Brewers to use platoon for fifth starter
McClung to start in road games; Bush gets nod at home
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Brewers already are platooning third basemen. Now with six starters for five spots, they are going to try a similar setup in the pitching ranks.Manager Ned Yost returned from the All-Star break on Friday and announced that Seth McClung would start Monday in St. Louis. When that spot in the rotation comes around on July 26 against Houston and again on July 31 against Chicago, it will belong to Dave Bush. McClung gets the nod on the road, Bush at home. With McClung preparing for his start, Bush was available Friday out of the bullpen. McClung will shift to the long relief role in the middle of next week. With right-hander Jeff Suppan ready to come off the disabled list when he becomes eligible on Tuesday, the Brewers had been mulling whether to shift Bush or McClung out of the rotation. Yost had been hinting about a platoon since the team acquired left-hander CC Sabathia via trade last week and created the logjam. Yost talked to both Bush and McClung about the decision and said it was met with "suspicion." "It does present some problems to the pitchers in terms of routine," Yost said, "but the numbers speak for themselves." McClung is 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA in 11 games, four starts, on the road and 4-4 with a 4.95 ERA in 10 games, six starts, at home. Bush's splits are more dramatic; he is 4-2 with a 2.49 ERA in nine starts at home and 1-6 with a 6.95 ERA in nine games, eight of them starts, on the road. The trend holds throughout Bush's career. In 63 appearances at home, 60 of them starts, for the Blue Jays and Brewers, Bush is 26-18 with a 3.70 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .243 average. In 63 appearances on the road, again 60 starts, he is 13-26 with a 5.42 ERA and a .285 opponents' average. Neither Yost nor pitching coach Mike Maddux could name other teams that have tried a home-road platoon with starting pitchers but both tried to downplay it. Maddux downplayed the significance of the experiment, pointing to the back-and-forth that many fifth starters endure in April, when schedules are laden with off-days. "I've seen fifth starters not pitch for two weeks. This is similar to that," Maddux said. "The way it was when I came up [to the Majors], your fifth starter would pitch when your team played five consecutive days. If there was an off-day in there, it usually impacted him and he went to the bullpen until that spot rolled around. That's been part of the game for a long time." If McClung was suspicious, as Yost implied, he put a positive spin on his newly-tweaked role. "I'm eager to do whatever this team needs me to do," McClung said. "I am going to stay as positive as I can about the situation. I like what I'm doing [starting], but that's my personal preference. What I want personally is set aside because this team is special and we have a special attitude. "Do I want to do this next year? Not so much. But this year, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help this team make it to the playoffs, make it to the World Series, win a world championship." The key to making the experiment a success, according to McClung, was staying in communication with Maddux and Yost. He planned to keep a close eye on Bush over the next week to see how Bush refines his routine to a temporary stint in long relief. "It's going to be tough," McClung said. "There's a reason there are roles in this game, and we're going to bend that mold. You have to stay in communication to know how everybody feels." Said Maddux: "I'm curious to see how it pans out. I think it will be just fine."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.