PHOENIX -- Among every manager's most difficult decisions is the timing of a starting pitcher's removal. That call is even more difficult than the norm for Clint Hurdle, because he doesn't go by the barometer that is chief for most of his brethren: the triple-digit pitch count.
"We don't use 100 pitches as a yardstick," Hurdle said. "We go by the other team's contact, our pitcher's command. We look for seven innings out of our starters, so we'd like to get them to the point they can fire up 110 pitches a game.
"One thing: I'll never ask a pitcher how he feels. It's a waste of time. They're always, 'I can get one more guy.' I give weight to the catcher's input, what he's seeing from his vantage point."
Whatever the "how" behind the decision to use the hook, the "when" is most critical. It is a safe presumption that managers lose more sleep over pitching changes than anything else.
"It's tough to take the ball out of the hand of a guy who is dominating a game, dominating a season. Dealing," Hurdle said. "But a manager's job is to take pitchers out before they give up runs. It's a walk of shame to go out there to take out a guy after he's given up three, four runs. Pretty hard not to figure it out by then."
Leaving the ball in a hot hand, of course, can also have repercussions. "Collateral damage" is a phrase not often associated with baseball, but with the ongoing trend of elbow and shoulder injuries, at times Hurdle wonders whether it fits.
"I don't know," he said. "Is it risk and reward? Was there collateral damage to Chris Carpenter's 270 innings last year? All that Brian Wilson was able to accomplish the last two years ... collateral damage? No one really knows."