Fans: please bullpen, you are giving us all heart attacks, no more drama, please
Chasen Bradford hasn’t been exceptional, but as we’ve said many times on the podcast, the bar is to throw strikes, and Chasen has done that admirably. His BB/9 has been below that of Rosscup, Gearrin, Festa, Rumbelow, and Sadzeck, while chewing up more innings than any other reliever other than Elías. He’s also posted the fifth-highest groundball rate among the entire pitching staff, and has saved the bullpen’s bacon in a couple of high-profile outings.
On a team not so strapped for relief pitching, the loss of Chasen Bradford probably doesn’t sting as badly, but diverting any innings intended for Bradford for the ineffective Gearrin or Rosscup is a recipe for disaster. Thus, the team made the surprising move of calling up rookie RHP Erik Swanson, who was set to make his home debut for Tacoma tonight as a starter.
The reason for calling up Swanson over an MLB-experienced reliever like Dan Altavilla or Nick Rumbelow is most likely that Tacoma’s pitching staff was taxed heavily over their opening series against the Sacramento RiverCats, as both starters and relievers struggled. Altavilla would be the obvious choice, but he pitched on April 5 and 7, throwing 50 pitches combined. On the 7th Altavilla was efficient, pitching two innings of four-strikeout ball, but it was still a multi-inning appearance that likely rendered him unavailable for today’s game.
So instead Erik Swanson’s career as a starter will have the pause button pushed on it, while he hopefully gets to press “play” on his career as a major-leaguer. Swanson had an impressive start against the Dodgers at Spring Training, if you take out his at-bats against Kike Hernandez, who tagged him for two solo home runs. Against everyone not named Kiké, though, Swanson struck out five in four innings. He was even more impressive in Tacoma’s road opener, going five innings and striking out eight while walking none and surrendering six hits but no runs. So while developmentally it probably isn’t great for Swanson to have an extended stay in the big-league ‘pen, especially considering the state of the starting pitching on the farm, there’s a good chance that Swanson and his zone-hugging ways will be a welcome respite for fans from a bullpen that struggles to throw strikes. Still, get well soon, Chasen.
Also: Aw. He better get into the game if his family is driving all the way from Fargo (side note, Erik Swanson is one of the most powerfully North Dakotan names ever).