Between the manager and the general manager of a baseball team, how many decisions do you think they make in the course of a season from Spring Training through the playoffs (with God’s good grace)? 10,000? 20,000? More?
Those decisions run the course from how much and who to play in the spring, who makes the team, who is on the 3 man travel squad, who gets called up first for every eventuality, to how to handle the 40-man, how to handle the IL, when to sit out players, who is in the rotation, who gets a spot start, who gets called when from the bullpen, who gets released, who gets picked up, who gets traded for, who gets traded away, and on and on.
But many of those things are just noise, whose effect is gone after a game or two. But occasionally, some decisions really have a more significant effect. Potentially, one of those significant decisions is right around the corner for the Astros.
Lance McCullers Jr. is working his way back from the IL and should return in a week or two based on the latest buzz. But isn’t it a good thing to have a guy with a sub 3.00 ERA back in the rotation? Sure, but the decision on who is pulled from the rotation could be a significant one based on the impact on the team.
Who are the candidates to leave the rotation?
Luis Garcia. By most standards, the very hot Garcia, after winning his last 5 starts in a row with a terrific 2.75 ERA and 1.000 WHIP, should stay in the rotation. But the Astros already set a precedent by pulling the very good Cristian Javier out of the rotation when there were not enough spots to go around. They could have real concerns about upping Garcia’s innings from so few last year to a full season starting at 24 years old. However, Garcia is not built like a wimpy 24-year-old – he is really built solid, pitching so well, and Dusty likes him….Would they really move him to the bullpen?
Jose Urquidy. Urquidy seemed safe, and maybe still is (4-3, 3.76 ERA), but his last outing where he really got lit up (9 hits, 6 runs in 4.1 IP) had Dusty voicing his unhappiness about him leaving so many balls in the wrong parts of the zone. Is that enough to move him onto the potential list to head to the bullpen?
Jake Odorizzi. When my kids watched Sesame Street (and yes, that is a looooooong time ago), they used to have a segment with this little song –“One of these things is not like the other….”. They would have like a banana, an orange, an apple and an SUV for the kids to pick the outlier. Well, Jake’s 0-3 record and 7.16 ERA are surely filling that role amongst this set of starters. The problem is that they pony’d up $8 MM for him for this year, and it is not likely they did that to move him to the bullpen after 5 starts.
So, what will the Astros do when LMJ returns to the rotation? Dare they move to a six-man rotation? Do they move the worst pitcher, Odorizzi, to the bullpen, where he may not help much? Do they hope Odorizzi gets his mojo back and send Garcia or Urquidy out to the bullpen, where they will likely help things out? Or will one of the rotation go down with a nondescript injury?
This will be a fascinating decision, and the fallout from it may be critical for both the rotation and the bullpen.