Over the past seven games, dating back to April 24th, Eric Wedge has called on a reliever out of the bullpen 14 times. The following table shows his usage pattern:
We've seen a ton of Jamey Wright. We've seen a lot of Brandon League. We've seen more Aaron Laffey than we probably expected to coming into the year, and we've seen a couple multi-inning appearances from David Pauley. And that's it. No Tom Wilhelmsen. No Josh Lueke. No Dan Cortes. And, perhaps most interestingly, no Chris Ray.
You'll remember that, at the beginning of the season, Ray was thought to be the bullpen's setup guy. He subsequently showed up in a few big spots, he pitched poorly in those big spots, and now he's nowhere to be seen. He warmed up and threatened to come into a game the other day, but he stayed in the bullpen, and he hasn't been heard from since April 23rd. He's only pitched once since April 18th.
It only took six appearances and 5.1 innings for Eric Wedge to lose his faith in the guy he wanted to be the team's eighth inning fireman until David Aardsma came back. How many other managers would've given up on a veteran like Ray that quickly? How many managers would've stuck with Ray and given him a chance to pitch himself out of it? One can't help but remember how long the Chris Reitsma experiment lasted in 2007.
Wedge isn't perfect, and it would've been nice to see Cortes by now, but I'm beginning to develop a bit of confidence in his bullpen management. In the early going, he's shown a willingness to change his mind based on the evidence, and he's made interesting use of flexible arms like Pauley and Laffey. And one needn't even be that worried about his burning guys out with help on the way in the persons of Aardsma and Shawn Kelley.
While Eric Wedge isn't doing anything revolutionary with his relief corps, I haven't had to complain about his bullpen decisions in quite some time. We'll see if that holds up, but it's a weird and welcome feeling.