GARY | By this time last season, RailCats manager Greg Tagert knew his opening day pitcher and had a rotation nearly set.
When his team played its third exhibition game of the season Thursday against Schaumburg, Tagert had an idea in his head, but shakeups to his roster before next week's cut date helped rewrite the outline.
The RailCats lost rookie reliever Scott Hartling to a labrum tear and rookie pitcher Ray Angelucci was lured away by Evanston, against which he pitched Tuesday. Infielder Cory Urquhart, a rookie from Cumberland University, was also traded to Evanston.
Edwin Walker, a former reliever who is testing out a move to the rotation, took a start on the mound against the Boomers on Thursday.
"The sampling is so small in spring training," Tagert said. "Willie Glen used to get three starts in spring training in the Northern League and I thought then that 16 days was too short. Now we have 12 days, and a starting pitcher, like Stephen (Hiscock) got on the mound in Evansville on (May) 6 and he'll get on the mound one more time and that's it. Morgan (Coombs) will pitch (tonight) and that'll be his last outing in spring training. We think we've accomplished with the position players getting their innings in, but still only 12 days."
The RailCats, sticking to the four-man rotation, have also altered how they use their pitchers in spring training. Instead of counting pitches, they'll be counting more innings, making sure that pitchers can hold pace after a break.
"We're trying to accelerate these pitchers a little in spring training," Tagert said. "We've felt, the biggest change for us from a philosophical standpoint is that we've kept those pitchers on a schedule going back to our Northern League days, but we've found that the pitch count was so tight in the four-man rotation that our bullpen was used so much the last couple years in the first four weeks of the season, that we're asking a little more of the starting pitchers. Stephen threw 60 pitches in his first start the other day and we'd like him in that 75 to 80 mark by his second exhibition start."
The RailCats play one more home exhibition game, hoping to avoid any rain over the next few days.
"We lose a day in spring training, we're never getting it back," the manager said. "If we lose a day in the regular season, we can make up the game. If we lose a day in spring training, we have no time to make it up."