The Rangers have been talking about implementing a six-man rotation for some time now, but left-handed starter Cole Hamels isn’t fully committed to the idea. He spoke at length about his disdain for the six-man system on Saturday:
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. […] Thirty-three or 34 starts are what I design, that’s what my goal is and that’s what I intend to do. This is what I’ve done. I’m a guy that pitches 200 innings. I know that’s something you don’t see as often, but that’s what’s made me and that’s what I’m going to stick to.
Nothing’s been finalized yet, but manager Jeff Banister is looking at a schedule that would push each starter to take five days of rest between starts, with an overall effect of pitching 3-4 fewer starts per season. The sixth man in the rotation, meanwhile, would see anywhere from 14 to 16 starts, according to prior reports from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
The new team strategy could mess with Cole’s plans to log another 200 innings in 2018, something he managed to do for seven straight seasons until an oblique strain landed him on the disabled list last spring. Still, reaching that personal milestone ranks somewhere below pitching effectively and staying healthy, which is what Hamels will need to do regardless of whether he gets four or five days to recuperate between outings. The 34-year-old lefty had a down year in 2017, battling injuries and pitching to a 11-6 record in 24 starts with a 4.20 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 through 148 innings.
For what it’s worth, Banister didn’t seem overly perturbed by Hamels’ comments, nor did he shut down future conversations about the experiment. “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,” he told reporters. “I love the fact that these guys have opinions on it — they should. It’s investment in themselves and in this team.”