PHOENIX (Bottom of the Fourth) - The size of baseball's All-Star Roster is a constant source of derision from the media, as it annually seems as if the entirety of Major League Baseball is part of the game. But while fans and the media may get amusement out of the event's shortcomings, AL manager Ron Washington gets a bit of a headache.
Washington told reporters this morning that he's been devising an All-Star Game strategy for days, and just last night had the breakthrough that will allow him to utilize all his players. His solution: mid-pitch pitching changes.
Washington says he had the breakthrough while in his 'chalking room'. "As a player, I put chalk on my hands to get a better grip on the ball," Washington explained, "and as a manager I've kept up the habit. A little chalk now and then helps me think."
Bringing in relief pitchers to face just a single batter is a strategy often employed in regular season games to gain a marginal advantage, but Washington said this wouldn't allow him to use all the pitchers on his roster. Rather, he'll make pitching changes mid-pitch: one pitcher will go into the windup, only to be replaced by a second pitcher who will follow through and throw the pitch. Washington is not ruling out making a second mid-pitch pitching change after the pitch, inserting a third pitcher to field.
The Texas Rangers' manager says that in addition to allowing him to maximize his roster utility, the strategy has the advantage of confusing batters. They could be getting set to hit off a right-handed pitcher, only to suddenly see a lefty spinning a breaking ball in on their hands at the last moment.
Once Washington had this mental breakthrough, he says his plan for using all his hitters came naturally. Mid-pitch pinch hitters will also carry the added benefit of enabling Washington to match hitters with pitch types. Once a pitch has been identified as a slider, for example, Washington can pinch-hit with a batter who is often successful against sliders before the pitch reaches the plate.
Washington speculated to the media that in order to use all his players, he'll be making some managerial move, often more than one, during about 80% of the pitches thrown during tonight's game.