Thursday, October 02, 2008
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Rest of story: Pitchers prosper on 3-day breaks

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[October 02, 2008]  CHICAGO (AP) -- Maybe this whole rest business is overrated.

CC Sabathia pitched the Milwaukee Brewers into the playoffs while taking only three-day breaks. Mark Buehrle, John Danks and the Chicago White Sox made it there the same way. So did Old Hoss Moyer and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Heck, Johan Santana came back early and threw his best game of the season for the New York Mets. Did it on a bad knee, too.

"I want a ring. It's as simple as that," Sabathia said. "If I'm healthy and feel fine, I want the ball."

For the fourth time in a row, Sabathia will pitch on three days' rest when the Brewers play Philadelphia in Game 2 on Thursday.

So, this late spate of success while starting on three days' rest -- a new trend for the future or a calculated risk to reach October?

And for further debate, what's more important for a starter: Longer breaks or lower pitch counts?

"I think if you did it over the course of a year, maybe for a month straight, it might catch up to you. But towards the end of the year, you have to do what you have to do to win," Buehrle said.


Maverick manager Ozzie Guillen pushed his White Sox pitchers to the limit, with Javier Vazquez, Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and Danks all going on three days' rest in the final four games.

In fact, a lot of teams did it down the stretch as teams were more inclined to throw their aces on short rest than use their No. 5 guys at any time.

Toronto turned to Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Jesse Litsch, and the Mets tried Santana and Oliver Perez. The Phillies won with 45-year-old Jamie Moyer and Brett Myers, who pitched a two-hitter in a key win over the Brewers.

This year, there were 40 instances of pitchers starting on three days' rest, and they went 17-10 with a 3.64 ERA in those games.

Last year, it happened only 23 times and pitchers went 6-8 with a 4.64 ERA, the Elias Sports Bureau said.

"I'd say you're hearing more and more about guys going on three days' rest, especially now," Boston first baseman Sean Casey said. "And guys are having success with it, too. And because they are, you're going to keep seeing teams doing it."

"I mean, you want your big dog to go three days because you've got to have wins. Sometimes you get down to the end of the rotation and it's a crap shoot. You might have a guy who can give you a decent start, but also unbelievably terrible starts. So there's more reliability at the top of the rotation," he said.

Of course, that's how it used to be.

In 1968, there were 1,028 games when a pitcher started on three days' rest. In 1978, it happened 844 times. It dropped to 221 in 1988 and then a decade ago in 1998, there were only 50 instances, Elias said.

[to top of second column]

Often, teams employ just four starters at the beginning of a season, when off days and bad-weather postponements dot the schedule.

When he managed, Bob Boone tried it for a longer period, going half the year with four-man rotations at Cincinnati in 2003 and Kansas City in 1995 -- both clubs finished below .500.

Because of Sabathia and others, it's become popular again.

"You have to tip your hat to them, especially in today's game," Milwaukee catcher Jason Kendall said. "Obviously, back in the day it was normal. But in today's game, you just don't see it. For a team, a guy going out on three days' rest shows the importance of the situation and your teammates appreciate it. It's a special thing for a team."

But nothing special to the pitchers who do it. Not when a championship is within reach.

"The only thing different is you mix up your workouts in between. If I'm on four days' rest, there's usually a day in there that I don't do too much, just kind of let everything recover," Buehrle said. "On three days' rest, I'm doing more cardio just to get the lactic acid and all the kind of bad stuff flowing out of my body."


Buehrle has won all three of his starts on short rest this season. Any reason?

"Luck," he said. "When you get out there and pitching, I don't sit there and think I'm on three days' rest and you get into a jam, 'I'm on three days' rest, that's why.'

"It doesn't matter if I'm on one day's rest or 10 days," he said. "It doesn't bother me."

[Associated Press; By BEN WALKER]

AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia and AP freelance writer Joe Esse in Chicago contributed to this report. 

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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