Thursday, October 14, 2010
Rangers must decide which pitcher to add
By Richard Durrett
The Rangers have until 10 a.m. Friday to set their playoff roster for the American League Championship Series.
Manager Ron Washington said Wednesday that he's going to carry 11 pitchers, meaning pinch-runner Esteban German (who wasn't used in the ALDS) will not be on the roster.
It's likely that additional pitcher will be a lefty, meaning the candidates are Clay Rapada, Michael Kirkman and Matt Harrison. Each offers a different option for the Rangers depending on what they feel is the best use of the bullpen.
Rapada is a situational lefty. He would come in for one or two batters and that's about it. He was good in that role after he was called up. Left-handed batters had just one hit in 19 at-bats against him. He had four strikeouts and two walks. His delivery makes him difficult to deal with in short doses.
Kirkman gives the club a little more length, but with the odd numbers of being better against right-handed hitters. Righties and lefties faced Kirkman for 28 at-bats each in 2010 and left-handed batters had three more hits (.214 average as opposed to .107). But the Rangers have confidence in Kirkman's ability to get both out, meaning he can stay in for an inning or two if he's pitching well. Kirkman, a starter in the minors, pitched at least 1 1/3 innings in six of his 14 appearances in the big leagues.
Harrison was moved to the bullpen and out of the rotation in June after returning from injury. He was 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 44 1/3 relief innings this season. In fairness, his bullpen ERA went up nearly a full point thanks to one outing in Oakland in September (gave up five runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning).
The question would be which pitcher best fits the Yankees. The club has left-handed hitters Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. They also have a gaggle of switch hitters -- Mark Teixeira, Ramiro Pena, Lance Berkman, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada.
Going with the lefty makes sense in that, as you'd expect, Cano, Gardner and Granderson each bat on average 30 points better against a right-handed pitcher. And turning Berkman around certainly is smart (.267 as left-handed hitter, .171 as right-handed hitter). Same goes for Pena if he gets in. Teixeira is 40 points better batting right-handed, but has a .278 average against left-handed pitching.
The club must figure out if they'd use a situational left-hander. Cano isn't coming out of the lineup for a pinch-hitter. He hits .285 against left-handed hitters and .337 against righties. He's never faced any of the three lefties up for discussion for the final spot. The other true left-handed hitters could be pinch-hit for if needed.
It's an interesting call. Would you go with the situational lefty for that one tough hitter late in games (knowing you've got Darren Oliver and Derek Holland as lefties down there) or do you go with a pitcher you're confident can get hitters from either side out to counter what Joe Girardi might do with his pinch hitters?