CHICAGO -- In an effort to give his starters some extra rest during a long stretch of games without a scheduled day off, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon says he'll utilize a six-man rotation heading into the All-Star break, and perhaps after it, as well.
Reliever Adam Warren was sent to Triple-A Iowa to be stretched out, then will be called back up to make at least one start.
"We thought it was the most optimal moment to attempt to do something like this," Maddon said Tuesday. "He's definitely going to start pre-break, I don't know what's going to happen post-break."
The move gives Warren a chance to work on some issues; he has struggled the past six weeks, seeing his ERA rise to 4.56 after a stellar 2015 season with the New York Yankees. The organization has some changes it would like him to make over a couple of minor league starts before he returns.
"I like when you send the guy out like that with a specific plan," Maddon said. "We gave them to him."
Maddon denied that the first-place Cubs' big lead in the standings -- they entered Tuesday night 11.5 games ahead in the National League Central -- gives them the luxury to use a six-man rotation. He instead cited the schedule, as the Cubs are in the midst of playing games on 24 consecutive days.
"This is when it gets a little bit sticky at this time of the year," Maddon said. "You want to make sure they're healthy and well ... I love it. I've been part of this before, primarily after the break."
The move will give extra rest to workhorses such as Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Arrieta admittedly tired in the 2015 postseason, and the Cubs have been mindful to scale back on his innings this season. Off days provided extra rest, but with few in the near future, the Cubs chose adding another starter to the mix.
Also Tuesday, the Cubs placed struggling left-hander Clayton Richard on the 15-day disabled list with a blister/fingernail issue.
"His finger is pretty nasty looking," Maddon said.
Richard has a 7.30 ERA in 22 appearances and has become a lightning rod for criticism by fans due to his struggles. Right-hander Spencer Patton and lefty Gerardo Concepcion were called up from Triple-A.
Patton was signed this offseason after playing for the Texas Rangers the past couple of years. Concepcion originally signed a five-year deal with the Cubs prior to the 2012 season after earning Cuban National Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2011. He was removed from the 40-man roster following the 2012 campaign but has gradually progressed through the Cubs' system, reaching Double-A for the first time in 2015.
Concepcion posted a 2.60 ERA in 12 relief appearances for Iowa this season after an early promotion from Double-A.
"He's very effective against left-handed hitters," Maddon said.
The Cubs' bullpen could be in a transition mode as middle relievers have struggled lately, so Patton and Concepcion, along with newcomer Carl Edwards Jr., will be given a chance to prove they belong, according to Maddon.
As for the struggling pitchers, the manager was quick to point out that players have been very accepting of whatever roster changes need to be made. Warren and Richard were no exception.
"These guys are so into the Cubs winning," Maddon said. "The maturity of the conversation is outstanding."