If you’re like me — and I know you are — you cannot get enough of those American Express commercials where Coach K waxes eloquent about Larry Brown’s leadership abilities, ads that seem to be in increasing rotation ever since the Pistons lost in the Finals.
Perhaps right about now would be the right time for AmEx to commision a similar spot in tribute to Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella.
With Lance Carter’s implosion in Tuesday’s 6-4 loss to the White Sox the latest debacle, manager Lou Piniella apparently felt there is no way any of the Devil Rays relievers can protect a lead in the eighth inning.
So he decided his next move is to try something that is totally different, potentially controversial and perhaps unprecedented.
Starting tonight, Piniella said he will use a reliever for the first two innings, then bring in his scheduled starter with the idea that he can pitch through the eighth before yielding to closer Danys Baez.
“I’ve made up my mind, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Piniella said. “People are going to think I’m crazy, but we’re just going to try it.
“Starting (tonight). I’ll bring in whatever reliever I feel like starting the game with, and I’ll bring my starter in in the third inning and we’ll play nine innings of baseball that way. I’m serious.”
Piniella first mentioned the idea last weekend, then dismissed it over concern for the starters’ physical preparation.
But after watching Carter turn a hard-earned 4-3 lead into a frustrating 6-4 loss, giving up a three-run homer to Frank Thomas, as the Rays lost for the eighth time in a 34-game span after taking a lead into the eighth, his frustration got the best of him and led to the radical decision.
“I don’t want to be an innovator,” Piniella said, “but we’re just going to try it.”
Several players seemed skeptical Piniella would follow through – “We’ll see if that happens,” Tuesday starter Mark Hendrickson said – and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez politely declined to discuss it.
The plan presents some problems of its own: Piniella said he would decide each day which reliever would start and “keep the other manager guessing,” which goes against baseball protocol of having an announced starter; the Rays could end up short pitchers if he uses one or two relievers early and a game goes extra innings; and starters who get rewarded financially for their number of starts, either through incentive clauses or in contract negotiations for the next season, may be troubled.