The Pirates' decision to have Kris Johnson make his first MLB start today in a crucial pennant-race game against the St. Louis Cardinals instead of the more qualified Jeanmar Gomez no doubt rests on the team's preoccupation -- obsession? -- with "stretching" out pitchers.
No one wants to put pitchers in danger of injuring themselves with overwork. But it would not be out of the question to believe the Pirates could have got four innings from Gomez.
And, please, spare me the information on when was the last time he pitched four innings. He could have done it, if necessary. As it turns out, he breezed through three without allowing a hit or a run. But his entry into the game, after the Cardinals had scored five off Johnson, was too late.
This is no second-guess. I wrote last week that Gomez was a better option than Johnson or Stolmy Pimentel, another minor leaguer who was under consideration.
The decision on the starter probably would not have made a difference since the Pirates scored only twice in a 7-2 loss.
But the notion that a pitcher who has performed as well as Gomez has this year -- a 2.80 ERA as a starter with a .206 BAA -- should be relegated to long relief makes no sense. Often, as was the case today, such pitchers come in when the game is lost.
If all Gomez could have given the Pirates today was three innings, and no one would dispute that, he was the right choice. With the expanded rosters in place, even a three-inning start would not have put the bullpen in jeopardy.