The Backbone of any quality baseball team is the bullpen. Without a bullpen that can be entrusted with either a lead or to put out fires created by the starting staff, no baseball team at any level will find any kind of success. Take a look at some of the upper tier teams around baseball in recent years. All of them, whether it be the Twins, Giants, Rays, or Red Sox, have quality bullpens and all-star caliber closers.
The Indians have been up and down when it comes to their bullpen. They’ve had years such as ’07 when they ranked near the top of Major League Baseball in ERA, wins, saves, etc. Then there are years where they can’t protect leads, can’t get players out, and in some cases can’t even get the ball to the closer.
So what do we make of the Indians bullpen in 2011? Will it be near the top of the league or down near the bottom? Will Chris Perez be the closer everyone envisioned he’d be when we acquired him from the Cardinals? Can Rafael Perez regain his form? What about the younger guys, can they make solid contributions? All are valid questions, so let’s dive deeper into the pen.
The Indians bullpen on opening day will consist of the following pitchers:
- Justin Germano
- Frank Herrmann
- Chad Durbin
- Vinnie Pestano
- Tony Sipp
- Rafael Perez
- Chris Perez
- Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn
Ok so maybe one of those is a bold faced lie…
Keep in mind that a bullpen is almost like a living breathing entity all of it’s own. Odds are that the bullpen we see on opening day won’t be the bullpen we see come September or even June. Players get hurt, they get shuffled between the pen and the rotation, and sometimes they are ineffective.
Case in point, reliever Joe Smith is currently on the disabled list so expect to see him return to the pen once he’s healthy. Jensen Lewis is also in Columbus working on his command trying to find the magic that has made him so effective for the Indians over the past few seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a return to the big league club at some point this year.
The bullpen, as is, could potentially be one of the better one’s in baseball. Rafael Perez has been an effective and at times a dominating left-handed reliever in his career. Tony Sipp, also a lefty, showed last year that he can also be a viable option and will serve as the lefty specialist. The two of them combined could form quite a formidable set up duo similar to what we saw between Perez and Betancourt back in ’07. Herrmann will likely fill the void left by Jensen Lewis as the Tribe’s lone right handed set up man for late game situations.
Vinnie Pestano is the young gun in the pen. He surprised everyone with a great spring and thanks to Lewis’ issues, Pestano was given a spot out in the pen. He lacks experience at the big league level, but who knows, he could just be too dumb to know he shouldn’t succeed. I’m not going to sit here and analyze his pitches or command etc, because I’ve never seen him pitch. I guess I’m just taking Acta and the rest of the coaching staff for their word that Pestano is the real deal.
Chad Durbin and Justin Germano will most likely fill the role of middle relief, or long relief should one of the starters get into trouble early. Both have experience at the big league level in starting roles, so pitching extended innings out of the pen shouldn’t be an issue for them. They’re arms are more than accustomed to throwing multiple innings and a lot of pitches. The question for these two is going to come down to effectiveness. There’s a reason they’ve bounced around quite a bit in their short time as big leaguers so that can be a bit concerning. Let’s just hope the pitching staff can keep their heads on straight and have them prepared for when their number is called.
Then there is the closer, Chris Perez. Last year, after taking over as the closer for the largely ineffective Kerry Wood, Perez converted 23 out of a possible 27 save opportunities. That’s not bad for his first time in the full time role as closer. If you’re a fan of closers you have to like what you see from Perez. He has everything you want. He has the attitude, the command, and the balls to be a big time major league closer. To me he seems like a combination of Joe Nathan and Jonathan Papelbon with just a smidgen of Brian Wilson for good measure. The only question will be whether or not the Indians can score enough runs and the guys in front of him can do their job more times than not so Perez can get the save opportunities. If he does get the chances, there’s no reason to think he can’t put up huge numbers or even compete for a spot on the all-star team.
So there you have it. The Cleveland Indians bullpen for 2011…as of opening day. If you’ve been paying any attention you’d see that I’ve managed to make my way through the entire opening day roster for the Indians. I guess all that’s left is to actually play the games… that’s if it’s not snowing tomorrow. Regardless, I can’t wait. Opening Day for the Indians is basically here.
Let’s play ball…