10/09/07 7:23 PM ET
NLCS skippers thrown a curve
Aces to pitch on short or extra rest due to additional off-day
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
"That's what's gotten us here. We've put these players in position to win. We haven't tried to manipulate it. Nobody this season has pitched on less rest. They've pitched on more rest, but they haven't pitched on less rest."Melvin gave little consideration to his two available wrinkles: Bringing Webb back on three days' rest for Game 4, which would also allow the still-reigning Cy Young Award winner to pitch a possible Game 7 on regular rest; or shuffling Hernandez, considered most effective on short rest, into the No. 1 slot. "Livan can do it [go on three days' rest], because he's not a maximum-effort guy," Melvin said prior to his club's Tuesday afternoon workout at Chase Field. "But we're staying in our regular rotation. We don't want to do anything differently." Having Webb come back in Game 4 would certainly be different. During the regular season, none of his 34 starts came on short rest. Considering his top gun was the NL's leading workhorse, pitching 236 1/3 innings, Melvin isn't about to start tinkering now. "His workload is part of it, but there are other considerations [for not bringing Webb back for Game 4]," Melvin said. "If we want to change, we can always do it on the fly. But we'd rather err on the side of caution." Furthermore, Webb would appear to be perfectly suited to pitch that Game 5 with an extra day's rest. Ten of his starts came on long rest, including eight on five days in which he allowed 15 earned runs in 58 1/3 innings, an ERA of 2.30. "I'd rather have him go with extra rest. He's done that," nodded Melvin. Still, Melvin had to resist the temptation of maneuvering Hernandez into the top of his series rotation, which would have also had him available for a Game 7 on regular rest. Besides everything else pushing for Hernandez -- the staff's cool veteran, a team leader, a former postseason hero (MVP of Florida's 1997 World Series title) -- was the fact he had pitched seven shutout innings in his only start of the season on three days' rest -- against the Rockies. The "doughnut" scheduling, incidentally, is MLB's way of achieving two objectives: Provide flexibility for weather postponements, which did play havoc with 2006's postseason, and help defer the World Series to a midweek (Wednesday, Oct. 24) start. "Starting the World Series in the middle of the week, when television viewership is historically higher, will provide more fans with the opportunity to watch the games," said MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy. "The additional off-days throughout the postseason will give us greater flexibility to facilitate travel and protect against poor weather." Those concerns aside, it's not an optimum arrangement as far as the managers are concerned. "Would you want to play through without the additional off-day? Yeah, we'd rather do that," Melvin said. "But it is what it is. We'll have no problem keeping sharp and getting ready."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.