AL East Round-Up: Bullpens

With only a few hours left until the baseball season gets underway on American soil, we continue our look at the five teams in the AL East. Earlier today we took a look at the starting rotations that each team will roll with at the start of this season. In this post we will take a look at the bullpens for each team.

Each bullpen in the division has undergone changes from the retirement of the iconic Marino Rivera to Jim Johnson leaving Baltimore for Oakland and Grant Balfour leaving Oakland to replace Fernando Rodney in Tampa.

As one closer leaves, another comes into the role, thus changing the dynamics of the bullpen. The managers will tinker with players until they have found a comfort level with each guy. Having designated roles for lefty specialist, long relief or set up man help guys settle into their position and perform to a higher level.

Heading into this season, each team has questions about who will fill what role in the bullpens, but as they get started, let’s look at each team’s bullpen to find the arms that will be looking to protect leads late in games.

Baltimore Orioles:

  • Tommy Hunter (CL)- (6-5, 2.81 ERA; 4 saves)
  • Darren O’Day- (5-3, 2.18 ERA)
  • Brian Matusz- (2-1, 3.53 ERA)
  • Kevin Gausman- (3-5, 5.66 ERA)
  • Zach Britton- (2-3, 4.95 ERA)
  • T.J. McFarland- (401, 4.22 ERA)
  • Ryan Webb- (2-6, 2.91 ERA) *With Miami
  • Josh Stinson- (0-, 3.18 ERA)

hunterThe Orioles are one of those teams that lost their established closer (Jim Johnson) from last season’s team and go into the 2014 season waiting for someone to grab reigns and take control. They are slated to have Tommy Hunter get first crack at the save opportunities with O’Day, Guasman and Britton waiting in the wings. In his career, Hunter has 4 saves in 8 save opportunities, while O’Day has 4 saves in 12 chances. The overall inexperience save chances for the O’s may be the breaking point for this team as the season progresses and is definitely something worth watching. Manager Buck Showalter will have a tough job at managing his pen if Hunter struggles early in his closer role.

Boston Red Sox:

  • Koji Uehera (CL)- 24 saves
  • Edward Mujica- 37 saves *With St. Louis
  • Junichi Tazawa-  (5-4, 3.16 ERA)
  • Andrew Miller- (1-2, 2.64 ERA)
  • Brandon Workman- (6-3, 4.97 ERA)
  • Alex Wilson- (1-1, 4.88 ERA)
  • Chris Capuano- (4-7, 4.26 ERA) * With LA Dodgers
  • Burke Badenhop- (2-3, 3.47 ERA) *With Milwaukee

kojiThe Red Sox may be heading into the 2014 season with the most established and defined bullpen roles in the division. Koji Uehera was dominate in the post-season as he was virtually unhittable. He grabbed hold of the Sox closer role and goes into this season ready to pick up where he left off. Boston brought in Mujica from the Cardinals to take over as the set-up man. The combo of Uehera and Mujica will be a devastating pair of arms for opposing teams to try to make comebacks against. With the long relief arms of Capuano and Miller, both former starters, the Sox will be able to pick up slack when their starters get bounced early in games. The bullpen was a big factor in Boston’s success last season and if the Sox are looking to repeat as division and league champions, the pen will have to have the same impact once again.

New York Yankees:

  • David Robertson (CL)- (5-1, 2.04 ERA; 3 saves)
  • Shawn Kelly- (4-2, 4.39 ERA)
  • Matt Thornton- (0-4, 3.74 ERA)
  • David Phelps- (6-5, 4.98 ERA)
  • Adam Warren- (3-2, 3.39 ERA)
  • Vidal Nuno- (1-2, 2.25 ERA)
  • Dellin Betances- (6-4, 2.68 ERA) *With Scranton Wilkes-Barre

yanks penThe Yankees as we know are undergoing a monstrous change in the execution of late game success with the retirement of Mariano Rivera. For the first time since 1997 the Yankees will have someone other than Rivera closing games. In steps David Robertson who has shown an ability to strike out batters and wiggle out of sticky situations. However, Robertson has found trouble with high-pitch counts during innings, a problem that he has seems to manage this spring. If he can be efficient with his innings as closer, there should be no issue with Robertson as the new closer. With Robertson’s new role, someone needs to take over in his eight-inning position. This spring, youngster Dellin Betances has been outstanding and has made his claim to the role. Veterans Shawn Kelly and Matt Thornton will have their say in the matter as well. David Phelps was the odd man out on the Yankees starting rotation but will play a major role in the Yanks pen as the long reliever and spot starter. There are questions about how Joe Girardi will use some of his arms late in games, but there is a lot of potential with this group heading into 2014.

Tampa Bay Rays:

  • Grant Balfour (CL)- (1-3, 2.59 ERA; 38 saves) *With Oakland
  • Heath Bell- (5-2, 4.11 ERA; 15 saves) *With Arizona
  • Joel Peralta- (3-8, 3.41 ERA)
  • Jake McGee- (5-3, 4.02 ERA)
  • Juan Carlos Oviedo- (1-4, 4.06 ERA) *2011 with Florida
  • Cesar Ramos- (2-2, 4.14)
  • Josh Lueke- (3-1, 0.63 ERA) *With Durham AAA
  • Brandon Gomes- (0-0, 4.15) *In Minors

balfourTampa’s close in 2013 Fernando Rodney left town and left the door open for a new closer to take over for the Rays. After Baltimore failed Balfour on a physical, Tampa swooped in and signed him to be their new closer. Behind Balfour, the Rays will have Heath Bell and Joel Peralta, both whom having closing experience in their careers. Manager Joe Maddon will be able to use his available experience late in games while using youth from the farm in the middle innings. With the talent the Rays have in their starting rotation, the bullpen will have many opportunities to close out games and lock down leads. Once again the Rays have placed together what looks to be a solid bullpen to help out a stacked starting rotation. With the talent top to bottom, from the first inning to the last, the Rays will be a top pitching team this coming season.

Toronto Blue Jays:

  • Casey Janssen- (4-1, 2.56 ERA; 34 saves)
  • Sergio Santos- (1-1, 1.75 ERA)
  • Brett Cecil- (5-1, 2.82 ERA)
  • Steve Delabar- (5-5, 3.22 ERA)
  • Aaron Loup- (4-6, 2.47 ERA)
  • Esmil Rogers- (5-9, 4.77 ERA)
  • Jeremy Jeffress- (1-0, 0.87 ERA)
  • Todd Redmond- (4-3, 4.32 ERA)

jays penAs we looked at the Jays starting rotation in our last post, the Jays pitching strength sits in the bullpen. Casey Janssen has racked up 56 saves in the last two seasons and has grabbed hold of the closer role in Toronto. Behind Janssen, the Jays have Steve Delabar, who made the American League All-Star team last season as he won a fan vote over David Robertson (let’s not let that happen again Yankees Universe). In 2011, Sergio Santos tallied 30 saves for the White Sox leading to his signing with the Blue Jays where he was expected to step in as their closer. A couple injuries got in the way that derailed those plans, but Santos came back this spring ready to roll. Throw in long-man Brett Cecil, a former starter, and the Blue Jays have the foundation to what could be a successful bullpen. The issue once again, will be how well the starters pitch. If these arms in the pen are overused, major issues could arise for the Jays.

We have seen how a dominant bullpen could lead to the success of a team based on how workload is determined by managers and how well each role is filled. Based on how each bullpen is projected to shape out, here is how I would rank them going into this season:

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

Comment below on how you would rank the bullpens in the AL East and make sure to check out our last post on the pitching staffs and be on the look out for tomorrow’s post on the lineups for each team.

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