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News » Tonight, Jays really need Halladay to save bullpen


Tonight, Jays really need Halladay to save bullpen


Tonight, Jays really need Halladay to save bullpen
This might not be the first time you've ever heard this one, but there's no time like tonight to have that old reliable innings-eater Roy Halladay on the bump for the Blue Jays .

The Jays motored out to California last night with the best record in the American League, one that improved to 19-10 when they out-thumped the Cleveland Indians, 10-6 yesterday. Those fearing that their patchwork rotation will spring a leak instead have seen the bullpen hit a small wall these past couple of days.

"We've had one day off and that was in April," Cito Gaston mentioned and, until contrary evidence is introduced, that sounds like a good reason the relief corps, mostly good this season, has begun to wobble.

Go figure. The Jays received very nice debuts from a couple of their farm boys on the 4-1 homestand, Robert Ray against the Orioles Saturday and Brett Cecil before the schoolkids yesterday. Matter of fact, Cecil's strong six innings of six-hit, no-walk (but three hit batters) and six-strikeout hurling was the Jays' so-called 14th quality start. That's as many as any team in the AL and who would have believed that, given the way injuries have beat down the intended rotation?

With lefty Scott Down unavailable Monday night, after three consecutive days of labour, the bullpen blew up a regulation-length win, Brandon League pulling the pin with one strike to go in the ninth. Yesterday, Downs was back to restore order with 12/3 very tidy innings, cleaning up after Jason Frasor, Jesse Carlson and Brian Wolfe surrendered a four-run top of the seventh that turned a 3-2 lead - and a potential winning big-league debut for starter Cecil - into a 6-3 disadvantage. (For Frasor, it was his first run allowed after 11 shutout innings to begin the season.) The Indians, though, trotted out nothing but gas cans to protect the lead and the Jays came back with seven runs of their own.

The two starters, Cecil and the Tribe's young right-hander Anthony Reyes, were clipping along nicely in a 2-1 game into the sixth inning. They were throwing strikes and the crisply played innings marched past. Then the bullpens showed up and it got ugly - significantly more ugly for the Indians.

The carnage also reaffirmed that regardless of which way a manager goes, he's sometimes damned whether he does or doesn't act. Cleveland's Eric Wedge had a left-hander warmed and ready in the sixth, leading 2-1 with two out and the lefty-hitting Adam Lind at the plate. Wedge let his southpaw hibernate and Lind drilled a go-ahead two-run single off Reyes. Next inning, when the game had swollen to 6-6, Wedge had another lefty ready for Lind with two on and two out. This time Wedge made the change and what did it matter? Lind hit Tony Sipp's slider nine miles for a 9-6 Toronto lead.

We all see plenty of this stuff around the majors. Nobody seems to have enough middle or set-up relief. The Yankees' bullpen has been terrible. The Angels' relievers have been even worse, at least statistically. It happens plenty of places, but until recently it hadn't really been happening to the Jays , at least not often.

Still, Gaston is operating with some young starters on pitch limits and the constant use of multiple relievers behind the starters can drain a bullpen and do it quickly. That's why Halladay, this team's ace, can do his relievers a big favour tonight. The bullpen has been a strength and a night off, or most of one, can help it remain that way.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 6, 2009

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