Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bullpen well-rested -- but not too well-rested

Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Billy Wagner, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon all haven't pitched since Wednesday. They're all well-rested for the doubleheader today.

But Hideki Okajima hasn't pitched since Monday. Takashi Saito hasn't pitched since last Friday. Both could use the rest, but both still wouldn't mind staying a little bit sharp.

With an off-day, a rainout and a rain-shortened complete game all in a row, the Red Sox bullpen has found itself increasingly underworked in the last few days.

That, though, is not a bad thing.

With Clay Buchholz (3.03 ERA at Fenway Park this season) and Jon Lester (3.44 ERA in any park this season) on the mound, it might have taken some effort to shoehorn his relief pitchers into games.

"We're at the point in the year where we don't need to do that," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "They've got a lot of innings under their belt. We don't need to do that."

Okajima, even with his lengthy layoff, has appeared in more games (62) than anyone on the Red Sox staff. Only 11 pitchers in the American League have appeared in more. Ramirez has appeared in 60 games, tied for 16th in the American League, and closer Jonathan Papelbon has appeared in 59 games.

As a team, the Red Sox have the best bullpen ERA (3.66) in the American League -- and they've actually managed to stay well behind the pack in terms of innings pitched. Here's how it breaks down to this point in the season:

1. Baltimore, 478 2/3 IP
2. Oakland, 475 1/3
3. Cleveland, 478 2/3
4. New York, 451
5. Minnesota, 445 1/3
6. Seattle, 440 1/3
7. Toronto, 428 1/3
8. Los Angeles, 422 2/3
9. Texas, 418 2/3
t-10. Chicago, 416
t-10. Detroit, 416
12. Boston, 410 1/3
13. Kansas City, 408
14. Tampa Bay, 404

Francona has a well-rested bullpen, and he intends to keep it that way. He's not going to force-feed his relief pitchers into the game, and he's not going to pitch any of his relievers twice in the same day if he can help it.

"I wouldn't say that we'd rule it out," he said, "but I don't think that's in anybody's best interest. To sit for three days and then pitch twice in one day -- I know it appears that the guys are rested, but I don't know if pitching them like that makes sense. We try not to do that.

"Saying that, it'll probably happen. But we'll try to stay away from it."

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