Bullpen roles in flux
As I wrote on Tuesday during the off day, the bridge from starting pitcher to closer was rickety in the eighth inning when Kevin Gregg debuted with a rough outing that included the game-tying two-run homer by Andrew McCutchen.
On Wednesday, manager Bryan Price was asked if Gregg would be his guy again in the eighth going forward.
“He may be. He may not be,” Price replied. “It just depends on who I have healthy and who is down there. He’s a guy who is experienced as a closer, a setup man and a starter. He’s a guy who has been a lot tighter situations than that over the course of his career. As I’ve told you, the bullpen will be ever evolving. These guys will cut out their roles based on how they perform.”
The bullpen is a high scrutiny area after last season’s struggles and second-highest ERA in the NL (4.11). Price didn’t have a backup option warming up to start the eighth on Monday.
“Once the eighth inning becomes a situational inning, it becomes a challenge,” Price said. “We went into that game anticipating him pitching the eighth inning. It didn’t go as well as we had anticipated. The eighth inning isn’t really a matchup inning. We really had hoped that it would be a clean inning and it wasn’t, so I had to make some adjustments there.”
When asked about Jumbo Diaz and Tony Cingrani, Price noted both could be in the late-inning mix.
“Yeah, came in and got the strikeout, and that was big. He’s another guy that doesn’t have the major league experience that Kevin has. He certainly has the power arm and I think he may be a guy that’s comfortable in some of those late inning situations.”
On what Cingrani can do:
“Any number of things. He’s stretched out and has a history as a starter, so he could throw some middle length innings and he could come in and be a left-handed guy out of the bullpen later in the game. He’s a guy who hasn’t historically gotten hit a lot. Last year we didn’t get anything out of it, because it was a tough year for Tony, he never had the same stuff he had in Opening Day. He spent a good portion of the year on the DL, and I don’t want to say it was a wasted year, but it was a year without a great deal of growth and I think pitching out of the bullpen plays to his natural aggressiveness. Again, if he throws well, he could find himself in a lot of those late-game opportunities.”