Being a prescient guy and all, Zach Stewart probably figured out he had been bumped from the rotation to the bullpen sometime before he was jogging out to the mound in the 8th inning of Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Indians.
Stewart had already completed two fairly successful starts with the White Sox rotation, getting through 12.2 IP while only allowing 3 ER, making for a sparkling 2.13 ERA.
However, his small strkeout rate, a 90.9 % stranded runners rate, and the mundane results of his slider didn't dismiss notions that his future remained beyond the left field wall in U.S. Cellular. He's shown the ability to crank up into the 95 mph range, and given that his fastball is already the source of most of his whiffs, it could become dominant in short-interval use.
He was prepping to start as recently as Monday, so it would be foolish to expect a different pitcher, which is why it was weird to see him record all five of his outs on strikeouts.
5 strikeouts! Also known as the total he recorded in the 12.2 other innings he pitched. So, like, what the hell? Who takes that well to what's functionally a demotion?
Pitch F/X shows no jump in velocity from his starts, and his slider was mostly ordinary again. If anything he was bizarrely wild (maybe it threw everyone off!), strangely threw his changeup twice...which was also about as many times as he threw it in his starts. Zach Stewart was hellbent on getting all the raw totals from a start over only 1.2 innings.
He got 4 whiffs from his fastball, and earned another strikeout when home plate umpire Wally Bell called a ball well outside for strike three on Jason Donald. Donald has precious little playing time before Jason Kipnis returns from injury, and Wally Bell frittered a little bit of it away. Violent comeuppance for Bell would be illegal and shocking, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Ultimately, what this performance really shows is that Stewart's performance record is too small, and too mixed to get a read on him. He's doing that whole 'young pitcher figuring things out with inconsistent results' thing.
For the time being, Stewart's fastball has looked like a plus pitch, he's relied on it heavily for the success he's had with Chicago, and it's exciting to see how effective it'll be as he ramps it up more.
Until his secondary outings impress more, I'll remain skeptical about his viability starting, but he could be a cheap, effective right-hander out of the pen for now.
Maybe, he'll make all of the White Sox expensive veteran relievers expendable, and then some dumb team will trade a viable position player for Jesse Crain or something! C'mon Nationals! Get stupid about Danny Espinosa already!
See? Zach Stewart is exciting.