OKC RedHawks: RedHawks return to unique eight-man pitching rotation

The eight-man pitching rotation has returned — although it never really left.
By Mike Baldwin Published: April 13, 2014
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The eight-man pitching rotation has returned — although it never really left.

The Houston Astros last season announced they would be using eight-man rotations at every minor league level.

Unlike traditional five-man rotations, Houston’s farm teams use eight starting pitchers in a piggyback system.

The starting pitcher is limited to five innings or 70 pitches. His piggyback partner comes out of the bullpen. The next time through the rotation they flip-flop roles.

“It’s a little outside the box,” said interim RedHawks manager Tom Lawless. “They’re creatures of habit. They now have to plan differently. They have to make adjustments. It is what it is. It’s going to be that way, so they have to figure out how to go do it.”

The Astros last season squashed the eight-man plan for the RedHawks following a couple of injuries and promotions to the majors, but they continued to use eight starters at Double-A and their Class A teams.

Mike Foltynewicz, the Astros No. 4 prospect who can hit 100 mph on a radar gun, opened the season at Class A Lancaster but spent the bulk of the season at Double-A.

A first-round pick selected out of high school four years ago, Foltynewicz compiled a 6-3 record with 3.06 ERA. In 30 appearances, Foltynewicz made 21 starts.

“We used it up until the All-Star break, cut back to a six-man (rotation), then a five-man in August,” said Foltynewicz, now with the Oklahoma City RedHawks. “It’s a different mindset when you come out of the bullpen.

“The big difference is you never have to pace yourself. You can go out and let it eat (at you). Every once in a while you’re closing a game, which is pretty cool. But I think it took a toll on some guys’ arms because we were only getting three days rest.”

That’s the major difference. In the eight-man rotation, starters throw every four days instead of every five.

It’s a new concept for Paul Clemens, who spent most of last season with the Astros. Clemens’ only six appearances with the RedHawks were all starts after Oklahoma City had scrapped the original plan.

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