Zach Stewart, who hasn’t exactly spent his 17 appearances showing how much he deserves another shot at starting, will get one anyway when the Sox return to U.S. Cellular on Monday to face the Cubs. Stewart has allowed 14 runs in 24.1 innings pitched in 2012 and isn’t bringing much to the table on Monday performance wise other than a reasonable walk rate, having only granted 4 free passes this year. A reliever’s stats midway through June aren’t going to pass the sample size test, so he’s also got that going for him. This start may be an opportunity to impress with a leash longer than an inning or two, or it might just be a chance to expand his innings pool and allow us to nod knowingly as we get that much closer to believing that his numbers are correct. That Zach Stewart is that 5.18 reliever we should all groan at when the bullpen door swings open.
Stewart’s insertion into the lineup is allowing for an extra day of rest for Jake Peavy, initially the starter for Monday, and Chris Sale gets 2 additional days off as his next start is pushed to Friday, following the off day on Thursday. No official reason was given for the shift, but it can be assumed that rest for the Sox starters that have maintained effectiveness is the goal. Worries about Sale’s workload aren’t going to disappear and the half-smirking “he’s going to get hurt” folks will always be there ready to yell, “told you!” Any rest that can be thrown his way is probably a good idea, and without offending the fans of our fair city’s north side team, that’s a good lineup to go ahead and step it down on.
Should Stewart perform well enough, he could see some periodic spot starts of this kind for the rest of the season to continue allowing extra rest for both Sale and Peavy. A lights out performance isn’t necessary, Floyd and Humber have lowered the bar pretty low for acceptable starting pitching performances on the Southside.
Given that level of performance from starting pitching it’s also possible that this is an audition. The Sox need starters that keep their team in the game and that’s been an issue much of the time when Floyd and Humber are on the mound. Not just an audition for entree into the White Sox rotation, but at 25 years old a display of raw stuff might appeal to a “win next year” team that isn’t prepared to make a run at a playoff spot just yet.