Heading into the season, there was a lot of talk about the Cubs rotation and whether Adam Warren had a chance to displace either Jason Hammel or Kyle Hendricks. The two incumbents were clearly able to maintain their roles, but it looks like Warren is going to get a chance to join their ranks after all. In a flurry of moves that also saw Clayton Richard DL’ed with a blister/nail issue, Warren was optioned to AAA Iowa.
Wait, I thought you said he was being moved to the rotation? Yeah, he’s heading down there to be stretched out in the hopes that he can come back in a couple weeks to give the Cubs a six-man rotation for at least the last week of the first half. It actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
Warren threw 51 pitches in two innings of work Sunday against the Pirates, so he likely wouldn’t have been making another appearance for Chicago in the next couple days anyway. Then you see that the Cubs are scheduled to play 24 games in the 24 days with one of the few staffs that has used only five starting pitchers all season. Rain-outs have actually afforded a little extra rest here and there, but now Joe Maddon is going to have to find a way to manufacture some time off for his pitchers just as he has for the position players.
Given the division lead they currently enjoy and the fact that the upcoming marathon of games takes place in what promises to be some hot, muggy conditions, Warren provides some insurance. While he declined to provide all the specifics of the plan, Maddon did reveal that Warren would make two starts in Iowa before coming back to Chicago to make another start prior to the Midsummer Classic.
“This stretch we’re on right now with starters not getting any kind of blow, we thought it was the most optimal moment to attempt to do something like this,” Maddon said Tuesday afternoon. “Guys get into this time of year, leading into August and September and you really want to make sure they are healthy and well, so we thought it was the right thing to do.”
So what does that mean for the second half? Maddon’s not saying, though he did hint at having a set schedule for the man he calls his favorite golf club. My speculation bone is irreparably broken, so take this for what it’s worth, but I was initially inclined to believe that the plan is to go with the longer rotation for a little while even after coming out of the break. It just seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to get one additional start two weeks from now. If that was all they were planning to do, it’d be just as effective to go with a bullpen start.
Then again, the early second-half schedule doesn’t appear all that daunting. So this could just be a way to given Warren a little change of pace while getting a look at Gerardo Concepcion and Spencer Patton at the same time. The former comes back up and makes a spot start, then goes back to the pen and it’s business as usual for the next few months. And now that I’m actually writing it and thinking it out (good writers probably do their thinking before they start typing), that seems the most likely scenario.
The moral of the story is that being really good affords you the ability to move pieces around on the board with a little more freedom. It’s also pretty nice to be stretching a guy out as a starter because you can, rather than being forced to do it as the result of failure or injury. This transaction will likely turn into an esoteric little footnote when we write the story of the season, but it’s certainly interesting to dissect in the moment.
So what do you think: is this just about a single July start for Warren or part of a longer play?