Sunday, May 23, 2004

Fifth Starter Problem

It is not news that the White Sox have a fifth starter problem. Buerhle, Loaiza, Garland and Schoeneweis have been as solid as one could expect as 1-4 starters, but the fifth spot is 0-6 at this point between Danny Wright (0-4), Felix Diaz (0-1) and Neil Cotts (0-1). It looks like the team is 1-6 overall when the 5th starters take the hill.

There is common wisdom that there are three sources of solution for the fifth starter problem: (1) promotion from the minor leagues (promoting John Rauch or Jason Grilli); (2) a trade for a starter - perhaps Freddy Garcia from Seattle, who is in his walk year; and (3) continuing to use Neil Cotts, hoping that his poor performance Saturday night was just one bad game.

I'm not sure that any of these solutions are going to work. Sure, of those three possibilities, getting a Freddy Garcia looks the best. But why do we need a fifth starter? Here are the portions of the schedule where the Sox play five games in a row until the All Star Break:

May 25-May 30 (1 5th starter start)
June 8-June 13 (1 5th starter start)
June 15-June 27 (2 5th starter starts)
June 30-July 4 (1 5th starter starts)
July 6-July 11 (1 5th starter starts)

That's a total of 6 (possibly seven given when the off days fall) more 5th starter starts until the All-Star Break. So there's no need for the Sox to overspend to get a 5th starter by trade just yet, especially when a walk-year starter will become available cheaper in July. Moreover, if the focus can be a Cotts-type solution of having a reliever game fill-in for a 5th starter game, that might give the Sox a fighting chance. Going 2-4 in those games is a realistic goal, and may buy time for a solution to present itself more clearly.

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