Braves had good reason to go with the 6-man rotation
So the Braves are three days away from beginning that 13-day stretch of utilizing a six-man starting rotation. As a result, for the first time since the Opening Day roster was announced, some fans are once again expressing a concern about the 24th or 25th man on the active roster.
As Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez mentioned multiple times while debating this decision last week, there are some drawbacks to utilizing a six-man rotation. One of the primary problems is the fact that it requires a team to carry one less bench player or reliever while carrying six starting pitchers on the roster.
Over the course of the past 13 days, you likely can not remember once saying it’s a good thing the Braves had either Tyler Pastornicky or Eric Hinske around. With this being said, you can almost guarantee somewhere during the course of the 13 games the Braves use the six-man arrangement, the often cruel baseball gods will make sure there is at least one instance when the absence of one bench player or a reliever will prove pivotal in a loss.
But when looking at the makeup of this Atlanta rotation and evaluating the options, I’ll take the risk of losing a game over the risk of losing one of the starting pitchers for the final weeks of the regular season and potentially the postseason.
When the Braves did not make the playoffs last year, fans blamed the September struggles of Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel on the way manager Fredi Gonzalez utilized them during the season’s final five months.
Now Gonzalez has opted to spend the next two weeks protecting the members of his starting rotation with the hope that they will be strong down the stretch.
Makes sense to me. And truth be told, Kris Medlen left the Braves with no other choice once he joined the rotation.
But let’s look beyond the presence of Medlen and focus on the fact that there is no a single member of the rotation who could not benefit from pitching with an extra day of rest at this point.
Had the Braves removed Medlen from the rotation to make room for Tommy Hanson’s return on Friday night, each of their starting pitchers would have received an extra day of rest before their next turn. In fact, Ben Sheets and Mike Minor would have been the only members of the rotation who would have needed to make a start on regular rest before the next scheduled offday on Aug. 30.
But Sheets and Minor need that offday every bit as much as the 37-year-old Tim Hudson or Tommy Hanson, who is coming off the disabled list on Friday with the hope of being able to complete the season — something he did not do last year.
With the benefit of September’s expanded rosters, the Braves will likely be in a position where Sheets will not need to make another start on regular rest the remainder of this season. While his arm has remained sound and his velocity consistent, the 34-year-old pitcher will need at least one and occasionally two extra days of rest before each of his remaining starts.
Hudson’s determination carried him through another strong outing last night and while keeping the Padres off base, he did not have to deal with some of he problems he has had pitching out of the stretch this year. He says his left ankle is much better. But the fact that Gonzalez has continued to reference the ankle provides reason to believe the club still views it as a concern.
Though Minor is still approximately 50 innings away from matching last year’s total, his workload down the stretch will be monitored. As for Hanson, his back seems to be fine. But the decline in velocity that has been a focus throughout this season continues to provide reason for concern.
Like I said, there will likely be some point during the next two weeks when the Braves will wish they had that extra reliever or bench player. But that is better than going through the season’s final weeks wishing that they still had the services of one of those starting pitchers who obviously could have benefited from one extra day of rest.