As early in the season the team has underperformed in many areas, one of the surprises has been performance of the bullpen.
This past week the bullpen was asked to handle plenty of work. The bullpen saw 24 1/2 innings of work, while throwing over 350 pitches. Scott Dohmann was asked to carry the bulk of the work, as he threw six innings and was the only player over 100 pitches. While looking at the usage, it is interesting to note that Percival only threw one inning this week, Wheeler 2 1/2 innings, and Miller 1 2/3 innings. With Reyes on the DL, the supposed "best" pitchers in our bullpen are doing the least amount of work. With those three totaling 5 innings, that left the rest of the bullpen to handle 19 2/3 innings.
While the back end of our bullpen has handled a bulk of the work, that may not be such a bad thing. As you can see from the chart below, our bullpen has been very effective.
JP Howell may be the biggest surprise of the 2008 team. He threw 5 innings of no run ball this week, and is turning into one of the better relievers in the staff. RJ mentioned earlier that he loathes the idea of having Glover and Dohmann being members of our bullpen. However, this far they have both performed very well and are both coming off weeks with no earned runs allowed. Glover has brought his ERA down to 1.86 for the season.
Kurt Birkins is the newest member of the Rays bullpen, and he has pitched well thus far. Many thought when he was taken out in his first performance with a left-handed batter coming up, it was possibly do to a strict pitch count as part of his rehabilitation process. It looks like that wasn't the case as the next time out he threw over 40 pitches.
The back end of our bullpen got their fair share of the workload this past week, but has left the front end well rested. This would put the team in a good position if they were to get ahead in some games this week, as the most trusted pitchers will be readily available.
Up to this point in the season, our bullpens ERA of 2.70 leads all of Major League Baseball. This is with Al Reyes numbers included. We know Reyes had been working through an injury in the early parts of the season. If you take out his numbers, the bullpen has an ERA of 2.13 thus far. We can only hope that the bullpen keeps pitching on this high level, as the team is bound to out them in potential save situations with the return of Garza and Kazmir right around the corner.