After a weekend series in which the Rangers’ overworked and undermanned bullpen was overtaxed yet again, blowing one game late and threatening to blow the other two against the Los Angeles Trouts of Mike Trout, the following is a public service to all major league managers on how to quit the nail-biting habit.
Step 1: Commit.
This is the hardest part. You have to tell yourself, I will not go to the bullpen with a different pitcher for every inning. I have a lot of bullpen pieces now that the rosters have expanded. I don’t have to go by my own book.
Step 2: identify triggers.
Jose Leclerc cannot find the strike zone, avoid at all costs. Tony Barnette probably shouldn’t be used three games in a row. Alex Claudio is human, he cannot be asked to pitch every high-pressure relief inning. Ricky Rodriguez is not a good idea. Try out a guy like Tyson Ross. He’s just sitting there doing nothing. Which is better than some of those guys standing on the mound doing nothing.
Step 3: Fix the underlying cause.
Forget how to count to 100, and do the eyeball test instead. If it’s past the fifth inning and your starter is still missing bats, still fooling hitters, still generating weak contact, leave him in. Next thing you know, your starter will go six innings. Then seven. Then eight. Which means, you won’t need Alex Claudio for four, three or two innings every night. You will need him for just one. This needs to begin in spring training of next year.
Step 4: One day at a time.
The problem didn’t develop overnight, and it’s not going to go away instantly. You might need to enlist help from others. Have them put up an Out Of Order sign on the bullpen phone. Have them interrupt you when you are counting to 100 by saying a bunch of random numbers in order to confuse you and make you lose your count and have to start all over. That trick always works. Have them send Jose Lecerc far away from Arlington like they had to do with Tanner Scheppers and Tom Wilhemsen and Sam Dyson when you wouldn’t stop using them. Taking away matches from an arsonist is the best way to help him not play with fire.
Step 5: Patience.
That second wild card isn’t going to come overnight either. You are too far back and there are too many teams ahead of you playing better. Be patient. There’s always next year, or 2019. The second wild card isn’t going away. You can win it then, when you have a team that can play over .500. (Over .500 means a team that wins more games than it loses.)
Have Elvis Andrus hit three home runs per game instead of just two. Give your team a five-run cushion going into the ninth.
Andrew Cashner (8-9, 3.30) vs. R.A. Dickey (9-8, 3.91)
Game time: 6:35