Per the usual method of announcing managing directives, Don Cooper let it be known via his radio show on 670 AM The Score that the White Sox would be kicking Philip Humber out of the rotation and out to the pen, ending the six-man arrangement after one turn.
And so begins the debate; is the six-man rotation ending because everyone is as healthy as could be, or because management has lost its taste for Philip Humber starting? Just seven of Humber's 16 starts have been quality. Since he's a back-end starter, I'm only holding him to the Freddy Garcia standard of keeping the team competitive...which he hasn't been doing.
Humber's perfectly alternated bad and good since coming off of the DL, but a six-man rotation needs long outings from its starters to make up for one less bullpen arm. Since there have been no discussions of having starters available for relief--obvious health concerns being a barrier for some--Humber's penchant for blowups (and home runs) cannot be supported.
But that's the cynical take. The optimistic take is that the six-man rotation is gone because it's outlived its usefulness--everyone is healthy and has no need for this trivial extra rest. After all, before even calling an end to the six-man rotation, it was announced that Sale would switch places with Jake Peavy on Monday.
Thanks to the trials and travails of the last season and a half, there's a lot of different ways to react to that move.
- Hooray! Sale must be healthy now, and taking Philip Humber out of the rotation could mean as many as two more wins over the final two months.
- Oh no! This is reminiscent of last year, when the Sox installed a six-man rotation, then completely neglected its purpose and moved Peavy up. Different manager, but the wound still burn!
- Hooray! This is the same coaching staff that reacted to elbow soreness by trying to alter Sale's career path entirely. Maybe they're cautious enough, despite their initial posturing as not being concerned about Sale's velocity
- Oh no! How much recovery can really be expected from Sale's velocity loss? He's already recovered from one lull on the season, but it's "highly indicative of some sort of injury".
Sale himself seems to be hedging his betswith the same talk he used before his rest:
"If it's there, cool. If not, you've still got to pitch," Sale said Sunday. "It doesn't matter how hard it's going. Just whatever it is, you've still got to make pitches and get outs.
In the immediate, before the reality shakes its way free from all of this ambiguity, the upgrade to the Sox performance figures to be enormous. Even a hampered Sale has more tools for success than Philip Humber, and he'll get two starts this week. Jose Quintana was also a target of this rest period, but since he's steered clear of velocity loss and undo soreness, his rest doesn't read as anything beyond simple prudence with a young pitcher.
Talk of the White Sox "going to the whip" for the final stretch reminds of how close they've come to sealing up a seemingly impossible goal, and with the Tigers facing a hellish schedule this week, Sale returns right on time to earn the Sox some leg room.
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