By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CHICAGO: It only seems like Cody Allen pitches in every game for the Indians.
In truth, he has appeared in 67 games as manager Terry Francona’s designated fireman. That is, if the opposing hitters rub two sticks together and suddenly a blaze breaks out in the sixth, seventh or even the eighth inning, Francona calls the bullpen for Allen to warm up.
Allen is only 24. This is his first full major-league season after pitching at three minor-league levels in 2012 before making his big-league debut last July 20.
So it didn’t take long for Francona to trust Allen in dire situations.
“For a rookie to be given the innings he’s gotten — not just the amount — he’s been brought into just about every kind of game,’’ Francona said. ‘‘That’s a lot to put on a young kid, but we’ll continue to do it.”
Allen has a 5-1 record with two saves and a 2.71 ERA in 63 innings. He has walked an average of 3.7 batters per nine innings (a bit too many) and struck out an average of 11.1 per nine innings (excellent).
Monday night, he gave up one of his seven home runs to Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals, a two-run blast that trimmed the Tribe’s lead to 4-3. It was Allen’s eighth appearance in 11 games.
Francona took the blame for the home runs, saying that he knew Allen had been overworked and shouldn’t have exposed him that night.
“I don’t care what Tito [Francona] says, those were just two bad pitches,” said Allen, refusing to use fatigue as an excuse. “I feel pretty good. I got used to it [working often] early in the year after pitching in the sixth and seventh innings.”
Told that Allen disagreed with him, Francona said: “That’s because he’s a good kid. He’ll take the ball all day, but I have a responsibility to him and the organization. One of our goals is to make sure none of our [relief] guys are in the top 10 [in innings pitched].”
So far, Francona has met that goal. Anthony Swarzak of the Minnesota Twins is No. 1 among American League relievers with 90⅔ innings. Dan De La Rosa of the Angels is 10th with 66⅓ innings. Bryan Shaw leads Indians relievers with 64⅔ innings and ranks 13th. Allen is 16th.
“Last year, the game kind of speeded up on me at times,” Allen said. “This season, it’s not because of that. It’s just a walk and a double or a walk and home run. But stuff happens.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.