I left San Diego on Wednesday night for a quick amateur scouting trip, so I haven't been in the office, but there have been a few excellent questions that deserve some attention. I'll respond relatively quickly here (I have to get to another three games today), but I'll try to follow up early next week. All questions are paraphrased.
Question 1 from seemingly everybody: Why on earth are you carrying 13 pitchers?
13 pitchers is a lot, no doubt, and we're not viewing it as a long-term solution. Until we start pinch-hitting pitchers for pitchers, however, it's fine. There are three principle reasons for carrying 13 pitchers for the time being: 1) we have a whole host of new relievers that we didn't have during much of spring training, so we're trying to learn as much about each of them as possible, 2) some of these relievers don't have roster flexibility (in other words "out of options"), and 3) we have some starters from whom we're not going to expect six innings every time out there so we must expect to fill in some innings. As a cherry on top, the schedule calls for us to play 16 games in the first 17 days on the season, which is rigorous coming right out of spring training. It's an unusual roster construction, but it works for now. Building on question #1...
Question 2 from Friarworks: Why has Frankie DeLaCruz only pitched one inning in ten games and isn't that bad for his development?
Bud has had a tough balancing act to start the season. Not only are we carrying a number of new pitchers as mentioned above, but also seven of our first ten games have been decided by three runs or fewer. Of the three that were decided by four or five runs, one of them was a one-run game until the 7th after which Perdomo got the opportunity to pitch the 8th (the final inning), and the other was 4-2 until the bottom of the 8th when we scored three to go up 7-2 and Moreno got the 9th. The fact is that Bud is trying to break in DeLaCruz, Gregerson, Moreno, Perdomo, and even Mujica to some degree, and DeLaCruz so far has gotten the short end of the stick. Actually, even Cla Meredith only had two appearances before yesterday's game.
Therefore, it's the job of our pitching coach and bullpen coach to make sure that each guy continues to stay fresh while also maintaining their availability. Bud is certainly aware of the days off in between appearances, and I'm sure he's been trying to find a good spot to get DeLaCruz in there. To have a guy get one inning in ten games is certainly not ideal, but I'd rather that than have too many opportunities where we're behind in games or our starters are getting knocked out in the 2nd.
Question 3 from WebSoulSurfer: Why would you designate Travis Denker for assignment? Weren't there other, better candidates than a 23-year old infielder with hitting skills?
This is a great question, because there isn't a science behind a lot of roster moves. In general we'll have a debate among a group of our Major League scouts as well as front office personnel to decide on the move when we have to make an irrevocable decision like this one.
We agree with WebSoulSurfer that Travis is a very good prospect. We were happy to claim him on waivers from the Giants during the winter, and we're disappointed to lose him. I expect that he'll be a good big leaguer either as a 2B/3B bat or even as an everyday player. In this particular case, though, Travis had a couple of things working against him: 1) the most value he can bring would be at 2B and both Matt Antonelli and Eric Sogard are excellent prospects in their own right playing that position in AAA and AA respectively, and 2) as stated in both previous answers, our pitching is unsettled. Basically, we've wanted to keep as much pitching depth as possible until we have a better sense for the look and shape of our ML pitching staff (remember, too, that this decision had to be made a week ago after just four games).
I mention all of that, but as the group discusses the merits of each player under considerition, the decision often comes down to one thing: which player does the group believe has the best chance of making it through waivers? In this case, the group determined it was Travis, and unfortunately we lost him.