Sunday Roundup

Jekyll or Hyde Bullpen? Andy Call, Canton Repository (reg. req.)

The Indians' 2006 bullpen will feature a lot of new faces. Is that good or bad? It depends who you ask:

"Our studies have shown that there is a volatility in bullpens from year to year and inconsistencies in relief pitchers from year to year," General Manager Mark Shapiro said.

"It's not genius when you build the best bullpen, and it's not idiocy when you have a bullpen that struggles. It's a challenge to construct every year."

So, with as much objectivity as he can muster, Wickman maintains that the relief pitcher has become a more precious commodity than ever.

"You can't put a price on it," Wickman said. "People in baseball are finding out you can't just fill in guys anymore. You really need guys with talent."

The Indians haven't given a multi-year contract to a relief pitcher since 2001, when they signed Bob Wickman and Mark Wohlers to long-term contracts. They almost broke the streak with Trevor Hoffman, but the Padres' closer chose to stay at home.

The trick to building a bullpen is not necessarily signing "proven" relievers, but identifying players who have the ability to relieve. And if you look hard enough, you can find them. Jason Davis and Andrew Brown, both minor-league starters, are probably full-time relievers now. Brown had another impressive outing today against the Braves, and may have the advantage in the battle for a spot in the major-league bullpen. Matt Miller and Rafael Betancourt, both minor-league free agents, were key pieces of the 2005 bullpen and should be important in the 2006 version as well. Scott Sauerbeck was originally signed as a rehab project.

Can Indians be too nice to win? Sheldon Ocker, ABJ

That said, this might be the first group of Wahoos in my memory that lacks one practicing jerk. What about last year, you ask? The 2005 club came close, but there was one cranky relief pitcher, who kept the team from scoring 100 percent on the sociability scale.

And yes, I will tell you his name. It was Arthur Rhodes, who put on airs of extreme machismo in the clubhouse, yet wilted on the mound when presented with the task of holding one- or two-run leads in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings. He also couldn't pitch in Yankee Stadium and was troubled when faced with various other ordeals common to relievers.

Rhodes blew three saves in 2005. He had 16 holds. He had a 2.08 ERA. Objectivity is obviously thrown out the window when a player refuses to answer a question about his sunglasses.

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