Workhorse pitchers to benefit from off-days

Giants won't skip starters, giving Cueto, Bumgarner extra rest

Workhorse pitchers to benefit from off-days

ST. LOUIS -- High-performance athletes, like high-performance automobiles, need to stay in the garage now and then. Giants manager Bruce Bochy knows this, which explained his decision to keep San Francisco's starting pitchers in their regular rotation and not skip anybody's turn, even with two scheduled off-days imminent.

Bochy announced his plan after the Giants' 5-1 victory Friday night over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was relevant for Bochy to raise this subject, given Johnny Cueto's occasional vulnerability during his six-inning outing.

On the surface, little was wrong with Cueto (9-1). He yielded an unearned run and four hits while winning his sixth consecutive decision. The Giants have won Cueto's last eight starts, partially accounting for their 5 1/2-game lead over second-place Los Angeles in the National League West.

But Cueto admitted feeling back pain uncomfortably close to his left oblique after his previous start last Sunday at Colorado. Friday, Cueto said through his interpreter, Erwin Higueros, that "everything was fine" but added, "It just wasn't my day today."

Walking five batters prompted Cueto's dissatisfaction. Other factors prompted Bochy's concern. Through Friday, Madison Bumgarner and Cueto ranked 1-2 among National Leaguers in pitches thrown, with Jeff Samardzija having amassed the sixth-most number of pitches.

For Bochy, the short-term fix was clear: Give his pitchers additional rest, rather than skipping starters or juggling the rotation to add one or two appearances to Bumgarner's or Cueto's workload. Thus, with next Monday and Thursday mixed into the schedule as off-days, Bumgarner will twice receive five-day breaks, with Cueto and Samardzija getting six-day rests -- significantly exceeding the usual four days between starts.

"We've been working the guys pretty hard," Bochy said. "If you look at our history, we've always done that [stay in rotation through off-days]. It's worked for us."

Regarding Cueto specifically, Bochy said, "It [the extra rest] might serve him well."

Cueto wasn't wholeheartedly enthusiastic about the additional off-days but realized Bochy cared about his long-term welfare.

"I like to pitch every five days," Cueto said. But, he added, "I like what they're doing."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.