Lengthy starts, off-days help bullpen stay fresh

Lengthy starts, off-days help bullpen stay fresh

Lengthy starts, off-days help bullpen stay fresh
LOS ANGELES -- Brad Mills can't always turn a baseball game into a chess match, like he did in the eighth inning on Friday night.

But for two reasons, the Astros manager has been able to mix and match his arms late in games. He did so Friday by using five pitchers in one inning against the Dodgers in preserving a 3-1 victory.

First, Astros starters have lasted at least five innings in 38 consecutive games, the longest stretch in baseball this season. That means without any mop-up roles available, everyone is preserved late in games.

Second, he has the luxury of three days off in the span of 12 days, time for those arms to recover.

"After a day off, you make sure everybody's set," Mills said. "It's kind of nice because we're in a streak now where we have Thursday off and we have Tuesday off, and then we have next Monday off. The guys will be getting those days off, and that helps spread everything out a little bit."

Mills said he doesn't typically look at the coming off-days when determining which pitcher to use. Instead, he said he only looks back to see which arms have the potential for use.

"Not necessarily looking forward, but more just going back, who are the fresh arms?" Mills said. "Everybody was available because of the off-day on Thursday."

The Astros may have the three days off in a short span, but they also must deal with a doubleheader on Monday. Mills said the club will announce its pitching plans for the pair of games in Colorado on Monday.