Cleveland (92.3 The Fan) – Even if it has been awhile since they’ve pitched, Terry Francona has shown he’s not afraid to stretch out his relievers.
The Indians’ two best bullpen arms worked extra time in Wednesday’s win over the Astros, as Andrew Miller labored in his second consecutive night of work, while Cody Allen went 4 1/3 innings after five nights off.
As far Allen, Francona maintained that his closer would pitch regardless of the situation on Wednesday, and it turned out he needed his guy for a save, and he needed Allen earlier than expected.
The hard-throwing righty sat down all four hitters he faced despite the long layoff, but lauded his manager for his usage of the bullpen.
“A lot of factors go into that. I haven’t pitched in five days, so obviously I’m pretty fresh,” Allen said. “If I would’ve pitched the previous two days, I don’t think he would’ve used me for four outs there. He’s the best in baseball at managing a bullpen. We all just pitch when we’re asked to and try to get as many outs as we can.”
Despite staying ready mentally, Allen said he got the feeling he would end up on the hill before the 9th.
“Once Miller came in in the seventh and it was a longer outing and I knew he wasn’t going back out there for the eighth, I figured I may have to go out there for the eighth inning, but we had Bryan out there,” he said. “He was one pitch away from having a quick 1-2-3 inning.”
Miller only had to get three outs, but ended up having to throw upwards of 30 pitches because of a Carlos Santana error. Eventually, the dominant southpaw ended up having to get out of a bases-loaded jam.
As always in that situation, Francona was comfortable with his go-to arm, but began to become worried when Miller’s count rose in a second straight outing.
“I think when you get up to around 30, it’s obvious he was working pretty hard,” the skipper said. “Like I say, you’re trying to make the pitch that’s going to save the game. The game’s on the line right there. I think you’ve got to at least remember that.”
With both of his big arms going extra time, Tito was quizzed on his famous bullpen management post-game Wednesday and pre-game Thursday.
Francona said his long-standing approach has been to determine whether or not a reliever will be available, and stick with it.
“I’ve always done it like that, because I think you make mistakes,” he added. “I just think in the seventh or eighth inning, it’s just so hard to not. You have a guy sitting there. Andrew Miller is a good example. Nine times out of 10, you’re going to make him available, and it doesn’t work. You’ll hurt somebody. And I think the pitchers appreciate it, because we do, we ask a lot of them. They pitch a lot. We know that, but we don’t want to hurt them.
“That’s a really important – whether it’s a question or a statement – it’s really important. Because like I said, you want to pitch them as much as you can but not too much. And if you bite off too much, that’s why we make those decisions before the game. Like if a guy’s down, we make it before the game because it’s amazing how in the eighth inning you can talk yourself (into), ‘Ah he’s okay, he can get one hitter.’ That’s not a good way to do it. And then once you go too far, it takes a long time to catch up. Even if you don’t hurt somebody, you know they might be down two days now. So just giving them their day where they can regroup does a lot of good. And then, the ups and downs in the bullpen, I don’t think people pay enough attention to guys getting hot in the bullpen.”