Spring Preview 2014: The Bullpen | The Process Report

Spring Preview 2014: The Bullpen

With camp opening this week, we’re going to begin previewing the roster in segments. Today we’ll focus on the potential members of the opening day bullpen. The format is as follows:

Player name
2013 role
Expected 2014 role
A brief breakdown of the player

Grant Balfour
Spent 2013 as the A’s closer
Same, but for the Rays

Balfour returns to Tampa Bay in a different role. The Australian native now throws a curveball in addition to his fastball-slider combination. He’s not the stereotypical flamethrower anymore, as there’s some nuance to his game.

Heath Bell
Middle Reliever
Spent 2013 with the Diamondbacks in multiple roles
Probable to pitch in middle relief

It’s all about command with Bell. He has two solid offerings and the necessary tenacity to pitch in high-leverage spots. Unfortunately, Bell has struggled to avoid the home-run ball due to his tendency to get loose in the zone. If Bell can sharpen his location, he could be a pleasant surprise.

Brad Boxberger
Middle Reliever
Split 2013 between Triple-A and the majors
Likely to start the season in Triple-A

Acquired in the Alex Torres trade, Boxberger has the potential to become a set-up man. For now, he’s probably heading to the minors in order to fine-tune his game. Boxberger has a solid three-pitch mix, but his glove-side command issues need to be smoothed out before he can fulfill his promise. Expect to see him before long.

Brandon Gomes
Middle Reliever
Split time between Triple-A and MLB bullpen

Gomes continues to show value as a right-handed specialist as his delivery and arm slot make him very tough on right-handed batters, holding them to a sub-.200 batting average over the past three seasons. He is not nearly as effective against lefties due to the same things that make him so successful against righties. He can be optioned to the minors in 2014.

Mark Lowe
Middle Reliever
Split 2013 between Triple-A and the majors
Candidate to start the season in the big-league bullpen

One of a few relievers who are either out of options or able to opt out of his contract, Lowe figures to garner strong consideration for an available bullpen spot. The longtime Mariner has a live arm, however, he’s always struggled with location and durability. If Lowe makes the team, he figures to work in middle relief.

Josh Lueke
Middle Reliever
Split time between Triple-A and the MLB bullpen
Will spend time either in the MLB bullpen or on the waiver wire

Lueke has been mostly ineffective in his times at the big league level due to poor fastball command. He has elevated too many pitches up in zone, getting away from what has made him effective in the past. He is out of options this season, so he must be put on waivers if he does not make the 25-man roster out of camp.

Jake McGee
Set-up man
Set-up man/high-leverage ace

The Ying to Joel Peralta’s Yang. Unlike his right-handed counterpart, the young left-hander blazes upper-90s fastballs past his opponents on a routine basis. Solid command of the heater helps combat platoon splits and roam freely instead of situationally. Has thrown the occasional slider for fun, but being able to throw the fastball in all quadrants of the strikezone gives him multiple looks with plus-plus offering. He is toying with the idea of re-introducing a low-80s curveball with traditional 12-6 movement into his arsenal.

Juan Carlos Oviedo
Middle Reliever
Spent 2013 recovering from Tommy John Surgery
Mid-to-high leverage reliever

The former Leo Nunez, and Marlins’ closer, Oviedo spent 2013 on the Rays’ payroll rehabbing his right arm. As a sign of faith in his progress, the club gave him a major-league contract this winter, as well a seven-figure guarantee, despite him not tossing a big-league pitch since 2011. When healthy, he throws a mid-90s fastball complimented by a swing-and-miss changeup. He’ll throw the off-speed to both sides; a strategy that will likely be encouraged by Rays’ coaching.

Joel Peralta
Set-up man
Set-up man/high-leverage ace/lion

Closers come and go, but Peralta is the cog that keeps the bullpen machine rolling. After setting up for Kyle Farnsworth and Fernando Rodney, he will now pass the baton to Balfour. A dogged competitor, he relies on guile over gifts. His splitter is a great equalizer versus lefties which makes him useful in big situations regardless of batter. Will throw any of his three pitches in any count without fear.

Cesar Ramos
Versatile Reliever
Spent 2013 in the MLB bullpen as the long-man

Ramos lives on in the pen as the first lefty out for matchups in the medium leverage situations and as the guy who works in long relief in blowouts. He has a mostly average four-pitch arsenal that is deeper than most relievers. Ramos knows his role and serves it well. He can go long spurts without an appearance, and yet is able to stay sharp and do what is asked of him most times out.


  1. buddaley wrote:

    Three other relievers on the 40 man roster, all of whom pitched in Durham with some success, are Jeff Beliveau, C.J. Riefenhauser and Kirby Yates. Given the uncertain status of Boxberger and Gomes who both can be optioned, and of Lowe and Lueke (and Ramos) who have been, to put it kindly, erratic, shouldn’t you include those three in your review?

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