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A closer look at the Bandits bullpen
Brisbane's back end, from middle relief to mop-up duty and closers
01/23/2012 2:59 PM ET
The bullpen
The bullpen (Kylie Cox / SMP Images)
There are two main categories of pitchers in baseball, starters and relievers.

Of course, every guy to take the hill is a different kind of hurler, throwing different pitches at different speeds and holding varying specialties. And then in the bullpen, the characterisation of the guys on the mound breaks down even further. There are long men, short men, mop-up men, spot starters, LOOGYs (lefty one-out guys) and closers.

"The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen," said Bob Lemon, former pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and Baseball Hall of Famer.

This season the Brisbane Bandits tried out a number of pitchers in a variety of roles. The first pitch of the year was thrown by Simon Morriss, who went from the starting rotation to the relief corps. Chris Mowday began the season in the closing role and emerged as a starter over the last few weeks. Sean Jarrett began his time in middle relief, before giving closing a try and then eventually making his way into the starting rotation.

All in all, the Bandits saw seven different members of the pitching staff record saves. A save is recorded by a closing pitcher when he finishes a game won by his team, he is not the winning pitcher, he is credited with pitching at least 1/3 of an inning, and he meets one of the following three criteria: he enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and does not give up that lead, he enters the game with the potential tying run on base, at bat or on deck, or he pitches the final three innings of the game.

Closing out games is a tough job, heading to the mound in the final moments of the game, hoping to preserve a win for the team and the starting pitcher, with the pressure mounting on those hopeful last pitches. A closer is also occasionally referred to as the short man, because of the tendency to only throw one inning at a time. Mowday led Brisbane closers with three saves on the year, finishing out more games than any other Bandit.

Brisbane had only one real LOOGY throughout the season, a relief pitcher who throws left-handed and specializes in pitching to lefty batters, that being Chris Lamb. LOOGYs typically enter the game to face one batter and get one out. Lamb threw nine innings in total for the Bandits this season, making 17 appearances. He allowed no earned runs and just four hits, keeping left-handed batters to a .118 average.

The Bandits had two other lefties in the bullpen for them this season, Jon Durket and Trent Baker. Neither was used as a LOOGY, except on a rare occasion, though Baker did much better against lefties than he did right-handed batters. The 21-year-old wasn't on the Brisbane roster for the entire season, but he made his way from the bullpen to the starting rotation in the team's last series. As a reliever, Baker entered seven games, tossing 10 innings for the Bandits and in his start, he completed five frames.

Durket predominantly threw multiple innings in each of his appearances and fared better against right-handed bats, keeping them to a .196 average on the season. The American lefty pitched 19 innings for the Bandits over 12 games, allowing 15 hits and striking out 18 on the year.

Baker was one of five pitchers that could be considered spot starters in Brisbane's rotation throughout the duration of the season. Andrew Marck and Jason Kilby both started just one game apiece for the Bandits. Josh Warner had three starts on the season and Jarrett had two, though Jarrett's success in the role may have cemented him in as a starting pitcher.

Jarrett came into the season a couple of weeks after it started, heading to Brisbane just in time for the team's road trip to Sydney. The American right-hander took a spot as a middle reliever before attempting to take over the closing role. As a part of the bullpen, Jarrett was 1-2 with a 3.24 ERA over 10 games and 16 2/3 innings, but with three blown saves. He appeared to find his niche as a starter, going 2-0 in his two appearances, pitching at least six innings in each game, walking just one batter and striking out nine.

The mop-up man in a bullpen is usually a pitcher who comes in when the team is suffering a blowout loss in early innings. The pitcher is used to mop up what is thought to be a lost cause, saving other pitchers for the next day's game. The Bandits didn't appear to have one standout mop-up man on their roster, notably because they didn't suffer many early-inning blowouts.

Outside of the closing role, there was one pitcher Brisbane used primarily as a short man. Justin Erasmus was the standout, playing the setup man at times and coming in for the eighth inning to hold onto the lead for the closer. Erasmus also closed out the last two games of the season, garnering two saves in his two opportunities. The Boston Red Sox prospect threw 16 innings over 12 games, posting a 2.25 ERA and eight strikeouts on the year.

John Veitch threw more than one inning in most of his appearances, and more than two innings in half of them, taking him just out of the short man category and making him one of Brisbane's long men. Over his 12 games he threw a total of 23 frames, going 2-2 with a 3.91 ERA on the season. He was extremely effective on the mound for the Bandits, especially in the second half of the season. Over his last six games and 13 innings of relief, he gave up just three runs.

Though it wasn't the case for Veitch, the long man is often a starter-turned-reliever who has been in a pitching slump. This might have been the best descriptor for Morriss, who came to the bullpen after five season starts. The long man is often trying to pitch his way from the bullpen back to the starting rotation, though the hope is that somewhere along the line, he will regain whatever confidence was lost in his slump. In relief, Morriss threw 14 2/3 innings in 10 games, striking out 10. For the season he pitched in 15 games, going 37 2/3 innings, walking just 12 batters while striking out 28.

Rhys Niit also got his share of time as a long man for the Bandits, closing out a couple of games in that role. Not on the roster for the entire season, Niit appeared in just six games but pitched 11 innings over that time. He notched two three-inning saves, usually a rarity but not for the Bandits staff, and posted a 1.64 ERA on the year.

While being a part of the bullpen is one of the toughest jobs in baseball, never knowing when someone might be needed or what situation they might be facing, and potentially not pitching in a game for days at a time, it's a hotbed for camaraderie amongst relief pitchers. That shouldn't be a surprise, since they spend so much time together.

The Brisbane Bandits bullpen spent their time together in left field this season cheering on their teammates first and foremost, but also playing games, trying to jinx other teams and telling a lot of stories. Rumour has it that Mowday has the best stories amongst those in the Brisbane 'pen.

But what's the best part about the bullpen, according to Bandits pitching coach Gary Nilsson?

"It's a team amongst a team," Nilsson said. "Everyone's a little group and they're together and they're part of the pitching staff. And they're all going for each other all the time."

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.