CLEVELAND: Go ahead Tribe fans, make fun of manager Terry Francona all you want about his love of relief pitchers.
Even Indians general manager Chris Antonetti teases the veteran skipper from time to time about his desire for the team’s roster to be made up of a boatload of relievers, a couple starters and if necessary, the requisite position players.
But as Tuesday’s game proved, a manager is often only as good as his bullpen.
With steady setup man Cody Allen having appeared in three of the club’s four games and closer John Axford having pitched in three consecutive, the two were ready for a much-needed day off. Thus, the Indians had to piece together a plan for the final 2⅓ innings after starter Josh Tomlin got them into the seventh inning with a three-run lead.
But featuring such versatile arms in left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and right-handers Scott Atchison and Bryan Shaw, the Tribe bullpen rose to the challenge of finishing off the 4-2 victory. It wasn’t luck, but smart planning by Francona and the Indians brass to build the club’s bullpen with pitchers capable of throwing in a variety of situations.
“We just wanted to have guys that can pitch,” Francona said. “Certainly roles develop as the season starts, but they can all pitch.”
Rzepczynski and Atchison combined to throw 1⅓ innings of no-hit ball, Shaw side-stepped an error behind him that allowed a two-out, unearned run to record his first save of the season in Axford’s absence.
“It doesn’t matter when [Shaw] pitches,” Francona said. “He doesn’t care. He just likes to pitch. And, he’s good, so it’s comforting.”
Perhaps the most underrated of Tuesday’s trio of hurlers is the veteran Atchison, who pitched a hitless eighth to give him his ninth scoreless inning in 11 appearances this season.
“It’s not his fault he’s 38 and gray, he can still pitch,” Francona quipped. “He just happens to look like the groundskeeper for the Red Sox.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.