While rolling through the Twittersphere, I found an interesting response from MLB.com’s Mark Bowman regarding Cole Hamels’ health. As expected, he will be ready for the start of the season, but that’s not the intriguing part.
Bowman talked about how the Braves may opt to ease him and other starters into the regular season by limiting them to 3-4 innings per start.
Hamels has been going through his normal preparations and should be ready for the start of the season. With that being said, the Braves may opt to limit him and some of their other starters to 3-4 innings during their first couple regular season starts. 30-man roster will help. https://t.co/nXmFozgOIA
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) June 24, 2020
I’m not sure if this is purely speculation. It sounds like it, but perhaps someone inside the organization told him this might be the case. It is sensible for some aging veterans like Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez, and even some of the younger pitchers that have had arm issues in the past like Mike Foltynewicz and Mike Soroka. The 30-man rosters to begin the season will also make this much more feasible.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos later agreed with Bowman’s insight, telling the media that some starters might only go 2-4 innings their first couple of times on the mound, and that their pitching depth will help in that regard.
Anthopoulos acknowledged they'll probably be conservative with starters first couple times through (possibly 2, 3, 4 innings). Having so much pitching depth helps that.
— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurnsAJC) June 24, 2020
With that being said, the Braves may not be able to afford to hold back for very long. With such a short schedule, pitchers are only going to pitch around 1/3 of the innings that they would typically in a season, and there is also a greater sense of urgency to win every game. So perhaps the first start or two is limited for some arms to around 80 pitches, but if they begin to fall behind in the standings early, the Braves may be forced to stick with the hot hand. A slow start cannot be afforded.