LOS ANGELES -- In the end, Brewers manager Ned Yost decided that the simplest solution was also the best one. Yost and pitching coach Mike Maddux mapped out various scenarios for the rotation over the final six weeks of the season, and ultimately decided to continue the policy that has been in place for most of the season. The five starters will remain lined up in order, and will simply work on extra rest following team off-days. "We're going to ride everybody straight through," said Yost, whose starters led the National League in innings this season entering Saturday.
Yost could have opted to place his top two pitchers -- left-hander CC Sabathia and right-hander Ben Sheets -- as close as possible to an every-five-day schedule. They would each get one extra start under that plan, but Sheets would have missed entirely the Brewers' two remaining series against the National League Central-leading Cubs, and both Sheets and Sabathia would miss the team's two games left against the third-place Cardinals. As they are currently aligned, Sheets and Manny Parra are scheduled to start in St. Louis on Aug. 26-27. Sabathia, Sheets and Parra will line up to start in a three-game series at Wrigley Field from Sept. 16-18 and Jeff Suppan, Sabathia and Sheets are in place to pitch the final series of the regular season, a potentially crucial series against the Cubs at Miller Park from Sept. 26-28. Assuming that the Brewers play meaningful games on the final weekend of the regular season and Sabathia and Sheets have to pitch those games, Suppan would be lined up to start Game 1 of an NL Division Series if it falls on the first Wednesday following the regular season, as both NL series did last year. Unless Yost elects to use Sabathia on short rest, Suppan would be followed by Sabathia and then Sheets. But an off-day on Sept. 22 gives Yost some flexibility. He could skip Parra, Bush or Suppan during the final week to pitch Sabathia on Sept. 26. That would leave Sabathia lined up to start a Wednesday postseason opener on regular rest. Of course, the Brewers first have to clinch their first postseason berth since 1982. Before telling reporters about his plans, Yost spoke with Sabathia, Sheets and Suppan and said he received blessings from all three. "They were all in agreement that they would rather have the off-days," Yost said. "It keeps them stronger and more refreshed [even though] over the course of the year, CC and Ben will have one less start. It works really, really well, and we set up better [for the postseason] doing it that way." The Brewers have three open days in the span on eight days beginning next week, meaning all five starters will pitch one turn through the rotation on two extra days' rest from Aug. 26-31. "I like to get the extra days late in the season," Sabathia said. "You go all year, and it's good to get the extra days in September. I'm all for it. No doubt. You're definitely stronger and it sets up to pitch in the playoffs." The numbers say Sabathia has not been extraordinarily affected by extra rest in his career. He has a 3.56 ERA on one extra day and a 4.02 ERA on two or more extra days, versus 3.76 on a regular four-day break between starts. Sheets has actually been better after an extra respite. He has a 3.89 ERA in 135 starts on regular rest, a 3.54 ERA with one extra day and a 3.19 ERA with two or more extra days. "I don't care," Sheets said when asked his preference. "If you give me the ball, I'm going to take it. ... It ain't a big deal. This is what we've been doing all year. If we were changing, it would be a story." Beginning with Suppan's start on Sunday against the Dodgers, Suppan, Sabathia and Sheets are each scheduled for eight more starts. Parra and Bush are lined up for seven more starts apiece after Bush's outing against the Dodgers on Saturday. Entering Bush's outing, Brewers starters were 9-4 with a 2.34 ERA over the team's past 14 games. They ranked third in the NL with a 3.90 ERA.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.