PITTSBURGH -- For John Van Benschoten -- who hasn't pitched since May 3 -- Sunday's rainout may have come at just the right time.
As a result of Monday's twin bill, the Pirates were going to need to insert a spot starter into the rotation at some point this week in order to keep the rest of the starters pitching on four days' rest. Though Monday was Phil Dumatrait's scheduled day to take the mound, Van Benschoten's extend layoff was incentive enough for manager John Russell to decide to use him instead.
"We feel like he has a better opportunity today than waiting until the turn came up in four or five days," Russell said. "He's still stretched out enough to where we feel like he can go deeper into a game."
If Russell had held Van Benschoten out until later in the week, he also would have run the risk of needing Van Benschoten at some point in the interim for a long-relief appearance. A situation like that would have then thrown a real wrench in Russell's rotation plans.
Russell also acknowledged that had Van Benschoten continued to sit in the bullpen as he has for the past 10 days, the club may have been forced to insert him back into the Triple-A rotation. Looking long term, the Pirates can't afford to have the 28-year-old right-hander not maintaining the longevity in his arm.
As a result, having an extended outing on Monday was the type of work Van Benschoten needed.
"We look at him as probably our sixth starter now," Russell said. "And you run the risk if he's not pitching enough to where, if we do need a spot starter like today, he wouldn't be stretched out enough."
With the starters being pushed back a day, Dumatrait, Paul Maholm and Ian Snell will all face St. Louis this week, before Tom Gorzelanny, Zach Duke and Dumatrait cap the road trip with starts against the Cubs.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.