Discussion

Pens state

Managers love to experiment, except when it comes to the role of relievers

Updated: April 22, 2011, 10:50 AM ET
By Jorge Arangure Jr. | ESPN The Magazine

Joba Chamberlain wants you to know what it's like for him to go to work. Imagine you've just returned from a two-week vacation. Everything on your desk is just as you left it, yet something isn't quite right. You're off balance, out of step. That's how the Yankees reliever feels every day, because he never knows what day he will pitch.

To help him deal with the mystery, manager Joe Girardi utilizes Chamberlain almost exclusively in the seventh or eighth inning. So although he may not know whether he will pitch, he always knows when. "We are all creatures of habit," says Chamberlain. "You like the routine of getting up in the morning and knowing when you're going to work."

His reasoning will either help you understand how teams construct their bullpen roster, or it will reaffirm everything you hate about bullpen usage. The objective of most teams: Get the best reliever into the game with a one-, two- or three-run lead in the ninth, even if that's not the game's make-or-break situation. On consecutive days in mid-April, the Tigers and Rangers were tied going into the bottom of the ninth. Detroit won both games in walk-offs, and Rangers manager Ron Washington never used closer Neftali Feliz, presumably waiting for a save opportunity.

MORE MLB HEADLINES