Under the radar due to a disappointing finish in 2013 was the overlooked performance of Jake Diekman for the Philadelphia Phillies in game 161. The same can be said of BJ Rosenberg, who had an even tougher three outs.
This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Most fans do not consider the budget, prospects on the radar, the organization’s weaknesses, the track record, the competition and the other intangibles.
There will be a published storyline each week.
Check out the eighth-inning foes: Storyline: Fingernails’ Riddle Solved for the Philadelphia Phillies
Until a reliever faces the battle for survival that is playoff baseball, he hasn’t revealed a possible breaking point.
Difficult decisions come in many types for a general manager: Two of them are partially tested talent and performance after an injury-related campaign. Ruben Amaro Jr. has bullpen arms with two successful months in the books and the sport’s best setup man before his lost 2013. However, he will only pencil in Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo for the relief corps. While Mike Adams must again prove he is sound, four green relievers are at the front of the earn-it line.
The bigger trial over the winter for the front office will be finding reliable help and not the financial ceiling they faced last year. In the pen, that means a late-inning hurler and a middle-frame thrower, who costs $3 million. Because Adams is under contract for $6 million, Amaro will limit his spending to $5 million for an additional setup man. If you’re counting, that’s two spots for four youngsters.
According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Ryne Sandberg thinks some bullpen pieces are here with Jake Diekman, BJ Rosenberg and Justin De Fratus. That said, Sandberg’s statement was before solid relief outings by Ethan Martin, who will probably pitch in relief for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. On the other hand, De Fratus will have to beat out a newly signed veteran for a slot. Diekman and Rosenberg are the favorites to stick with the parent club, baring a poor spring showing.
A team with postseason hopes becomes more dangerous when they heavily depend on and fear losing home-field advantage.
September 28 was a Saturday night in Atlanta, and the Braves and Cardinals were playing for the NLCS home-opening series. With 160 games in the books and exact records by both franchises, Atlanta was losing to the red pinstripes with nine outs remaining, while St. Louis was winning.
The seventh inning began with Diekman on the mound and up by three runs. The Braves, however, did not view this as just another contest because having the best NL mark would greatly enhance their October chances. For the first time, the southpaw encountered a playoff-hungry offense, which became more deadly with each out.
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During his last series at the Bank, left-handed Todd Helton, a career .316 hitter, wanted no part of Diekman and struck out swinging in both at-bats.
On September 28 in Atlanta, the rookie started with a 1-2 count, but Elliot Johnson worked the next five tosses for a free pass. After Reed Johnson grounded into a twin killing, Jason Heyward accepted a five-pitch walk. Next, Diekman fired a 97-mph bullet for strike one on Justin Upton, the outfielder missed a blocked slider, and he struck out swinging at a second 86-mph offering. Granted, there was a three-run lead, but the home squad nicked the lefty for two bases on balls.
Diekman handled the seventh-frame pressure against an extremely determined foe, but he was only fighting for a 2014 pen seat. That stated, the outing was halfway between a regular-season hold and a postseason notch on his glove. He experienced the feeding frenzy in the passionate confines of a desperate enemy and survived after 18 darts to be in the organization’s plans for the next 162. Diekman will be toeing the rubber in meaningful games from next April through September.
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Counting Down Outs:
With 23 pitches in the eighth inning, Rosenberg allowed two singles before a double play and a punch out. The right hander, like Diekman before him, bent but did not break under the late September pressure. He held his own and proved he is worth keeping as an integral part of the bullpen rotation.
With only two frames at hand, Freddie Freeman pulled Rosenberg’s 2-1 heater for a one bagger, and Evan Gattis worked the count full before producing a right-field single. After setting the stage for Chris Johnson and his .300 average, Rosenberg doubled him up before blowing a 96-mph bullet past a swinging Gerald Laird.
Serious September baseball is a two-part reality: The first is competing against a contender, and the second is doing so as an October-bound club.
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BJ Rosenberg & Jake Diekman:
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