Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Delving into the bullpen depth

I intended to make today's post about something other than bullpen usage, which has been a pretty steady topic here.

But then Monday's game happened, and guess what? Bullpen usage played a pretty significant role.

And it starts with the starting pitcher. Jake Odorizzi couldn't get through the sixth. This is who he is as a pitcher. This is his sixth role in a major league rotation, and he not only has zero complete games, he's only completed seven innings 10 times. When he starts, the bullpen is going to pitch a substantial portion of the game. So the Twins had to piece together 10 outs, and ideally do so without using Trevor Hildenberger or Taylor Rogers, who were used hard during the weekend.

* Trevor May got the last out of the sixth. He was wild -- eight pitches, just three strikes. And since he threw 27 pitches on Sunday, he was just in to get the one out. Rocco Baldelli would probably have preferred skipping him too.

* Ryne Harper got the seventh inning with a five-run lead and the meat of the Astros lineup coming up. Carlos Correa hit a three-run homer. Harper's ERA rose from zero to 2.89. Harper, who got ten outs in his previous outing and had therefore been idle in the Baltimore series, threw 24 pitches to get through the seventh, so he didn't come out for the eighth.

*Adalberto Mejia got the eighth after the Twins kicked the lead back up to four. He didn't pitch in the Baltimore series either, but not because of heavy useage. I don't think Baldelli is eager to give Mejia high leverage innings, but the alternatives weren't attractive, and it was the bottom of the Houston lineup. Mejia got though the eighth unscathed, but it took him 20 pitches.

* With just three outs to go, Blake Parker, after a weekend off with a virus, got the call for the ninth. He gave up a hit but needed just 14 pitches to close it out. Not an official save, but he probably would have pitched with a 10-run lead.

I don't know that Monday really changed anything I believe about this team, or at least this bullpen.

The Twins still need more from May than he's provided. The three relievers not in Baldelli's "big four" of Hildenberger, May, Parker and Rogers are still prioritized Harper, Mejia and Tyler Duffey. I didn't expect Harper to put up zeros all season, and at least this crooked number didn't cost him the game, but it didn't encourage Baldelli to increase his role, either.

The bottom line on Monday: The hitters got enough runs for the weaker half of the bullpen to get late outs.

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