Royals find strength in numbers: 4


Gubciza, Gordon, Appier and undecided do not bring back memories of Palmer, McNally, Cuellar and Dobson.

But, like the 1971 Orioles, the Kansas City Royals feature a four-man pitching rotation.

Royals manager Bob Boone has not announced today's starter, but he has decided to stick with four starting pitchers instead of five.

"If I had to factor in a fifth guy, his record would not be as good and our record would not be as good right now," Boone said. Before last night's game, the Royals were 35-33 and won the first two games of this series. So far this season they are 3-0 against the Orioles, who on paper seem to boast one of the best starting pitching staffs in baseball but have not had much success against Kansas City's four-man gang.

Boone opened the season with the four-man rotation out of necessity. He had lost ace David Cone (traded to Toronto) this PTC spring. Since then, starters Chris Haney (herniated disk in back) and Tom Browning (sore left shoulder) have gone on the disabled list. Haney was to have started today.

"We're on a four-day rotation," Boone said. "Three starters will pitch on four days and the fourth guy will be determined at time of game."

The true test, Boone conceded, will come when the off days disappear and his starters are forced to pitch on three days' rest instead of four.

"We'll see if we make it or we can't," Boone said. "It's not what I want, it's what my pitcher's arms tell me."

Boone's starters like pitching on less rest.

"I think it's a good deal," Tom Gordon, Friday night's winner, said. "It gives me an opportunity to get in the swing of things. "It's important. I've been throwing the ball decently. I like the chance that I get to throw the ball every three or four days."

The five-man rotations gained prominence with the Miracle Mets of 1969, a group of young pitchers that included Tom Seaver and Nolan River and benefited from an extra day's rest. As the five-man rotation became more popular in the 1970s, the four-man became a thing of the past.

"That's 25 years ago," Boone said of the Miracle Mets. "We went 100 years with the four man. To me, that's a lot of history. It must work."

It has so far for the Royals, who are two games above .500 and lead the Orioles in the wild-card sweepstakes.

"So far it's the biggest reason as to why we're in the race," Boone said.

Boone is from the old school. So is Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, who caught 90 games for Baltimore in 1971.

"They were up and ready to go," Hendricks said of the Orioles' four 20-game winners that season. "They didn't necessarily throw 100 pitches, either. Palmer was in the 120, 130 range for nine innings."

Hendricks said four-man rotations would improve the durability of today's starters, and more teams will follow Boone's lead.

@4 "I think," he said, "in time, it will [happen]."

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