We’re less than a month until opening day, which means teams are starting to make plans for their starting rotations. The Texas Rangers are thinking about trying something that isn’t new, but is still controversial among pitchers: the six-man rotation. The Rangers have floated the idea this spring, and may try it out during the regular season to give their pitchers an extra day of rest.
Staff ace Cole Hamels isn’t on board, though. The 34-year-old starter and 2008 World Series MVP spoke to MLB.com’s Dave Sessions on Saturday, and he didn’t hold back.
“It’s not part of baseball. I know that’s the new analytical side of trying to reinvent the wheel, but I was brought up in the Minor Leagues on the five-man, and that’s what I’m designed and conditioned for. That’s the mental side of how you prepare, how you get ready for games, how you condition your body. You throw in the six-man, you might as well be in college. […] That’s just not what MLB is to me. That’s not how I learned from my mentors, and that’s not the type of way that I’m here to pitch.
I’ve never prepared for that, I’ve never had to learn that, and to learn it this late and where I am… maybe if I was 40 trying to still hang on, I’d do anything…”
Hamels makes a lot of good points. Adding one guy to a five-man rotation may seem like no big deal, but for pitchers who have spent their entire professional lives in a five-man rotation, it’s a big change. Hamels was drafted in 2002 and has spent 16 years in professional baseball, and in all that time, he’s pitched every fifth day with four days of “rest” (which includes workouts, conditioning, and other routines) in between. Those are some deeply ingrained habits to break.
Hamels just doesn’t think the trade-off is worth it. He’d be gaining an extra day of rest, but he’ll have to learn new habits and conditioning routines. But it’s worth mentioning that it could possibly benefit him. He’s 34, not exactly young in pitching years, and more time to rest could help him stretch his conditioning and become more effective. But after 15 years of doing the same things between starts, the extra day of rest probably looks more like a curse than a blessing.
The important thing to note here is that for all his protesting, Hamels has zero control in this situation. He has no say in the decision-making process. He’s shared his opinion, which manager Jeff Banister has noted.
“I love the fact that Cole continues to talk about it, explore it, and we’ll continue to explore anything that’s going to help these guys get better in this organization. I love the fact that these guys have opinions on it — they should. It’s investment in themselves and in this team.”
Of course, loving that a guy has opinions isn’t the same as loving the opinion. It’s not even the same as listening to the opinion. The Rangers’ front office has definitely heard what Hamels has to say, but whether they listen to it is a different story. The Rangers need to do what’s best for their team, and they need to maximize their meager rotation any way they can. An extra day of rest could help, and if the Rangers decide to put that plan into action, Hamels would have no choice but to go along with it.
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