1500 ESPN SportsWire

P.J.R.: Cancel the one-inning parade and 7 relievers work

by Patrick Reusse, 1500ESPN.com Updated 18 months ago | 3129 reads

The Twins were five games into the 2014 schedule when Ron Gardenhire won his 1,000th game as a big-league manager on Saturday in Cleveland.

This came with the Twins' second victory of the season, and also with Gardenhire's second expression of concern over making too much use of the bullpen.

On Friday, the manager had expressed regret that Mike Pelfrey hit a wall in the sixth inning and wasn't able to "save the bullpen.''

I screamed into my morning newspaper reading that one: "Four games in five days and already we're saving the bullpen .... aaargh!''

On Saturday, Gardenhire talked of the burden of trying to get by with a mere seven relievers, rather than the eight that the Twins carried from late May until the September roster expansion in 2013.

"It's different when you've had that one extra guy,'' he said. "Having [Ryan] Pressly out there, he saved us I don't know how many times. So, I do notice that already. We'll see how we adjust.''

Pressly pitched in 26 games and 41 1/3 innings during the time (May 25 to Sept. 1) when the Twins went with 13 pitchers and only 12 position players.

That means Pressly gave the Twins a total of 124 outs over a 90-game period. The Twins' abysmal 2013 starting staff averaged a 5.4 innings - a fraction over 16 outs - last season.

If this year's group, more experienced and expensive, averages 5.85 innings - a fraction under 18 outs - the Twins will have made up for the absence of an eighth reliever and then some.

Getting close to that six-inning average shouldn't be a huge task once the weather warms and the veteran starters get more of a feel for their pitches. Until then, there's an adjustment that Gardenhire can make.

Yes, I realize that I'm old and cranky, and consider myself to be a smarty pants when it comes to baseball, but there's a long-standing irritant for me when it comes to the way Gardenhire runs his bullpen.

It's what I call "Gardy's One-Inning Parade.''

Problems arise when a starter pukes it up in the first three, four innings ... we all understand that. And those were the games when Gardenhire signaled for long man Anthony Swarzak and let him pitch two, three, even four innings last season.

But when a starter made it through five ... here came the parade:

Fien for an inning, Roenicke for an inning, Duensing for an inning, Thielbar for a couple of batters; or on the rare occasions the Twins were ahead, Burton for the eighth, Perkins for the ninth.

And then after a spat of these one-inning parades, Gardy would be lamenting, "I've had to use my whole bullpen three times in the past four days; we're killing our bullpen.''

You didn't have to use your whole bullpen, skipper ... it was your choice.

Bad starting pitching will kill a bullpen, agreed. And so will using four relievers to get through four innings when you can as routinely use two relievers to get through four innings.

Basically, a team has two three-game series per week. A manager can use a reliever like Fien three times for two innings an appearance, or he can use him four times for one inning an appearance.

Three times two is six innings. Four times one is four innings.

Let's categorize Sam Deduno as the current long man, Caleb Thielbar as the lefty specialist, Jared Burton as the eighth-inning guy and Glen Perkins as the closer.

That puts Brian Duensing and Swarzak in the same category as Fien: two innings three times a week, rather than one inning four times a week.

I just found the Twins' bullpen an extra six innings a week by cancelling Gardy's One-Inning Parade. That more than makes up for the absence of Ryan Pressly, a k a, reliever No. 8.




Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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