With the uncertainty that surrounds this season with positive COVID-19 tests and expanded rosters, the next day’s starting pitcher often carries the initials of TBD.
Managers have to try to keep starters on their normal five-day routines, but they also have to consider health much more than in a typical season. They can’t even say for sure that the guy they selected is going to be available the next day.
“The first thing I do is make sure the starter knows,” Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny said when asked about the routine for announcing the starter. “If you’re in flux on who you’re going to go with, it sometimes comes down to health, for him or another starter. If we have any kind of doubt, we’ll wait.”
“We started the season with two starters on the IL, and that quickly became three. We had two days that were completely (started by the) bullpen. We had to list them as TBD,” Matheny said.
“We had to slowly introduce guys who were coming back from the virus. We were using the bullpen for potential starts to try to get guys through five or six innings. It wasn’t a huge philosophy; it was more dealing with what we had,” he added.
Unlike in football, where withholding the name of the starting quarterback can cause defensive coordinators to do additional preparation, there’s no advantage to not announcing the starting pitcher.
“There’s no gamesmanship,” Matheny said. “To be perfectly clear, I would love to write down five names in late March and not have to change them through late October. Jacking with that is not a new way of handling the analytics. It’s just the hand we were dealt.”
Matheny wrote in Matt Harvey’s name to start the second game of the three-game series against Cleveland on Tuesday. The Royals will try to win back-to-back games after coming back to beat the Indians on Monday night.
Harvey (0-1, 11.12 ERA) will be making his third start of the season and will be looking to make it past the third inning. He hasn’t allowed a hit in the first two innings of his two starts, but he has allowed seven runs in the combined 1 2/3 innings that followed.
The task for temporary Cleveland manager Sandy Alomar Jr. Monday was filling the starting spot vacated with the trade of Mike Clevinger earlier in the day. Clevinger, who took his 42-22 career record to San Diego, was scheduled to start Tuesday before the trade.
He will be replaced by Zach Plesac (1-1, 1.29 ERA), who has not pitched since Aug. 8 after getting optioned to the alternate training site for violating team protocols. In three starts, Plesac has 24 strikeouts and two walks over 21 innings.
“We’re excited for Zach to rejoin the rotation,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said on Monday. “I know a lot’s transpired since the last time he started a major league game for us. He was a really effective starter for the starts that he made this season, and we’re excited to welcome him back and give him the ball.”
Plesac is 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA in four career starts against the Royals. He has not faced the Royals in 2020.
–Field Level Media