The MLB team that’s blowing up starting pitching as we know it

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Maybe there’s a perfect way to do this, to amass 27 outs a night across six months in a game intended to expose one’s frailties, to measure pitchers’ abilities and endurance and hearts and souls against the strands remaining on their UCLs, to get it right without exhuming the 300-inning monsters of another generation.

Maybe, and here’s the problem, today’s perfection is tomorrow’s train wreck, tomorrow’s bullpen demolition day, unless you’re stacking stud after stud after stud in the starting rotation, and chances are you’re not, as there isn’t near enough to go around.

There’s always another nine innings to cover. Always. So change – philosophically speaking, innings-maintenance speaking – is like trying to jump a street sweeper mid-block, which is to say not impossible but will require reasonable timing and, probably, a fresh set of clothing.

Meantime, as far as pitching plans go, you’ve got your five-man rotations, your six-man rotations, your scheduled bullpen games, your unscheduled bullpen games, your who’s-this-guy games, your occasional he-pitches-when-he’s-not-hitting-in-the-middle-of-the-lineup games. And then there’s what the Tampa Bay Rays are up to.

Go to a ballgame here on a Sunday afternoon, and one of the starting pitchers (Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Sergio Romo) had started just the night before, so he was pitching on 18 hours rest, the other (Los Angeles Angels right-hander/DH Shohei Ohtani) hadn’t pitched in a week, and had pitched only that once in 333 hours.

Both are by design, the objectives being 27 outs today, the methods foul pole to foul pole. There’d be no telling which was closer to perfect, not until those 27 outs were gone.

The Rays, of course, had surprised everyone Saturday night by starting Romo, the 35-year-old who had made 588 big-league appearances, all in relief. The plan was to have Romo knock out a few of the Angels’ right-handed batters – Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton — over an inning or so, then get the ball to lefty Ryan Yarbrough.

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By: Tim Brown

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