Thursday, July 7, 2011

Burnett's drawback

Alex Burnett took the loss Wednesday afternoon, and his outing fell apart in a way that is becoming almost cliche for him — a way that really limits his usefulness as a middle reliever.

Alex Burnett has five holds
and a 2-5 record after
taking the loss Wednesday.
He came in with men on base and two outs in the seventh inning and got his man (on one pitch). So far, so good.

But then he was called upon to pitch in the eighth inning, and things unraveled.

That fits a pattern he established in 2010  — he could finish an inning, even pitch a full inning, but when asked to come back out of the dugout and take the hill for the next inning, he struggled.

That was particularly bad for him in 2010, when he was shoehorned into the long man's role. The Twins last season had Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain (and, after Matt Capps arrived, Jon Rauch) as right-handed set-up men. They had no need for another short reliever, and that's the kind of role Burnett appears best suited for.

This year, Ron Gardenhire has gotten some mileage out of Burnett by trying not to have him cross innings —which is how Burnett racked up just 24 innings in his first 31 games. That's a lot of partial innings.

But on Wednesday, that wasn't really an option. Francisco Liriano didn't make it out of the fifth inning, the bullpen had pitched four innings the day before, and Gardenhire had little appetite for using Capps in a game situation after Capps' last three outings. The bullpen needed four outs from Burnett on Wednesday, and got them — but at the cost of four runs allowed.

Burnett, judging from his quote in this story, doesn't think there's an issue for him crossing innings. But he's not convincing Gardenhire (or me) that he's adept at such outings. And to become a prime set-up man  — and I think he can be a very good one in time — he needs to be able to do a bit more than finish an inning.

No comments:

Post a Comment