Lost in all the hub-bub of Derek Jeter tying Lou Gehrig’s record for most hits as a New York Yankee was Joe Maddon’s bizarre bullpen moves.
After Alex Rodriguez singled to lead off the eighth inning off of Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann, Maddon brought in RIGHT HANDED reliever Lance Cormier, where Matsui promptly singled ARod to third. The announcers on YES, Michael Kay specifically, asked why didn’t Maddon bring in the lefty Brian Shouse to face Matsui, only 2 for 14 in his career against the reliever.
I thought it was better if Maddon HAD KEPT IN HIS STARTING PITCHER Jeff Niemann to face Matusi.
Niemann had handled Matsui all night, a couple ground balls (one which found a hole for a single), and a pop up. Matsui has gotten into his “pulling off” phase lately, too, the reason for his pop up.
Niemann was also cruising pretty much the entire game, and struck out Mark Teixeira with men on first and third on a great change up to end the prior inning. Jeter was on third after Gehrig’s record tying hit.
While Niemann was already at 110 pitches after the ARod lead off single, it’s below his season high of 118. And even though Niemann is only in his second major league season (first full season), he is already 26 years old, and will be 27 before next season! The Rays are treating Niemann like he is Joba Chamberlain or something.
The Rays had to keep Niemann on the roster this year coming out of spring training or let him loose on the waiver wire as he was out of options. He made the team as the fifth starter when the Rays traded Jason Hammel to the Colorado Rockies.
Maddon wasn’t out of options last night, however. His best option to win the Derek Jeter game was to leave Niemann in to finish what he started in the eighth inning.
Why do these managers continually let the bullpens blow games for starting pitchers, especially after the starter has pitched well the entire game? It would have been best for Maddon to let Niemann stay in the game rather than over tax his already over worked bullpen.
So Maddon’s mistake was not in who he brought in for Jeff Niemann, but that he actually brought in anybody at all.
To leave Niemann in to pitch around that lead off single would have been better for the 26 year old pitcher in the long run – win or lose.