Josh Fields (Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports)
We are one game into the 2014 season, and I’m not sure we have any greater clarity as to the bullpen roles.
There are options this season, but Bo Porter has yet to publicly commit to who will pitch when. We were already able to deduct that the contenders for the closer’s role were Chad Qualls, Josh Fields, Matt Albers, Anthony Bass, and Kevin Chapman. I think since Chapman is currently the lone left-hander in the bullpen takes him out of the closer’s conversation. Also based on past experience, I will eliminate Bass for now.
So that leaves us with Qualls, Albers, and Fields. Of those three, only Fields did not pitch in Tuesday’s game. With Scott Feldman cruising through the first six innings, the bullpen was quiet until the seventh inning. At that point, there was double barrel action with Chapman and Qualls.
Chapman entered the game first, based on the fact that a left-hander was coming to bat, and then Qualls relieved him the following inning. Qualls allowed three hits, one run, and also the runner he inherited from Chapman, before inducing an inning ending double play out of Alfonso Soriano.
With the Astros ahead 6-2 and a save opportunity off the table, Albers then pitched a scoreless ninth inning. Based on this, maybe we can operate under the assumption that Fields will get the first save opportunity.
I understand the concept of competition, but relievers need clarity on their roles. And right now, that is something that is lacking, which could morph into an issue.
"Relief pitchers like defined roles because it helps them prepare to pitch. On the other hand, if the closer is the best pitcher in the bullpen, there are often times where it makes sense to use him earlier than the ninth inning."
Porter did meet with the three options, Fields, Qualls, and Albers prior to the game, but that is all we have right now. However, based on how Game 1 shook out and reading between the lines on what Brent Strom said, I do think it is Fields.
"The Astros met with three relievers, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Josh Fields over the weekend. Asked who he’d turn to first with a one-run lead in the ninth inning Tuesday in the first game of the season, Astros manager Bo Porter named those three pitchers, in no particular order.“That’s basically (why we had) the meeting we had with the three of them the other day,” Astros pitching coach Brent Strom said Tuesday. “A lot of it will depend on the match-ups. Obviously, with the one lefthander (Kevin Chapman) we have on the staff, Albers and Qualls qualify as lefthanded pitchers given the repertoire and the way they throw.”"