Dusty Baker’s bullpen mismanagement costs the Reds another win

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Dusty Baker is one of many managers across baseball who utilizes his bullpen according to the save rule, which means that the closer doesn’t enter the game until his team has a lead between one and three runs in the ninth inning. In this afternoon’s game against the Pirates, the Reds entered the bottom of the 11th tied 4-4. Reliever Alfredo Simon entered for a third inning of work as flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman sat in the bullpen.

After Pirates catcher Russell Martin reached base on a throwing error by shortstop Zack Cozart, Simon walked Pedro Alvarez to put runners on first and second with one out. In fairness to Simon, he has been good since being claimed off waivers by the Reds from the Orioles in April last year, but he is no Chapman. Chapman strikes hitters out at nearly twice the rate and in a situation where you want to limit base-advancement (made easier on balls put in play), strikeouts are king. But Simon stayed out there, only to give up a two-out, walk-off RBI single to Travis Snider.

Three of the four highest-leverage situations in the game belonged to Simon — one in the tenth and two in the eleventh. It makes logical sense to use your best reliever in the game’s most important situations, but unfortunately, Baker sees his bullpen through the unfortunate prism of saves.

After the game, Baker had this to say:

Chapman has pitched once in the last six days.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.