Where Have All the Bench Players Gone?
By: Big Rygg
“Okay, so there’s Craig Counsell, Gabe Kapler and…yup, Mike Rivera. Okay, where’s Gwynn? Right…on a rehab assignment. Well what about Dillon? Optioned to Nashville? Hmm.”
I have a feeling that someone may have said something quite similar to the above statement today when arriving to the ballpark. When the Brewers were in the field defensively during today’s ballgame in Cincinnati, the dugout consisted of exactly seven uniformed members of the Milwaukee Brewers (four of which are coaches) that don’t count the bullpen as at least their second home. That’s not many.
Ned Yost, in 2006, alienated Milwaukee icon Robin Yount (then his bench coach) by insisting in carrying 13 pitchers instead of the “standard” 12. Yount didn’t like the limited options in pinch-hitting, pinch-running and other aspects of the game that a bench that was a man short of regular scenario handling allowed for. Yount left the bench after the 2006 season citing the want to spend more time with his family. I’m not one to begrudge the man his public reasoning, but it seems like odd timing.
Now in 2008, Yost has a swollen bullpen again. There may be underlying reasons for it (some of which include: wanting an extry lefty for the bullpen while we faced Cincinnati’s left-handed heavy lineup, Brian Shouse being overworked, Seth McClung not having any minor-league options left, being unsure about what to do with the extra spot in the rotation, not being positive about Ben Sheets’ tricep), but the bottom line is that the Brewers are currently carrying an unprecedented 14 men in their bullpen. This leaves, as previously stated, 8 starting position players and three backups (1 catcher who could backup at 1B, 1 infielder who mans 2B, SS and 3B, and 1 OF that could backup at all three spots assuming his shoulder can hold up). Dicey, Ned and Doug…dicey indeed.
So what does this mean in the long run? Well, hopefully not much. Hopefully the phone rings in Frank Kremblas’ office tomorrow and there’s a move or two to report back the other direction. Otherwise, the Brewers will continue to be perilously thin and in danger of severe problems should they need a pinch-hitter late in the game or in the case of an injury. Granted, a guy that can handle anything but an injury to J.J. Hardy in Joe Dillon is just a short flight away, but that’s still something that you just have to pray to avoid.
Will this end up biting the Brewers in the short term? Let’s hope not. But until another position player (or two) is added back to the roster, all we can do is hope.