We saw tandem or piggyback starters, a method in which eight pitchers shared four spots. The paired hurlers alternated between starting and relieving each turn through the rotation.
Another system designed to offer similar benefits was tried last year. The Cardinals deployed a six-man rotation at several levels. This allowed more teaching and adjustment time between starts while minimizing innings-pitched.
This year, the system will be using a modified combination of both – at least for awhile.
Batavia and Johnson City will begin short-season play with six-man rotations, or perhaps more accurately, six spots. Within those rotations, each will also have what the organization is calling "pseudo-piggybacks." Those games will be sort of a hybrid between a piggyback and a bullpen game, but there will be adjustments as the season progresses.
Johnson City has five named starters and one pseudo-piggyback of two additional rotation candidates. Here, just one level down, only one of the seven is left-handed.
The pseudo-piggybacks are expected to be disbanded as one of the candidates in each pair emerges as the starter.
At the two bottom levels, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals and Dominican Summer League Cardinals have every Sunday off. The GCL will have a regular five-man rotation, while the DSL has six starters to begin.
Though the GCL is the lowest stop in the US, all five rotation members are DSL graduates. Three are from Venezuela, one calls the Dominican home, while the other is from Nicaragua.
And, here they are!
In addition, the innings pitched by Fernando Baez and Luis De La Rosa are being built up with the expectation the two will step into a starting role at some point this summer.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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