Blue Jays botch their high-leverage bullpen management
With runners on the corners and one out in the bottom of the eighth, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons turned to Arnold Leon in the wrong spot.
Few things plague bullpen management like a team marrying their highest-leverage relief pitchers to the latest possible point in a ball game.
This was the case on Wednesday afternoon in Tampa Bay as John Gibbons turned to his bullpen’s eighth arm to record the game’s two most important outs up to that point. Instead, the first batter Arnold Leon faced took him deep to centre-field and Toronto’s lead disappeared.
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Toronto was facing a difficult bullpen game from the outset in this one. Both Brett Cecil and Jesse Chavez were reported to be on a rest day after pitching Tuesday, and we later learned that the same applied to Drew Storen after he pitched Monday but warmed and was ready during yesterday’s game.
Count out Gavin Floyd, who was being replaced, and Joe Biagini, who warmed earlier in the game but was sat down, and manager John Gibbons was left with three options. Arnold Leon, Franklin Morales, and Roberto Osuna.
In the highest-leverage point of that game Osuna was the answer, regardless of the situation existing outside of the ninth inning. This would have left Morales and Leon to handle the ninth, of course, unless Osuna produced a very quick double play to keep the lead intact.
Having Osuna face Souza, who had already gone yard earlier in the game along with a single and double, would have also left Gibbons some level of flexibility with left-on-left match-ups involving Morales.
Both Souza and Tim Beckham, who was on deck, bat right-handed. Beyond that, however, was lefty Kevin Kiermaier and switch-hitter Hank Conger, who is much weaker against left-handed pitching (.615 career OPS).
Instead, Osuna was kept safe for the bottom of the ninth, if it came, where Gibbons and the Blue Jays hoped he would face the bottom of the lineup. That doesn’t add up.
It could make the Blue Jays decision a little easier when Marco Estrada returns from the disabled list in time for April 10th, however, as one of Leon and Biagini is expected to feel the squeeze.