ANAHEIM -- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has worked with five-man starting rotations for the better part of his 24 years in the organization.
Cooper has dealt with a four-man setup on a few occasions, usually with the season on the line. But starting Wednesday, Cooper will make his first foray into the six-man alignment for the foreseeable future.
Jake Peavy makes his official and highly anticipated return from experimental shoulder surgery to pitch the series finale at Angel Stadium. After Peavy, who had a procedure on July 14, 2010, to reattach the tendon that anchors the latissimus dorsi muscle to the rear of the shoulder, Phil Humber gets the call in the series opener Friday in Oakland, followed by Gavin Floyd on Saturday.
The starters' layout isn't completely known after Floyd. Whatever the makeup, though, it will be a new experience for Cooper but what he perceives as a positive one.
"Listen, our goal is to get back going again, No. 1, and I think a key to this whole thing, and it has been ever year, is pitching," Cooper said. "We've got to keep our guys fresh and strong from now until the end of the year to give ourselves the best chance of getting back in this thing."
This new six-man look actually could change before it gets started. Floyd still is experiencing soreness in his right foot after taking a direct hit from an Ichiro Suzuki grounder in Saturday's victory in Seattle, but Cooper believes the extra two days in between starts will help Floyd.
A number of options exist following Floyd.
With Edwin Jackson starting Monday and John Danks pitching Tuesday, they both would be available on regular rest to work against the A's. Of course, Mark Buehrle would be next in line and would have six days in between starts by the time Sunday comes around.
Buehrle also has a 4-13 career mark against Oakland and a 12-5 mark against the Rangers, whom the White Sox face at home after the A's. They are cognizant of keeping Buehrle fresh for the second half, not to mention his 84-52 career mark at U.S. Cellular Field, so they could hold him until Monday.
Flexibility is built in for the rotation due to Thursday's off-day in between the Angels and A's series and the addition of Peavy to the rotation. The White Sox don't have another off-day until June 2, so the six-man would then move into full force.
"What can change that?" Cooper said. "God forbid an injury, but everyone is throwing the ball well. We want to give them enough rest without being too much."
"If we do that, we do it for them," said manager Ozzie Guillen of the six-man rotation. "Buehrle last year, last few years, at the end of the season, he went down. Gavin last year was his hips were bothering him. We just try to protect them and make sure they go there every day, all the way to the end."
Guillen and the White Sox can talk all they want about the six-man format being used to protect the starters, and clearly that idea stands at the forefront of this switch. But the bottom line is Humber made it impossible for the White Sox to stick with five starters.
Humber was the logical hurler to return to the bullpen when Peavy returned, but Humber also has been the team's most consistent starter in 2011.
"It's not fair for us, for him, to say, 'OK, you are pitching good, thank you for coming and good bye,'" Guillen said. "I'm not that type of person.
"I'm not that type of manager. This kid earn it. He throw the ball well. We aren't going to cut loose if someone is doing well."
This plan stands as a work in progress, and general manager Ken Williams certainly will have a huge say in how the starters are used. But the biggest news coming from Monday is that Peavy is returning and Humber is staying.
"I'd love to see him pitch because that's the only reward he's going to get," said Guillen of Peavy. "Since last year, he's been checking doctors and rehab and the bullpens and Minor League games.
"He went through everything. I bet you he can't wait to pitch and stay here and help us every five to seven days."