As much as I rip on the crazy thing Dusty Baker says, I will hopefully be just as quick to praise the really great stuff, like this (from Fay’s blog):

Fay asked if Cueto, Voltron or Homer will be sent down if they don’t make the rotation:

“Not necessarily,” Dusty Baker said. “I come from the Dodger way. With young guys, the next best thing is long relief. It’s in between starting and relieving. It’s probably the less pressure on the staff because most of the time you’re coming in when you’re behind. We did it with Dave Burba in San Francisco, and he ended up winning nine, 10 games.

A lot of young guys start out in long relief,” Baker said. “If a guy’s not going to start, that’s the next best thing.

I’ve been banging this particular drum for years (Steve P. wrote about it back in ’05). This used to be standard operating procedure for developing pitchers. Earl Weaver’s Orioles were the best pitching-development shop in baseball for a couple decades, and that’s how they did it. Fay mentions Nolan Ryan, Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, Don Gullett and Roy Oswalt.

It’s more true for some than others (Oswalt spent one month in the ‘pen; Santana spent the better part of three years), but I think it’s a brilliant idea, in general. As Fay notes, guaranteed contracts for Mike Stanton and Todd Coffey are an issue, but according to Fay, it “[s]ounds like Baker would like to go with 11 or 12 best arms.”