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The 5th Starter Tandem

After weeks of having way too many relievers and having endless struggles with the starting rotation,  things have finally changed.  If you glance at the roster list on the left sidebar (scroll down), you'll note that we now list NINE starters--three of them injured, six of them active.  That leaves "only" six bullpen guys.  At last!

The reason, as you probably know, for those six starters, is because both Zach Jackson and Carlos Villanueva have looked promising in their few appearances, and Ned didn't want to kick either of them out of the rotation.  He says he's going to go with a sort of platoon, starting whichever of them benefits the team most in the #5 slot.  I try to look on the bright side of things, but I think this is one of the most ridiculous ideas I've ever heard.  Here's why.

  1. I find it doubtful that either Carlos or Zach are truly ready.  Carlos, maybe--he's pitched in winter ball, and from what I've read, he seems like a freakishly intense competitor.  On the other hand, he skipped AAA.  Unless your name is Dontrelle, that usually doesn't work out.  Zach Jackson most definitely isn't ready--he's throwing strikes and having some success, but Doug Melvin himself said he didn't want to call him up just a couple weeks before his hand was forced.  

    In other words, we're depriving two guys of imprortant development time.  It may turn out to have been great to give them a taste of the big time, but at least one of these guys needs to be in AAA.  By going with this tandem starter plan, neither of them are.

  2. Both pitchers are starters, have pretty much always been starters, and if all goes well, they will always be starters.  Already both of them have had their routines disturbed by brief stints in the bullpen, and now they're being asked to switch in and out of the rotation and bullpen?  Again, this can't be ideal for their development.    Even without a platoon, 5th starters get their routines monkeyed with, as Hendrickson got bounced around the schedule when he was with the team.  That's not ideal, either, and now Ned is compounding that effect for two prospects.  I don't want to regularly have inexperienced pitchers starting on seven, eight, or twelve days rest.
  3. This leaves the bullpen shorthanded.  For instance, Ned has slated Zach to start on Tuesday.  That means Zach can't pitch between now and Tuesday, and if his start goes well, he probably can't pitch for three or four days after Tuesday.  Let's say Ned chooses Carlos to go on Sunday, in that slot.  Then the same goes for Carlos--no pitching for several days before and after.  That means that neither of them can pitch between Tuesday and Sunday.  

    Does that matter?  Well, if it were me managing the team (!!) it wouldn't.  I think the Crew can probably make do with six guys in the pen, and perhaps Jackson and Villanueva tag-teaming a bit on the days the other starts.  But I'm not the manager, Ned Yost is, and he managed to use four relievers in two innings on Wednesday.  Do you really think an extra starter is the best use of a roster spot for him?

That's all I've got.  Convinced?  If I were in charge, I'd send Villanueva to Nashville and call up Mike Rivera.  More realistically,  I'd send Villanueva to Nashville and call up Justin Lehr to pitch in the pen.  (Yes, that would necessitate a move on the 40-man, but so would Rivera, and let's forget that for a moment.)  In the meantime, Rick Helling is starting Sunday and Zach Jackson goes on Tuesday--something tells me that Villanueva will get a few innings in, co-5th starter or not!