Supervising a bullpen must often feel like being the president of a fraternity. Sometimes everyone pays their dues and agrees to pool money to buyÃ‚Â toilet paper and disinfectant wipes. Sometimes an inebriated pledge falls through a glass table and the house cook uses expired tomato sauce while making spaghetti.
Reds manager Bryan Price cooked bad spaghetti on Opening Day by going to Kevin Gregg in the eighth inning with the Reds clinging to a 2-0 lead. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve thought about that decision — and written about its inherent misguidedness — since Monday, and the only plausible explanation I can think of for using Gregg in that scenario is that someone triple-dog dared Price that he wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t use a 36-year-old with a career FIP of 4.16 to pitch the first meaningful bullpen innings of 2015.
Price was bailed out by Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman on Monday, but the second-year skipper came back strong Wednesday during the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ marathon 5-4 win over Pirates.
With Mike Leake struggling with his control, Tony Cingrani was asked to play fireman during his debut as a bullpen-only asset with the club. With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning, Cingrani struck out Pirates phenom Gregory Polanco with a diving four-seam fastball.
Burke Badenhop made first appearance as a Red in relief of Cingrani with Andrew McCutchen on second base and two outs in the seventh. Pinch hitter Corey Hart struck the first pitch Badenhop threw up the middle for a single, pushing Pittsburgh ahead 4-3. (Before cursingÃ‚Â Badenhop, remember that Cingrani gave up a leadoff walk to McCutchen, and eventually balked Cutch to second base.)
Jumbo Diaz started slow in the eighth, falling behind Jordy Mercer 3-0, but recovered for clean inning.
Chapman entered in the ninth to face the heart of the PiratesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ order. After a leadoff single, Chapman induced two groundouts, then struck out Starling Marte on an 88 mph slider, an 88 mph changeup and a 100 mph thermonuclear fastball. (Life ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fair sometimes, even for pro ball players.)
J.J. Hoover finished out the game with two scoreless innings, a welcome sight for a guy who suffered mightily in 2014.
So, by 1:46 a.m. Thursday morning, the bullpen sins of Opening Day had been exorcised by Price pressing all the right buttons during WednesdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game.
The exorcism continued through ThursdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 3-2 Reds victory. In relief of Anthony DeSclafani, Badenhop issued a leadoffÃ‚Â walkÃ‚Â to Tony Sanchez, the PiratesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ No. 8 hitter, to begin the seventh, but recovered to post a scoreless frame. Diaz pitched the eighth for the second straight game and struck out the side. Chapman did Chapman things in the ninth while striking out a pair.
It’s not just that the relievers Price has tabbed since Monday have done their job (for the most part), itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s that the relieversÃ‚Â were seemingly comfortable and confident when they entered the game. Part of that credit goes to Price.
I (and many others)Ã‚Â made a big deal out of Price going to Gregg on Monday, soÃ‚Â IÃ‚Â should make a big deal about his seamless handling of the ‘pen since, and not just because everyone did their job — it’s that Price’s bullpen maneuveringÃ‚Â made proper baseball sense.
So, after a rough beginning, the bullpen is humming. Keep an eye out for who Price turns to tonight because Diaz and Chapman have pitched in each of the clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first three games, andÃ‚Â Badenhop has thrownÃ‚Â in the last two.