When it comes to bullpen use in Philly, the tail wags the dog

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Twice this past week we’ve watched the Phillies lose in walkoff fashion while their best relief pitcher, Jonathan Papelbon, sat on the bench.  It’s maddening, really, but that’s what has passed for conventional bullpen usage in this day and age: you do not use your closer in a tie game on the road.

Why?  Nothing to be saved! And the closer is there to save games! Never mind that by, you know, not allowing game-ending hits, a game is likewise saved. There’s no statistic called a “save” for that situation, you see, so it doesn’t count.

That’s not an exaggeration. Charlie Manuel, asked about that policy, put it in pretty stark terms last night:

“I’m not supposed to use him … I don’t get a chance to use him. We’re not supposed to use him. We’re not going to burn him out early in the season when we can’t get to him … We never do that.  It’s just not the way it is. Papelbon is in the ninth inning for a save. When we ever have a lead, when we start the ninth inning, he’s gonna save.”

“Can’t get to him?”  “We’re not supposed to use him?”  I’ve never seen such a clear instance of the tail wagging the dog.  It’s your team, Cholly!  You can do anything you want!

I don’t mean to pick on Manuel here, because just about every manager does this.  As Matt Gelb notes in his story from last night, it has become almost unheard of for managers to deploy their closer in anything other than save situations. The teams who get great bullpen work overall get it because they have some awesome relief pitcher who, by accident of seniority and contract, is not officially the team’s closer. Ryan Madson in Philly last year. David Robertson in New York pre-Mariano injury. Jonny Venters in Atlanta.

But Philly doesn’t have that. Not anymore.  They have the most highly paid reliever in baseball history sitting on his keister while people like David Herndon, Antonio Bastardo, Brian Sanches and Michael Schwimer blow games.

Oh, wait. Those games weren’t blown. Because they weren’t lost in save situations. How silly of me.

Angels place Andrew Heaney on 10-day injured list

Andrew Heaney
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The Angels have placed Andrew Heaney on the 10-day injured list with left shoulder inflammation, the club announced Saturday. The move is retroactive to July 17, though it’s not yet certain that he’ll be cleared to pitch again by the end of the month.

It’s an unfortunate development for the 28-year-old southpaw, who has battled inflammation in his pitching elbow on and off since spring training. In fact, his arm issues date back several years, including the shoulder impingement that put him on the shelf in 2017 and the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2016. With such a complicated medical history, it makes sense that the Angels would want to proceed with caution as they facilitate the lefty’s eventual return to the mound.

Given his ongoing struggles, Heaney has seen mixed results with the club in 2019. Prior to his recent IL assignment, he pitched to a 1-3 record in nine starts with a 5.09 ERA, 3.7 BB/9, and 10.6 SO/9 through 46 innings. Since the end of June, however, his starts have gotten shorter and shorter; he lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his final outing against the Astros, expending a tremendous 103 pitches and issuing two runs, two walks, and five strikeouts during the team’s eventual 7-2 win.

In a corresponding roster move, the Angels claimed lefty reliever Adalberto Mejía off of waivers from the Twins. Mejía, 26, is expected to be activated ahead of Saturday’s game versus the Mariners. Over 13 appearances with Minnesota, he turned in an 8.80 ERA, 7.0 BB/9, and 8.8 SO/9 in 15 1/3 innings.