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It ain't over till it's over, not for Chris Spurling anyway

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Tom H has a nice article in the Journal-Sentinel this morning about the state of the bullpen. It ain't pretty, at least based on the incredibly small sample thus far:

If Capellan pitches his way back to the minors, there could be as many as three jobs to be won, depending on whether Yost keeps 11 or 12 pitchers. Right-hander Greg Aquino, acquired from Arizona in the Johnny Estrada/Doug Davis trade, has not been sharp, either. In five appearances, Aquino has allowed 10 hits, a walk and three runs (two earned) in four innings (4.50 ERA).

Others in the picture, such as Dennis Sarfate (19.64 ERA), Chris Spurling (5.40) and Chris Oxspring (9.00), have been far from impressive.

Again, this is a very small sample, but it's even worse than it sounds: these guys are mostly pitching after the other team has made their replacements. That is, they're basically in triple-A spring training, if you measure by their competition.

It surprised me to see Capellan's name as someone who might not make the team, but if he has options, it might not be the worst idea in the world. Here's what I thought the bullpen would look like as we headed into spring training:

  • Francisco Cordero
  • Derrick Turnbow
  • Matt Wise
  • Brian Shouse
  • Jose Capellan
  • Greg Aquino
  • Dennis Sarfate or Carlos Villanueva
The last spot, I figured, depended more on what role Ned wanted for that guy than the quality of the pitcher. Grant Balfour was (and is) still in the mix.

Now, spring-training-article-about-unsettled-bullpen or not, things haven't changed that much. After all, nobody's dislodging Coco, D-Bow, Wise, or Shouse. Since Aquino is out of options, he's probably set, as well. That leaves two spots, and it would still be surprising if Capellan doesn't head north with the team.

That last spot, though, is where things could get interesting. As Tom points out, Ben Hendrickson has been pitching very well, albeit in less-than-competitive innings. Since he doesn't have any options left, if we don't put him on the team, we run the risk of losing him. (I think that's a high risk--no way Ben makes it through waivers.) As long as he pitches garbage innings for a while, I really wouldn't mind having him on the team just to see if he can figure things out.

That leaves only the presumptive Capellan spot. If Hendrickson makes the squad, that means Sarfate, Balfour, and a slew of others are competing with Jose. Like I say, it's Capellan's job to lose, but he's losing it. If he keeps doing what he's doing, though, he's still likely to make the team, since no one else has stepped up at all. And I'm not even talking about the "stats"--nobody even sounds like they're pitching that well.

That's the danger of throwing out numbers because of a small sample: yeah, if Aquino gives up 10 hits in 5 innings, that could be bad luck. But if Sarfate gives up 10 walks in five innings, that could be bad pitching. You don't necessarily know that unless you're watching the games (and you know what Sarfate looks like when he's pitching well), but you don't need a large sample to determine that somebody doesn't have good command, or that his curveball isn't breaking. I suppose we'll have to trust Ned and his staff on that last decision.

Regardless of what happens, it would appear that we'll have plenty of options in triple-A, even if we lose a few to waivers. After all, if we do lose guys to other teams, that'll open up 40-man roster spots, and Doug Melvin is darn good at shopping on the waiver wire himself.