Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Into the bullpen

Joe Nathan's best stat this season:
17 strikeouts in 17.1 innings.

Brian Duensing left a lot of heavy lifting to the bullpen Tuesday night, and the 'pen came though.

Alex Burnett got four outs. Glen Perkins, with some help from the umpires, got two outs. Joe Nathan was impressive in the eighth, striking out two. Matt Capps wobbled though the ninth.

It totalled four shutout innings, although Perkins didn't legitimately retire any of the three men he faced. I'll forgive him, though, as he's been the best relief pitcher on the staff.

Nathan was the story there. He threw 19 pitches, 12 for strikes, and displayed better command than he had before his DL stint.

The velocity really isn't any better than it was, and I don't expect to see the old mid-90s Nathan again. If he does recover his old velocity, it certainly won't be this year.  But low 90s is sufficient if it comes with command and movement. On Tuesday, he had the command and the movement.

Tuesday's use suggests that Nathan returned to a more prominent role than I expected. I thought Burnett would remain the top right-handed set-up man, but he entered in the sixth inning, while Nathan got the eighth. I still rate Perkins ahead of Nathan in the pecking order, however:

Closer: Capps
Setup 1: Perkins
LOOGY 1: Jose Mijares
Set-up2/MR 1: Nathan
MR2: Burnett
LOOGY 2: Phil Dumatrait
Long man: Anthony Swarzak

Dumatrait has allowed six runs in his last 3.1 innings, which has taken his ERA from 2.00 to 5.84. (It's only 12.1 innings). I'm not sure why he's been ahead of Chuck James this season — he was called up before James, he was kept up when James was optioned back out, he was used in higher leverage situations when they were both on the roster — but he's got to be the bullpener on the thinnest ice right now.

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