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WSI News - News Watch

Ritchie bullpen bound?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Todd Ritchie makes his first start in 11 days Saturday and it could be the outing that determines whether he remains in the White Sox's rotation the rest of the season.

Ritchie, who leads the majors with 14 losses, last pitched July 22, when he gave up five runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings in a loss to Minnesota.

He was scratched from his last start with inflammation in his right shoulder and might not be allowed to pitch past the fifth inning Saturday against Tampa Bay.

Manager Jerry Manuel said Ritchie would be on a pitch count as the Sox take a conservative approach to his return. If Ritchie struggles again, the Sox might put him on the disabled list or move him to the bullpen.

"If we have to make some adjustments for him, to maybe have some success out of the pen, we might do that," Manuel said.

"This thing he had with the shoulder, it hindered him somewhat. I wouldn't say the whole year. I wouldn't use that as an excuse for him. But I do think you'll probably see a little better stuff from him [Saturday] than you've seen in his last two or three starts."

The last thing general manager Ken Williams wants is a "Ritchie watch" in the final two months with a countdown to a possible 20-loss season, a dubious feat that hasn't been accomplished since Oakland's Brian Kingman went 8-20 in 1980.

Ritchie was brought in as the No. 2 starter, and the trade with Pittsburgh has been Williams' worst personnel move to date.

While he has been a target of frustrated Sox fans, Ritchie has said he wants to stay in the rotation. Ritchie doesn't want to be assigned to the bullpen just to avoid the possibility of losing 20 games. Manuel may sympathize with Ritchie, but he won't take his feelings into consideration.

"This is the major leagues, and we have to do what we can to get him right," Manuel said. "Everybody wants to start."

If Ritchie goes to the bullpen, the Sox may stick Rocky Biddle in the rotation or dip to the minors for a fifth starter. Jim Parque, who was buried down at Triple-A Charlotte after giving up three of Mike Cameron's record-tying four home runs May 2 at Comiskey Park, appears to be back in Williams' good graces and may return soon.

For complete story, click here.

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