In his 12-year major league career, 34-year-old reliever Bryan Shaw has appeared in 732 games, pitched 690 innings, finished 147 games, and faced 2,945 batters.
However, the one thing Bryan Shaw has never done is start a game.
That streak will come to an end tonight in Fenway Park when, for the first time in his major league career, Shaw will be a starting pitcher. He’s scheduled to be the Cleveland Guardians’ starter against the Boston Red Sox.
Nothing better illustrates how, in the 2022 season, mother nature has beaten the Guardians over the head with bad luck than, for the first time in the history of professional relief pitcher Bryan Shaw’s career, he will actually start a game.
Because the Guardians have run out of starting pitchers.
Because the luckless Guardians have played nine doubleheaders this season, including one stretch from June 28 to July 23 when Cleveland played five doubleheaders in 26 days. In another stretch, from June 28 to July 4, the Guardians played three doubleheaders in seven days.
The good news is the Guardians only have two more scheduled doubleheaders the rest of the season. The bad news is there will probably be some future games postponed by rain that will necessitate even more doubleheaders the rest of the way.
The Guardians have played so many doubleheaders that their designated doubleheader emergency starter, minor leaguer Konnor Pilkington, is not able to start tonight’s game.
Because Pilkington is still recovering from his last emergency start. That came just four days ago, when he was called up from Triple-A Columbus to start the second game of a doubleheader in Chicago. In 12 appearances for the Guardians this season, most of them doubleheader-related, emergency starts, Pilkington has a record of 1-2 with a 4.17 ERA.
So far in this soggy, rain-soaked Cleveland season, the Guardians have used eight starting pitchers. That doesn’t count infielder Ernie Clement, and catcher Sandy Leon, who pitched a combined four innings in a combined three appearances, which were either blowouts, or doubleheader related.
Through it all, Guardians manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Carl Willis have adroitly tried to hold their patchwork rotation together. One of the team’s five starters, Aaron Civale, has started just 12 games, none since July 13, due to injury, and in only four of those 12 starts has Civale pitched more than five innings.
This year’s run of injuries, postponments, and subsequent doubleheader epidemics has been a challenge, but it could be worse. The Guardians know this because last year it WAS worse. Last year Francona and Willis lost 60% of their rotation when Civale, Shane Bieber, and Zach Plesac all spent time on the injured list concurrently with an assortment of ailments.
It got so bad last year that for a portion of the season the Guardians were unable to name their next-day’s starter until after that day’s game was over, so Francona and Willis could assess who had pitched in that game, and who was healthy and available for the next one.
This year it has been more about rain than pain. Postponments due to rain, which lead to doubleheaders can be a nightmare for managers, and a challenge for general managers, since it can tax the organization’s minor league system.
In 2020, Cleveland’s pitching staff was healthy, productive, and relatively doubleheader-free. The result: Bieber won the Cy Young Award, and the Guardians’ led the American League with a team ERA of 3.29.
In 2021, the Guardians’ injury-riddled rotation resulted in a considerable decline in performance and Cleveland ranked 10th in the league with an ERA of 4.34.
In 2022, with Francona and Willis desperately trying to hold the rotation together through all the doubleheaders, the results have been respectable. Cleveland’s 3.89 ERA is tied for fifth in the American League.
How successful the rotation performs in the remainder of the season will help determine whether or not the Guardians can return to the postseason for the second time in four years,or whether Bryan Shaw might have to make his second career start.
Less rain and fewer doubleheaders would help. All of which recalls the words of former Cleveland general manager Gabe Paul, who during a rain delay many years ago was asked if he thought the rain would stop.
Said Paul: “It always has.”