Even in their worst of times in the 70’s and 80’s, we never saw this kind of fluctuation on the Indians roster when it came to the bullpen. Sure, we have seen bad bullpens in our day, I mean who can forget the infamous 1988 “Bullpen From Hell” featuring the likes of Don Gordon, Brad Havens, Jeff Dedmon, Chris Codiroli, and Dan Schatzeder pitching in front of closer Doug Jones “PTL.” (he used to sign all autographs with “PTL” at the end, as in “praise the Lord.”
What about the 2004 group that ruined that season by May 15th? You remember the infamous eighth inning duo of Jose Jimenez and Scott Stewart, don’t you? Those two literally came to the mound with gas cans in tow. You know things are bad when Rick White makes 59 appearances and David Riske makes 72.
But in reality, the ’09 group may not only be the worst of them all, but clearly has all other beat in regards to turnover and failed expectations. On opening day, new closer Kerry Wood looked like the final piece to the bullpen puzzle at the back end – a strikeout machine who could bail himself out of any trouble with his 98 mph fastball.
Things were supposed to set up this way: Rafael Perez, hailed by many as the best left-handed reliever in the game) and Jensen Lewis, coming off a stellar August and September, would man the eighth inning. Rafael Betancourt would be there for the seventh to help. Newly acquired side-winder Joe Smith was brought in as a righty specialist to give hitters “a different look.” Masa Kobayashi would pitch in mop up/middle relief, with Zach Jackson hanging on as the long man.
So much for the best laid plans. Perez has completely lost his way and sports and ERA over nine. He has been sent back and forth to Columbus for fine tuning that really hasn’t worked out. Lewis (5.08 ERA) has been nearly as bad as Perez and somehow managed to stick around in various roles up until being shipped down I-71 last week. It was long overdue. Betancourt (3.71 ERA) was having a decent enough season before ripping his groin and heading to the DL a month ago.
Smith (4.18 ERA in 18 games) hasn’t been healthy or consistent. In fact, he hasn’t shown us anything to speak of. Masa (8.38 ERA) is still Masa – he only made the opening day roster because of his guaranteed contract. He was so awful that he was sent down and hasn’t sniffed a recall, despite the bullpen struggles up here. The Zach Attack (9.35 ERA) has been back and forth on the I-71 shuttle and at one point was moved into the rotation, where he flamed out after just one shot.
In between, we’ve seen it all.
Manager Eric Wedge has tried numerous options for the eighth inning. We’ve seen epic meltdows from the likes of the now departed Luis Vizcaino (5.40 ERA) and Greg Aquino (4.50 ERA). Old man Matt Herges (3.55 ERA) was good for about a month, but them remembered he was Matt Herges. Tony Sipp (3.09 ERA) has tried his best, but his arm isn’t fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Aaron Laffey (3.93 ERA) was pulled from the rotation out of necessity and actually was doing an excellent job of fortifying the bridge to Wood, until he was shelved for a month with an oblique injury. He is now headed back to being what he should be, a starter.
Then there were the middle men. Such stalwarts as Tomo Ohka, Rich Rundles, Vinnie Chulk, and Mike Gosling. It was just plain ugly.
Today, on July 3rd, the Indians bullpen has a complete makeover. 32-year old Winston Abreu has been brought in from Tampa Bay for failed AAA reliever Jon Meloan. He is expected to be added to the roster before tonight’s game. He joins the newly acquired Chris Perez and Jose Veras as the freshest faces through the revolving door. Herges, Sipp, Smith, and Raffy Perez are still getting regular work, while Gosling is nothing more than a journeyman who will most likely be gone sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the $10 million spent on Kerry Wood looks foolish considering he never gets save opportunities. His last three have been disastrous – the two blown saves in Chicago and the near monumental choke job in Pittsburgh.
You want to know why the Indians have the worst record in the American League? All you have to do is read what I just wrote above. I’ve been critical of Eric Wedge over the past couple of weeks, but he isn’t the one who assembled this group of misfits. That, my friends, is on GM Mark Shapiro.
thanks to thetribedaily.com for the excellent photo