By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) A pitch count second-guessing game has become a most difficult job for Chicago managers to work through in recent weeks, as both the White Sox’s Robin Ventura and the Cubs’ Rick Renteria have had to answer questions about their top hurlers’ pitch count.
White Sox ace Chris Sale threw a career-high 127 pitches against the Red Sox on a cold night April 17 and has been on the disabled list ever since. Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija tossed a career-high 126 pitches Monday against the White Sox in nasty weather, taking a no-decision in a nine-inning outing.
In both cases, the end result wasn’t a victory for the team but a directive fired at both managers. Questioning pitch counts has put managers back on their heels, as they’re forced to explain their logic about restraints on their franchise starters.
“I totally understand what Rick was doing, keeping Samardzija in that game,” Ventura said. “He can also hit, so in my opinion there was no reason to take him out.”
Because Sale and Samardzija are the top commodities on their clubs, both front offices will chafe when the top guy goes past 115 pitches. The Cubs are dealing with a tricky issue because they want Samardzija to be healthy for their long-term situation as well as possible trade move. Sale is the franchise starter for the Sox, who are being overly cautious in holding the injured pitcher out six weeks. This function is in order to let his forearm and elbow recover from an early strain.
Ventura said that he has conversations with the front office all of the time about how deep into games to use Sale and the other pitchers.
“We talk to all the time about where our pitchers are at and what workload we can expect from them,” Ventura said. “It is not like we just make a decision and then go discuss it later and hopefully you both agree on it. We talk about this with (general manager) Rick (Hahn) … all of the time. We always want to do the right thing for the pitchers physically as well as mentally. You can damage a guy mentally if you take him out, too.”
Renteria had a 20-minute media session Tuesday explaining his use of Samardzija on Monday. He was honest about the fact he may never let his starter get to 126 pitches again. One can only speculate that a long conversation with the front office about the use of the pitcher took place the day after Samardzija’s start.
“I put myself and his health potentially in jeopardy,” Renteria said. “If this is down the road, I couldn’t do this to him every time out there. It is easier for me down the road to say, ‘I won’t to it again because I have already done it to him once.'”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.