- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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The Chicago White Sox rotation may become a bit convoluted after the next couple of outings as manager Robin Ventura will match up his starters against Tampa and Cleveland as strategically as possible with the season on the line.
The next couple of days are clear. Hector Santiago will make a spot start on Wednesday, giving a breather to the rest of the staff. Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper have set up the next three starts after Santiago’s with Jake Peavy on Thursday, Gavin Floyd on Friday and ace Chris Sale starting Saturday.
With the likely scenario that a top pitcher may be needed to lock down a division title, the team could be faced with a game where it must choose between Floyd pitching on the normal four days of rest or Sale coming back on short rest. Ventura and Cooper pushed the envelope on Sale’s pitch count on Monday -- a season-high 118 -- knowing they were going to buy the young starter an extra day with the insertion of Santiago to the mix.
The Sox coaching staff even used starter Jose Quintana out of the bullpen on Tuesday for two batters in relief. Right now the young left-handed pitcher may be the long man if any of the starters over the next five games stumble.
"It was short and we knew it was going to be just a couple of hitters," Ventura said .
Cooper devised a plan before Tuesday's game that Quintana throw 25 or so pitches to warm up before getting in the game in relief, and then he threw just five in the game. That work load keeps Quintana in line to pitch in long relief on Thursday after Peavy starts the game.
The lack of any consistent offense has put a burden on the Sox pitching staff. The bullpen and team defense has kept the Sox in games when the offense and starting pitching have come up short.
“We have had a lot of games were we got behind a little bit," said Paul Konerko, who hit his 25th home run in the ninth inning to cut the losing margin to one. "The bullpen has held it right there for us to come back and win it . The defense has been one of our strengths all year."
Sox relievers have allowed only four earned runs in the last 12 games. The starting pitchers have a 5.74 ERA over the last five games, four of which were losses.
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