By Ed Coleman
Six-man rotations are nothing new in baseball. Teams have added another starting pitcher to the mix for a short period of time in order to give their regular five some extra rest for the stretch run, or to better get through a particularly long run of consecutive games.
Both Atlanta and the Mets are currently in the midst of employing six-man rotations. The Braves for the right reasons, the Mets for the right intentions, but not necessarily to the benefit of all those involved.
Atlanta righthander Tommy Hanson has been on the diabled list with a lower back strain and made his first start since July 30 on Friday night.
It signaled the Braves' shift to a six-man (Hanson, Ben Sheets, Mike Minor, Paul Maholm, Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen) for a 13-day stretch until August 29 while the team is in the middle of 20 straight days of games.
"We did it because there were some concerns about taking care of some of the guys and we only have two off-days in August," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "We need to be able to go into September with all cylinders hitting and everybody healthy. And this is one way to keep those guys healthy," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez promised that at the end of the month, he would select the five best starters and proceed with them into the final month of the season.
The sticking point with the Mets' change to a six-man is this: there's too much displacement. It has to do with R.A. Dickey and it's not Dickey's fault.
The Mets want to keep Dickey on his fifth day in order to give him the best opportunity to win 20 games and a possible Cy Young award, while giving what's assumed to be much needed rest to the others.
Here's Mets' manager Terry Collins.
So, in the long run, who ends up getting the most benefit out of it?
Jon Niese is a guy who, historically, has done much better with extra rest as opposed to regular rest and Collins feels he may end up in the long run better off as well.
And Jeremy Hefner - who's the sixth man - is the X-factor.
No one in the rotation is really crazy about it, including Dickey, who really doesn't like to have his routine altered at all. But Dickey, because of the type of person he is, worries about the others being displaced while he remains on schedule.
He doesn't want his teammates to suffer while he receives what may be perceived as preferential treatment to achieve his goals.
Right now, the person affected the most is Chris Young, who will go a week between starts, while Matt Harvey, Johan Santana and Niese will each get an extra day of rest.
Hefner will pitch this Sunday and then the following Sunday. The Mets have an off day on Monday the 27th, and then Young would be the scheduled starter (with another week between starts) in Philadelphia.
It remains to be seen how this all works out, or if it even lasts the remainder of the season. Harvey may get to the end of the season without being shut down because of his innings limit if this continues. Niese may end up a 15-game winner because of the extra rest between starts.
Then again, Santana may have to shut things down shortly if things continue the way they have for him lately. Pitchers are creatures of habit. And sometimes the best of intentions go awry. We'll see.
C U soon
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