If Clayton Richard were at all bothered by his apparently imminent demotion to the bullpen during his terrific start against Detroit, he didn’t show it. When he wasn’t holding the Tigers to one run over eight innings, he was the center of some horseplay in the dugout. That doesn’t strike me as the behavior of a bitter, bitter man.
He would have some right to gripe. If the competition for the last spot in the rotation was merit-based, he’d have the definite leg up over Bartolo Colon. Alas, Colon has no interest pitching out of the bullpen, while Richard made the unwise move of throwing several quality innings in relief during the ALDS last season. Idiot.
But while watching Richard coast through the final two innings on Sunday night, I got the feeling that Colon will eventually turn out to be the hard-luck story.
Colon, like Richard, put his best foot forward in his first start since returning from the DL on July 24. Guillen challenged Colon to throw something besides fastballs (which constituted more than 92 percent of his pitches), and Colon responded by throwing off-speed stuff for 30 of his 85 pitches, according to Pitch f/x. Even accounting for Pitch f/x misidentifying his two-seam fastball as a changeup, 15 sliders is an increase of a baker’s dozen over his last time out.
Call Colon what you will — selfish, stubborn, aloof, dumpy — but that’s a major jump to make from one start to another, and worthy of commendation.
I don’t think it’s going to be enough, because if his decisions serve as any indication, Guillen has enjoyed the hell out of managing Richard’s last two starts.
My reasoning is simple. Both times, Guillen sent Richard out there to start the eighth despite a pitch count over 100. Both times, he finished the inning with ease. We know Guillen prefers to ride his starters, and Richard has given every reason to do so.
Conversely, Guillen pulled the plug on Colon after just 85 pitches his last time out, even though Colon needed only 10 pitches to get through his final inning, a 1-2-3 sixth.
One could point to the fact that Colon was making his first start after a (phantom) injury. However, it isn’t a recent phenomenon or anything, because Colon hasn’t topped 90 pitches in months. Richard has thrown 116 and 113 in his last two outings.
Guillen’s giving Colon at least one more shot, scheduling him for the Wednesday game against Minnesota in order to keep the Twins’ running game in check. Pay attention to Colon’s pitch count. If he turns in another efficient outing and Guillen won’t lengthen his leash, I don’t think he’ll be long for rotation.
The math doesn’t add up, as Guillen would be leaving one or two innings on the table under similar circumstances. I doubt he wants to make that a habit.
Of course, the chances of Colon turning in a quality start are slim. Lefties are slugging .602 off him this season, and Minnesota’s top three hitters all swing the bat from that side of the plate. Richard could end up back in the rotation simply by virtue of a massive shelling.
If Richard isn’t traded, that is. With 4 1/2 days until the deadline, that’s not out of the question, either.
By the way, one response to the slew of “OMG TEH DOME” stories coming the next few days:
You cannot call the Twins “more fundamentally sound than the Sox on the Sox’ best day” this season when THEY BLEW A 10-RUN LEAD TO THE LEAGUE’S WORST OFFENSE JUST LAST WEEK.