Whitecaps save pitchers to be ‘Tigers’ future’

West Michigan Whitecaps starting pitcher Austin Kubitza. (July 22, 2014)

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WOOD) — The West Michigan Whitecaps have had the most dominant starting pitching staff in the Midwest League this season. But since the All-Star break, the number of innings pitched by the starters has decreased dramatically — and that’s part of a strategy.

“It makes sense,” starting pitcher Austin Kubitza said. “They’re trying to make sure we have a future in baseball, and not just a year.”

With a stable of power pitchers, the Detroit Tigers are trying to walk the fine line between developing their starters and saving their arms for the majors.

“We got to protect them,” Whitecaps pitching coach and former Tiger Mike Henneman said. “That’s the Tigers’ future, these kids.”

“We have a certain amount of innings per season. We stretched a couple of these guys out earlier to win some games and clinch, and now that we’re in the playoffs, we’re backing them off so we have innings further down the track,” Whitecaps manager Andrew Graham said.

Now, each pitcher has been limited to five or six innings per start, even on their most effective nights.

It can sometimes be frustrating for a young pitcher to be pulled after cruising through five innings on a low count.

But each understands it could extend their careers.

“(Henneman) always tells us you’ve got a certain amount of bullets, no reason to waste them now. So it makes sense to all of us,” Kubitza said.

“Later down the road, it’s going to help us out, not overdoing it,” pitcher Buck Farmer said. “Especially with the majority of guys on this staff, it being our first full year of professional baseball.”

With 30 games in 31 days during August and a possible two- or three-week playoff run to follow, the inning limit will hopefully leave the pitchers well-rested as the season stretches on.

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