Aug 3, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen (37) throws during the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Who Should Start the 2014 Season in the Bullpen?

Wahoo’s on First Discusses the 2014 Bullpen

For this week’s edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we’re talking bullpens. With all indications pointing towards an eight man bullpen full of new faces, I decided to place the decision  of who stays and who goes in the hands of the staff. I wanted to see who they felt would make for the best possible bullpen. This is what they had to say.

Ed CarrollBLAKE WOOD BLAKE WOOD EVERYBODY BLAKE WOOD! Also, the best bullpen is filled with starting pitchers.

Nick Houghtaling: I think the bullpen should be an ever changing entity depending on the quality of play from the arms and the situations in which they are required to pitch. Let’s face it, relief pitchers are fickle. It’s tough to expect consistency from any of them. So instead of going with a rigid set-up, why not try guys out at different spots and see what sticks?

Steve Kinsella: The Indians bullpen will consist of John Axford, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, Josh Outman, Marc Rzepcyznski taking 4 spots. David Aardsma, Vinnie Pestano, Blake Wood, C.C. Lee, Nick Hagadone, Scott Atchinson all will compete for the remaining three or four spots. I’m not sold that the team will leave spring training with eight pitchers but believe that Francona likes the idea at different points in the season.


Sep 4, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Bryan Shaw (27) delivers in the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If I were to predict the pitching staff leaving Arizona I’d guess that Aardsma, Pestano, and Wood are the three relievers that push the pen out to 7 guys – and eight may be a possibility later as needed.

Jeff Mount: I think Axford is set as the closer, and Shaw and Allen will handle the high-leverage set-up situations.   Mark Scrabble and Josh Outman will be the situational lefties.  Personally, I think he will go with seven in the pen because there are too many good bench options, and he will need some flexibility until he figures out how to use Santana; Aviles, Raburn, and Francouer seem likely to make it, so the only way he can go with eight in the pen is if Giambi doesn’t stick, which seems unlikely.  I think Pestano will make it unless he totally sucks in spring training.  With two such young guys handling the eighth inning, Tito will want to know that Vinnie is ready if they can’t handle it.  The last spot will go the whichever of Carrasco and Tomlin doesn’t get the last rotation spot.

Katrina Putnam: In my opinion, the best pitcher in the Indians’ bullpen is Cody Allen. Last year, it seemed like he pitched just about every day, and he was especially good in high-leverage situations. I’m glad to see that they have no intention of making him the closer, which seemed to be a possibility at the end of last season, before the team signed Axford. Allen and Bryan Shaw are both much better utilized as relievers who can come in and clean up everyone else’s messes to protect a close lead, rather than guys who start each outing with a clean slate. In addition to the three of them, Rzepczynski is a lock for the bullpen, which leaves four spots. This early in spring training, it’s hard to pick out who is most likely to succeed, but Blake Wood seems like a solid choice. If Pestano looks similar to his 2012 self, he could also earn a place on the roster. A second left-hander would be helpful, and Josh Outman will likely beat out Nick Hagadone for that job. The last spot should go to a long reliever. It’s become kind of an unpopular concept, but it’s not like the Indians are throwing David Huff out there — both Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin are capable pitchers who just happen to have the ability to go multiple innings if the need arises. Whoever loses the battle for the fifth rotation spot should end up in the bullpen instead.

Brian Heise: If it was up to me, I’d roll with just seven pitchers to start the season. I feel like there are too many decent options availabel that could help the Indians build one of the best benches in all of baseball. With that said, my bullpen would be the following seven pitchers: John Axford, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Vinnie Pestano, Marc Rzepcyznski, Josh Outman, and Blake Wood. Axford would be my closer with Allen, Shaw and Pestano battling it out to be the seventh and eighth inning set up men. Outman and Scrabble are obviously the lefty specialists, thus leaving the Wood to fill in other situations on an as needed basis. With those seven guys, I would feel confident heading into the season. If they falter, they have a number of other options in Columbus ready to fill in.

Michael Chaney: It’s too early to make an educated prediction, but I have a feeling that Shaun Marcum will win the fifth spot in the rotation. That leaves guys like Aaron Harang (who could win the job himself), Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, and Carlos Carrasco on the outside looking in. Carrasco has a terrific arm, but has yet to completely show sustained success in a big league rotation, though he has pitched well in short spurts out of the bullpen. Throw in the fact that he’s out of minor league options, and Carrasco would get a slot in my bullpen.

I also feel as though Marc Rzepczynski and Josh Outman will both make the bullpen as well. Both have shown major league success, albeit with fairly noticeable platoon splits. But that’s okay, as long as they’re used well. I have faith in either one to get out a same-sided hitter.

With five spots left, there are a number of options to be considered. Harang could get a spot if he doesn’t crack the rotation, but I would rather see Trevor Bauer pitch out of the rotation — whether that’s in Cleveland or Columbus. Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Vinnie Pestano, and John Axford are all virtual locks for the bullpen (barring injury), meaning that only one spot is left. With that being said, there are four candidates I would have for the last spot: Blake Wood, David Aardsma, C.C. Lee, and Tomlin. Any one of the four of them would deserve the spot, but I would probably give it to Lee if it were my choice. Tomlin still might have a future in the rotation (though the bullpen is fine temporarily), and Wood is coming off of Tommy John surgery, so I’d like to see him pitch a little more in Columbus before summoning him to the big leagues. Aardsma is a slight uncertainty for now, but don’t doubt him. BUT DON’T FORGET ABOUT TRAVIS BANWART. HE COULD BE A STUD.

Times like this (and any times in general) mean that it’s a good thing the Indians have assembled quality bullpen depth.

Tags: Bryan Shaw Bullpen Cleveland Indians Cody Allen John Axford Vinnie Pestano

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