Jayson Stark: “They Don’t View Roles the Way you View Roles”
The Phillies opened the season with Hector Neris pitching in the ninth inning of most games - notice I didn't say "closer".
Keep in mind, the Phillies best bullpen arm, Seranthony Dominguez was unavailable, Tommy Hunter pitched two days in a row and Gabe Kapler went to Edubray Ramos to pitch the eighth, so who was available for the ninth?
After sending Hector Neris down to the minors on Monday afternoon, his choices were thin. Victor Arano, Adam Morgan, Jake Thompson, Yacksel Rios and newcomer Austin Davis.
On Monday night, Kapler called on Arano with the Phillies leading 4-2 in the top of the ninth.
Arano left the game with the Phillies leading 4-3.
Kapler summoned Morgan, who gave up a game-tying single. Thompson gave up a solo-shot in the 10th as the Cardinals took a 5-4 lead.
Sure, the Phillies came back to win the game, but the way Kapler is using his bullpen, the Phillies are never going to make it through the season.
"This whole bullpen chess match is really interesting on paper," said Jayson Stark, Senior baseball writer at The Athletic said on the Sports Bash. "When you actually have to deploy and there’s not set pecking order and you have to choose every matchup, it gets a little crazy at times."
Phillies radio broadcast, a former major league bullpen pitcher said this:
Sure, Kapler may not have had great options on Monday, but some of that is his own doing. His lack of trust, and lack of roles, has guys wondering when its their turn and when they are called on, its in a situation they aren't prepared for.
But like most things with Kapler...traditional roles have been thrown out the window with this bullpen.
"I don’t think they view roles the way that you view roles," Stark told me on the Sports Bash.
"If you listen to Gabe Kapler speak after games and every night now, he’s getting asked, “Alright why’d you use this guy in this spot?” What does he talk about? There’s no he’s my seventh inning guy, he’s my eighth inning guy. What he talks about is match-ups and so they script this stuff in advance about this guy matches up with this part of the lineup, that guy matches up with that part of the lineup. There’s no more he’s my seventh inning guy, he’s my eighth inning guy, he’s my “closer”. They’re playing match-up baseball. I think you can do it to an extent, but you’ve gotta make sure the relievers know that’s how they’re gonna be used. They’ve gotta watch the game in a certain way, they’ve gotta prepare their bodies in a certain way. They can’t be sitting in the dugout, they’ve gotta be in the bullpen by a certain time. There’s a lot that goes with that."
Is Dominguez the guy we would like to see pitch the most high-leverage situations? Sure.
However, pitching him for two innings every night in June, isn't going to get you to the finish line, and even if it does, it might be for just one season. Kapler needs to start showing some faith in some of his other arms, and be prepared to use Dominguez to get the most difficult three outs of the game - in the ninth.
Sure, the seventh and eighth might have some higher leverage situations, but there is something about the ninth, as Larry Anderson said, that makes it the highest of leverage situations, and they can't be handle by just any pitcher you feel like calling on, it must be your best option.
Part of me wonders if when Pat Neshek returns, if that helps settle some things in the bullpen, giving Kapler more options in the seventh, an all-star arm in the eighth inning and limiting the use of Dominguez to just the ninth inning.
"I doubt it," Stark laughed.
We shall see, Neshek has been out all season with a strained lat, and will throw tomorrow to determine the next step.