Using Starting Pitchers In Relief Role:
Worth the Risk?
In the postseason, teams often pull out all the stops. But when managers are
faced with the decision of making a pitching change, do they overthink it?
Twice in the current postseason, we
have seen managers use starting pitchers out of the bullpen. Neither time was it
successful. Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia used Jarrod Washburn out of the
bullpen late in Game 3 against the Red Sox. Scioscia wanted a left-hander to
face the left-hand hitting David Ortiz. Washburn had already pitched in Game 1
for the Angels, starting and throwing 3+ innings, but taking the loss in a 9-3
defeat. After Anaheim came back from a 6-1 deficit to tie the game at 6,
Washburn found himself on the mound in the bottom of the 10th inning.
With a man on, Ortiz smacked a
two-run winning homer off of Washburn to give Boston an 8-6 win, sending the Red
Sox to the AL championship series. Anaheim's closer, Troy Percival, remained in
the bullpen, unused in a tight situation with Anaheim already down 2 games to
With Ortiz being as dangerous a
hitter as he is, the result could have been the same if Percival was pitching.
But relievers, specifically closers,
are wired to pitch in these situations, and succeed. There are some
The Minnesota Twins had the
formidable task of facing the New York Yankees to start their playoff run. Down
2 games to 1, the Twins were able to turn to Game 1 starter Johan Santana, and
he gave them 5 strong innings, and with the Twins scoring 3 in the bottom of the
5th, he exited with a 5-1 lead. This made typical Game 4 starter Kyle Lohse
available for relief.
Had normally reliable Juan Rincon
been more effective, the Twins may not have been in the position to bring Lohse
out of the pen. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire brought in Lohse to pitch the 10th,
with the score tied at 5. He got through the 10th, but ran into trouble in the
11th when Alex Rodriguez doubled and then stole third base. Lohse threw a wild
pitch to bring home A-Rod. You can't help but wonder if Jesse Crain or J.C.
Romero may have been more comfortable in an extra-inning situation that Lohse
wasn't accustomed to working.
It won't be the last time we see
starters working as relievers in the postseason. It's quite possible we could