July 21, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) pitches against the Miami Marlins during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
I'm on vacation this week and am soaking up some sun at the beach in Virginia, but I was reading Jonah Keri's book The Extra 2% there today and it got me to thinking about a weird idea to help the Pirates' bullpen.
In 2010, Rays manager Joe Maddon turned once each to two of his starters, James Shields and Matt Garza, to help out in the bullpen in between starts. Shields pitched one frame of an 11-inning game in late June, and Garza pitched two-thirds of an inning in early July. (This isn't a totally revolutionary idea, of course, but this is what made me think of it.)
[S]tarting pitchers usually throw off a bullpen mound halfway between two starts to keep their arms strong and limber and avoid atrophy. Rather than have Shields and Garza waste those pitches against imaginary hitters, the Rays sent both straight into the fire.
The Pirates are currently using a six-man rotation, with Kevin Correia scheduled to start Tuesday night. For most of the Bucs' starting pitchers, that's probably a good thing, since several of them are showing signs of wear. But Burnett really isn't -- even in his last start against the Padres, which wasn't one of his better ones, he struck out 10. That the Bucs are currently using him every six games instead of every five is a shame, but perhaps they can compensate for it by considering having him throw an inning or two out of the 'pen between starts.
There are plenty of reasons why this wouldn't happen, of course -- it might disrupt Burnett's current routine, the Pirates might not stick with a six-man rotation, and they're two weeks from being able to call up a bunch of relievers when rosters expand. But in the meantime, I thought it was worth tossing out there.
UPDATE: The Pirates will actually have Burnett pitch a day earlier, meaning he'll get four days of rest, not five.