Setting Up the Starting Rotation for the MLB Playoffs

On Saturday, Twins MLB.com correspondent Kelly Thesier speculated that Scott Baker is a possibility to start Tuesday for the Twins, noting:

The Twins could possibly be going to a six-man rotation for the rest of the regular season. At the very least they are adding a starter into the mix for the next turn of the rotation.

Then yesterday, LEN III reported that Gardy confirmed that Scott Baker will get the start on Tuesday, and that Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing will switch spots in the rotation in order to set up a Francisco Liriano - Pavano - Duensing 1-2-3 punch for any playoff series. This means that the Twins will go with a six man rotation for the final 13 games of the season, which will both give the starters a much needed rest down the stretch as well as set up the best possible playoff rotation for the Twins.

After the jump, I'll break down what this means game by game for the remainder of the season, and how it creates options for Gardy in the ALDS.

First of all, based on Gardy's statements, the rotation is pretty much set this week:

  1. Mon 9/20 CLE: Brian Duensing
  2. Tue 9/21 CLE: Scott Baker
  3. Wed 9/22 CLE: Nick Blackburn
  4. Fri 9/24 @DET: Francisco Liriano
  5. Sat 9/25 @DET: Carl Pavano
  6. Sun 9/26 @DET: Brian Duensing

The question becomes how to give everyone an extra day of rest the final week, while still setting up Liriano-Pavano-Duensing to start the ALDS. Since the series would probably start on Tuesday, you would want Liriano to pitch no later than Wednesday in order to give him at least five full days of rest before a playoff start. Since he would have started this Friday, this means he goes on a standard four days rest for his final two starts. Pavano would follow, as his playoff start would likely be the day after Liriano. Because of an off day for travel between games two and three, Kevin Slowey could make a spot start after Pavano and still give Duensing his extra day of rest. So the final week sets up like this:

  1. Mon 9/27 @KC: Scott Baker
  2. Tue 9/28 @KC: Nick Blackburn
  3. Wed 9/29 @KC: Francisco Liriano
  4. Thu 9/30 TOR: Carl Pavano
  5. Fri 10/1 TOR: Kevin Slowey
  6. Sat 10/2 TOR: Brian Duensing
  7. Sun 10/3 TOR: Nick Blackburn

So here's the million dollar question. Who starts Game #4? The rotation would probably set up to give Blackburn the inside track if he pitches well down the stretch. But if he falters, Gardy could easily pitch Baker in the regular season finale and have him available for a weekend game four. Or if both Blackburn and Baker have trouble, then Slowey could be available on long rest. In other words, it's nice to have options.How do you see this working out?

DISCLAIMER: Of course, if the Twins fail to win at least four games down the stretch (3-10 would be seriously ugly), or if God Forbid the White Sox decide to run the table, I'm just going to give up, move to Pittsburgh and buy Pirates season tickets.

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