted to rehab along with Teddy Higuera (47 years young!) we might've found a spot for both of them in the rotation.
Now, one shocker of a solid Carlos Villanueva start and a few respectable Zach Jackson outings later, Helling may return to the Brewers in the bullpen. In fact, Ned Yost hasn't yet announced his starter for tomorrow night's game. It's Villanueva's turn, but Helling's also on schedule, having pitched for Nashville the same day that Carlos held the Reds scoreless in Cinci.
Now this, finally, is the sort of problem you like to have.
I don't think anyone really believes Carlos Villanueva is ready to be a big league starter--after all, he's never thrown a pitch at AAA. On the other hand, there's a certain benefit to using a pitcher that the league hasn't seen before--they don't have video, they don't have advance scouting, and they haven't timed his changeup yet. It'd be playing with fire to send him out against the powerful Tigers offense tomorrow, but...isn't that Ned's kind of fire?
Here's my plan. Until Ben Sheets and/or Tomo Ohka return, Rick Helling ought to be in the rotation. Neither Villanueva nor Zach Jackson is really ready, but one of them is going to have to hold down the fort for a while. Let's spend this week figuring out who can. Carlos starts tomorrow, Zach starts in his regular spot Friday against Kansas City, and Rick Helling is available in long relief for either of those guys. After that, make a decision, send one of them down, and plug in Mr. Helling.
Another result of Helling's return: the Crew may, FINALLY, go back to "only" 12 pitchers. Robin Yount said it best:
Especially if Helling temporarily goes to the bullpen, it's ridiculous to have an 8-man pen. Then again, as I've said many, many times before, I'm not sure what good that 13th position player will do us, either. Zach Sorenson? Eh, he'll just tempt Ned into giving Bill Hall more days off. Vinny Rottino? Good story, but is he ready? Mike Rivera? It'd be great if it meant Ned was willing to pinch hit for Chad Moeller, but do you see that happening? Nelson Cruz? I'd love to see what he can do, but it's hard enough finding ABs for Corey Hart and Gabe Gross.
As it is, today is probably the last day of the Joe Winkelsas era, or, as I like to call it, "Winky time." I'd imagine that if we do go down to 12 pitchers, Allan Simpson is the other guy to go. After all, he's gotten into all of two games since his callup.
I'm sure there are more important things in the world than managing the fringes of the Milwaukee pitching staff, but ...I can't think of any right now.