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Tony La Russa planning to give pitchers plenty of rest in second half of season

Rather than committing to a six-man rotation for a while, spot starts and off days can stretch the time between starts for the White Sox’ rotation.

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox
The White Sox called up Jimmy Lambert from Triple-A to make a spot start Sunday.
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Part of White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s plan for navigating the second half of the season successfully is getting his pitchers as much rest as possible.

That’s part of the reason Jimmy Lambert was called up from Triple-A to make a spot start Sunday. Rather than committing to a six-man rotation for a while, spot starts and off days can stretch the time between starts for the rotation.

“The way we figured it, by doing this today, if you think about how we started the second half with Dylan [Cease] pitching,” La Russa said. “He pitches Tuesday, so each guy will have a full week of rest, seven days. The only guy that will be a little different will be Thursday when we play Kansas City. Dallas [Keuchel] will pitch that game.”

This approach also applies to the bullpen. Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel were brought over from the Cubs to help shoulder the load of high-leverage innings. Tepera already was used in the first two games of the series against the Indians.

The trade Friday for another closer in Kimbrel was completed in part because La Russa didn’t want to over-leverage Liam Hendriks.

“We were really concerned, especially since we’ve been winning quite a few games, how much can you do with Liam and still keep him healthy and sharp,” La Russa said, “and to have Craig as the guy is a wonderful advantage.”

Kimbrel pitched the ninth inning Saturday with the Sox down a run. La Russa said before the game that whether he uses Kimbrel or Hendriks on a given night would depend on availability, so the two closers probably will work in tandem.

More time at 2B for Vaughn?

The Sox might have added a full-time second baseman in Cesar Hernandez at the trade deadline, but Andrew Vaughn was taking grounders at second before the game Sunday.

“I think he’s conquered the outfield and third base, so just to keep his interest up,” La Russa said. “The day he worked out at second base in Kansas City, he really looks very natural there. I just think he’s a good athlete. He’s got such a strong mind that it doesn’t hurt to keep building experiences all over the field.”

La Russa has stressed the importance of getting his pitchers extra rest during the final two months of the regular season, so added defensive flexibility would help provide more time off for his position players, as well.

Hamilton hits IL

Outfielder Billy Hamilton was put on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain, an injury Hamilton has dealt with at other times this season.

“He’s so active that once in a while he tweaks it,” La Russa said. “We don’t think it’s anything that’s going to keep him out very long.”

Jimenez, Robert updates

There’s still no timetable for when Eloy Jimenez might return. La Russa said Saturday that it was “fingers crossed” for Jimenez to come back for the series opener against the Royals on Tuesday.

Reports from Triple-A Charlotte on Luis Robert have been positive, but La Russa said the team wants him to get more at-bats. Robert is not expected to be available for the Royals series.