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My Bullpen Solution

At least for one game, the acquistion of Justin Dowdy didn’t fix the Wingnuts’ bullpen woes. He allowed a run in the ninth after Joe D’Alessandro surrendered two in the eighth in last night’s 5-4 loss to Sioux City. Now isn’t the time to panic, at least over Dowdy, who was reliable during his stint in Shreveport-Bossier this season. But the bullpen needs pitchers with clearly defined roles as the team heads to the playoffs. If I were manager (which, of course, I’m not), this is how I’d use the Winguts relievers:

Closer: Justin DowdyHe’s a left-hander, and in last night’s game he was hurt by right-handed hitters in allowing a ninth-inning run. An argument could be made to play matchups, since Dowdy is the only lefty in the bullpen, and not always use him in the ninth. He could be a more situational late-inning pitcher, I suppose. But in the interest of giving each pitcher a defined role, he keeps his ninth-inning job.

Setup: Doug HurnThough batters are hitting .270 against Hurn, he leads the relievers with 37 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings and has allowed just three home runs. So the likelihood of a big inning against him are fairly slim. Hurn was next in line to get a shot at being the full-time closer before the team acquired Dowdy, so moving him back an inning makes sense. The only potential drawback is the eighth-inning role removes the possibility of him being able to pitch more than one inning, and he’s been effective in the past as a long reliever.

Seventh inning: Justin YoungI debated slotting Young in as the eighth-inning guy, but the seventh is just as important. Usually the middle of the opposition’s order doesn’t come up in the ninth, so Young would be relied upon to get some big outs against dangerous hitters in the seventh. That fits his style and personality, because he likes to challenge hitters with fastballs. After struggling with control early in the season, Young has reduced his walk rate significantly, and he has allowed two homers in 40 2/3 innings.

Sixth inning/middle relief: Diego SotoSoto has made just five appearances since signing with the Wingnuts last month. As a rookie, he might not have reached the level of trust from Hooper and pitching coach Luke Robertston that the veteran pitchers have. Still, the numbers, while accumulated in a small sample size (seven innings) don’t lie. Soto has eight strikeouts in seven innings, a 2.57 ERA, and a .174 opponents’ batting average. The only thing not to like is the four walks.

Undetermined: Joe D’AlessandroThe former closer has been electric in some outings, shaky in others, and just plain bad in still others. That’s not unusual for a reliever, but after blowing another lead last night, it’s difficult to see where he fits in with the pitching staff. You probably don’t want him to come in with runners on base because, even though his mid-90s heat creates a lot of strikeouts, he’s just as liable to walk a hitter and make a situation even more dangerous. Confidence might be an issue, so give him outings in which the team is comfortably ahead or trailing by a lot and let him regain that confidence so you might be able to use him in more high-leverage situations later. Right now, it’s difficult to trust him.