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Banister: Many benefits to 6-man rotation

Special to MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister expounded Thursday on his rationale for pursuing an unconventional six-man starting rotation this season, and chuckled when asked whether he felt any pressure to do things the way virtually every other team has done for decades.

"I don't know if I've ever been that guy," Banister said.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister expounded Thursday on his rationale for pursuing an unconventional six-man starting rotation this season, and chuckled when asked whether he felt any pressure to do things the way virtually every other team has done for decades.

"I don't know if I've ever been that guy," Banister said.

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Among the reasons the Rangers are considering expanding their rotation, Banister cited the way his club's off-days fall at the beginning of the season, the personnel the Rangers have and empirical evidence that many starters perform better on an extra day's rest.

"We think the benefits really outweigh the questions now," Banister said. "Even some of the elite pitchers in Major League Baseball, almost across the board, when you look at starters with an extra rest period, the [velocity] on the fastball goes up, the sharpness of their stuff goes up, they throw more pitches, they go deeper in games."

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In a potential six-man rotation, the No. 1 starter's turn can still come up 31 or 32 times, Banister said, with the sixth man getting 16-20 starts depending on the exact implementation of the scheme. He said it might not work for a team that had "three monsters at the top," but with the Rangers' complement of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore and several candidates to fill out the last spot or two, it could work.

Bartolo Colon, Mike Minor, Matt Bush, Jonathon Niese, Ronald Herrera and Yohander Mendez could all be in the mix to make the rotation. Banister also thinks going with an extra starter could help his bullpen, which was one of his club's most glaring weaknesses last season.

"Baseball follows trends, and one of the trends out there today is the workload of the bullpens," Banister said. "You think about the third time in the lineup for pitchers. Do you make your bullpen even sharper when you limit the usage of some of those guys?"

Banister said he has thought about ways to give starters extra rest since his time as a Minor League manager, when he saw young pitchers not far removed from college and high school who were accustomed to more time between starts.

"It's been something that's been on my mind for a long time," Banister said.

Homerless streak ends on road

The Rangers did not hit a home run in the first five spring games but broke that streak Thursday when Willie Calhoun and Mike Ohlman both went deep for a split squad in a 9-4 victory over the Athletics in Mesa.

Calhoun went 3-for-5 as the Rangers racked up 12 hits off Oakland.

Texas also got a strong performance from starting pitcher Clayton Blackburn in that victory, as the 25-year-old righty scattered three hits in three scoreless innings.

Banister rides the bus

With simultaneous games in Surprise and Mesa on Thursday, Banister and two Major League assistants traveled and the rest of the Rangers' staff stayed at their home facilities. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu handled managing duties against the Padres while Banister rode the bus for an hour to helm his squad against the A's.

Banister said he went with the traveling squad to give some of his senior staff "an opportunity to let me do the dirty work, and plus we're playing for the remote [control in the coaches' locker room]. Whoever's team wins this game today gets to own the remote."

Injury update

Assistant general manager Jayce Tingler said Trevor Plouffe (left intercostal tightness) "continues to progress" and could return to game action Friday.

Infielder Hanser Alberto (left hamstring) is still two or three days away from playing, Tingler said.

Shortstop Elvis Andrus (back stiffness) and third baseman Adrian Beltre -- who is taking it slow in spring to avoid injury -- are "starting to get the itch to get in there" and start playing within the next few days, with Beltre getting his first Cactus League action a couple of days after Andrus.

Up next

Mendez, the club's No. 6 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, will make his first start and second appearance for the Rangers this spring against the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz., at 2:05 p.m. CT on Friday in an exclusive rangers.com audio webcast. The 23-year-old tossed two scoreless innings, struck out three and allowed one hit in his first Cactus League outing.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com.

Texas Rangers