CLINTON — On paper, the LumberKings' pitching staff resembles a ball of yarn at the end of its rope: it's still rolling, but how much further can it go?
The team has dealt with a number of key losses to its best arms this season. First half star Dylan Unsworth went down prior to the All-Star Break and is currently on a rehab assignment. First half closer Grady Wood got a call-up before the second half restart. Season-long ace Tyler Pike was shut down three weeks ago with soreness in his power-packed south paw and has only just returned to the lineup. Dominican Victor Sanchez — July's dazzling no-hit wonder — missed about a month for bereavement, and 5-2 reliever Matt Vedo threw his last pitch in June.
On top of all that, Scott DeCecco, who led the team in wins and innings pitched (132.1, good for second in the Midwest League), got a call up on Monday. It forced the LumberKings to hand the ball to newcomer Steven Ewing fresh out of Short Season Everett to recoup DeCecco's start this week.
Yet here they are in the final stretch amid a 20-game marathon. Clinton has a three-game lead in the playoff hunt and won nine of the last 10. Pike and Sanchez have climbed to second and fifth, respectively, among league ERAs, and a season-long reliever, David Holman, has carved himself a slot among the starters, picking up his second straight win on Wednesday.
The tactical task of juggling innings falls on pitching coach Andrew Lorraine.
"When it's your turn, you do the job," Lorraine said. "That's the attitude I want them to have. The game is a culmination of many things. Preparation. But when they're out there, it's their time to go."