Good news for Tigers pen?

Given the rash of bad news with injuries, shellackings, and visa problems hitting the Tigers bullpen, today was a nice change.

  • Denny Bautista continued to pitch well. He went 2 scoreless innings with 4 K’s and is going to be hard to leave behind when the team heads North.
  • Jordan Tata, who wasn’t a strong candidate for the pen but would be counted on for depth, received news that he should be able to start throwing again in 3 weeks.
  • Yorman Bazardo and Jason Grilli also turned in strong performances today. Granted it was one day, but it’s better than a kick in the teeth.
  • Clay Rapada, another long shot arm for the pen but also a depth guy, threw a bullpen session. It was the first time on a mound since the 2nd week of camp.

The less good news had to do with Todd Jones. While no one seems worried, a lack of arm strength is pretty troubling. It sounds like he’s confident he can build up the strength, but what if he can’t?

I’ll leave you with a happy thought though. Rick Porcello looked very good, save for one breaking ball that floated over everyone’s heads. He got into the proverbial kitchen of a few guys in his 2 innings of work and nothing was hit hard against him. It’s the first time I’ve seen him on the mound save for still shots, and he doesn’t look like a guy fresh out of high school.

10 thoughts on “Good news for Tigers pen?”

  1. Those quotes from Jones don’t sound encouraging to me. I’m not too worried about the starting staff but the bullpen concerns me a lot.

  2. I agree with Lee. The Tigers, under DD, are famous for double-speak and lack of candor with these types of injuries. My suspicion is growing that there actually IS a problem with Jones (besides the obvious) and his health.

  3. I dunno. I’m in the minority here, but I’m not all that worried about the bullpen. Rodney’s health is a concern, but Miner, Seay/Byrdak, Jones and even Grilli are more than capable. If Bautista has figured it out, that’s a plus. I think they got a bit of a bad rap last year. Too many innings thrown by Mesa, Capellan and McBride made the overall effort look poor. The fat has been trimmed so I think they’ll be at least average, if not a little better than that.

  4. Man Chris, I think you are looking through some rosy glasses. The guys you listed as capable are career 4A guys, save for Jones, and he’s giving up hits at a rate slightly higher than the entire offense is getting them. And, don’t you remember Grilli in late July, August, Sept? Remember how we’d put up an over/under on the pen every game? At the over usually hit? This bullpen is in bad sorts.

    With everything DD has done to make this team a contender, I’d be shocked if he left the pen the way it is. A move needs to be made.

  5. Few things about the bullpen. First, this tigers team does not need a fantastic pen to win 94-95 games and make the playoffs. If the starters are solid and the hitters hit, we make the playoffs even with a below average pen.

    Second, as chris mentioned, at the very least we’ll have a solid – if unspectacular – core of capable guys: seay, byrdak, miner, grilli and jones. People don’t like grilli, but if you take away a meltdown or two last year, he was mostly very good. Jones is jones. Even if you fill in the back of the pen with question marks (bazardo, cruceta, bautista) that’s probably close to an average pen.

    Finally, if we assume that in a worst-case-scenario (crappy jones, miner, grilli, seay, brydak, bazardo and bautista; injured rodney and zumaya) this pen is no worse than solidly below average, the best it can be is excellent. Think happy thoughts: jones is fine, rodney is healthy and pitches like his 05-06 self, zumaya comes back effective in June, cruceta and/or bazardo light it up, everyone else approximates their 07 numbers; that’s (hypothetically) a great pen.

    Again, I think even with a crap pen, this team contends. With an average pen we’re golden and with a great pen, which it could turn out to be, well, that’d be a nice summer.

  6. Kevin: Grilli actually had a pretty decent stretch after the All Star break (3.57 ERA in July-Aug-Sep). I’m not confusing him with Papelbon or anything, but he’s at least durable and capable of getting guys out. Seay was criminally under-rated last year – 2.33 ERA, only 1 HR allowed. Byrdak had a 9.80 K/9 rate and decent ERA. Miner was very serviceable as well, getting 2.8 groundballs for every flyball and posting a 3.02 ERA. And you know what you’ll get with Jones. If someone out of the Bazardo-Cruceta-Bautista group can be effective, I think they’ll be fine.

  7. I’ll readily admit that those stats look impressive, however contrary they are to my recollection of the summer.

    My poor memory aside, let’s not lose sight that Grilli’s overall 4.74 overall was well below his career average, Seay and Byrdak had career years last year, and Jones is 40.

    I’m glad that you guys are so optimistic, hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.

    (On an aside, Chris, I’m moving back to Dallas in June, let’s grab a Dallas bar in late Sept/Oct and fill it with Tigers fans)

  8. Kevin: sounds good. I’m happy the Tigs are playing 2 series in Arlington instead of just 1 this year. As for the bullpen, we’ll Seay (haha, get it). Rodney needs to get and stay healthy, that much is for sure.

  9. I must say I’m surpised at myself, but I’m leaning toward Chris in Dallas’ point of view. The Tigers certainly won’t have the best pen in the league, but a combination of factors inherent to the 08 campaign should bode well (better than 07 anyway) for the relief corps:

    1. Healthy rotation – (relative to last year). Remember, last year’s injuries decimated the starting rotation/innings pitched. It certainly over-taxed the pen. While injuries are inevitable, there’s really no reason — at this point of the game anyway — to assume we will sustain the same degree of injuries within the starting rotation.

    2. General overall optimism coming from the Bazardo-Cruceta-Bautista camp. Bautsita looks good. Does that mean he will be lights out over time? Who knows.

    3. Run support. Three and four run leads are much easier to protect than one and two run leads. I’m optimistic that the Tigers will have a greater cushion going in the the seventh inning this year… again — this may be just be optimistic exuberance on my part — but it’s certainly not irrational exuberance.

    That said, I’m much more concerned with Jones and his ability to protect any kind of lead going into the ninth. I know it’s early, but to me, that seems to be more of an achilles heal to the pen than the LONGYs

  10. Grilli’s stats coincided directly with his role. When he was the mop-up guy, he did fine. When he was in “pressure” or game-changing situations, he was not very good at all.

    I agree don’s overall point that “we’ll be fine” simply because a bullpen is one of the easiest roles to fill and there are plenty of arms in the organization to give us some options, but that may mean that we’re going to have to endure a few failures from Jones, among others, if he just plain doesn’t have it any more as Leyland’s been known to “stick with” his guys. For circa 40 yr old guys, the “end” can happen at any time.

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