Saturday, June 4, 2011

Contemplating Anthony Swarzak

Anthony Swarzak hurdles the foul line on his way to
the dugout after his seventh no-hit inning on May 28.
Anthony Swarzak has made two strong starts in place of Francisco Liriano, but with Liriano expected back for Tuesday's start, Swarzak is headed back to the bullpen.

Which is the right move. Yes, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning a week ago today, and yes, his ERA is under 3.50. And so what? It's just 21 innings — 21 innings in which he has struck out just six men.

That's hardly enough to dislodge one of the incumbent starters. It shouldn't be enough to rank him ahead of Kevin Slowey either, although Slowey's status with the organization isn't very high.

I heard Ron Coomer on the radio the other day talking about how Swarzak has better "tilt" and "angle" on his pitches than in the past. Until Swarzak starts missing bats, I'm going to regard such talk as mere buzzwords, and I'm going to remain skeptical of him as a major league pitcher. (He was pitching better at Triple A this season than he has before in the high minors, with the best control and strikeout rates he's had since he was in A ball, so there may be some true improvement in him.)

Regardless of whether Swarzak is the team's sixth starter or seventh starter, shifting him back to the bullpen does give them a legitimate long man. And the Greg McMichael Rule — if you get outs, they'll find a role for you — always applies, never more so than with this troubled bullpen.

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