Bullpen depth proving crucial for SteepleCats
Plymouth’s sweep of North Adams Monday ended a stretch of 11 games in 11 days for the SteepleCats. The packed schedule that included three extra-inning games left little time for the team’s relief staff to rest.
Manager Chris Cates used two starting pitchers (one to start and one in relief) against Sanford June 24, and again Sunday, in an effort to ease the burden on his bullpen. With some starting pitchers on pitch counts, and the team’s propensity for playing close games, a solid bullpen will be crucial to the team’s success going forward.
With a 3.83 bullpen earned-run average, Cates has several capable options to turn to when the schedule gets busy again after two days off and rain out Thursday.
"I tell these guys all the time, if we’ve got a lead going into the seventh, we’ve got a good shot at winning," he said Sunday after receiving a strong performance from reliever Jim Voyles.
Jonathan Mulford (Adelphi University) and Zach Prendergast (Senton Hall University) are also quality middle relievers. Mulford had a 2.91 ERA before a rough outing against Vermont Saturday bumped it up to 5.11. Prendergast owns a 1.17 ERA with seven strikeouts in 723 innings.
Hoosac Valley graduate Tanner Bird and recent addition Jonah Philley (University of Louisville) have seen increased work recently. Bird hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last three appearances, lowering his ERA to 1.93. Philley has struck out five batters in 513 innings while allowing only two hits. He’s 1-2 with a 3.37 ERA. Voyles (Florida State) rotates between starting and relief work. He has not allowed an earned run in his last 913 innings.
The back end of the bullpen is equally as strong with a hard-throwing option to close out games.
Notre Dame’s Christian Torres is the first in line for save situations. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has only one save, but has allowed just one run in 713 innings.
"Right now Christian is our closer," Cates said. "I think he gives us the best opportunity to close out the game and he really embraces that role. He’s been a guy that comes out of the bullpen and shut teams down."
His 10 strikeouts are impressive, and his combination of slider and fastball can be deadly, though his control has been spotty at times. The hard thrower has surrendered nine walks, including three each in appearances against the Valley Blue Sox and the Keene Swamp Bats.
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