A New Bullpen Lowe

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Opening Night.

Baseball fans across the globe spent the day either hunting Easter eggs, watching NCAA basketball, or both. As the day lingered the anticipation grew to a Christmas morning type fever and Sunday night baseball couldn’t get here soon enough. The fact that the Rangers could possibly lose to the Astros never crossed the minds of most Rangers fans and instead this was going to be win #1 as our march to the World Series began.

This Rangers off-season was one of the strangest in recent memory. It’s been written about several times this winter about what they did and didn’t do during the Hot Stove season, but the bullpen was still a major concern as the season drew near. They let a few key pieces sign elsewhere and the only big name signee was Joakim Soria, who is currently on the disabled list. In fact, I wrote a preview piece about a week ago detailing most of these concerns and more here.

Matt Harrison was brilliant early on and really made the Astros’ bats look something along the lines of an A ball or AA club. He tied his career high in strikeouts with nine and had five of those coming in the first three innings. He looked untouchable during the early stages of this game, but Bud Norris was just as effective. In the sixth inning, with runners at first and second (both reached via walks) and two outs, Ron Washington made his first call to the bullpen and summoned Derek Lowe to face left-handed Rick Ankiel. The right-handed Lowe was called upon to get the Rangers out of this crucial moment during game one of the young 2013 season despite Robbie Ross and Joe Ortiz, both left-handers, and both available. But, Ron Washington went with the veteran Lowe to face the left-handed Ankiel.

Then this happened………

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The result was a knockout blow by Ankiel in the form of a 3-run big fly in the bottom of the sixth inning. To say that Twitter exploded would be an understatement and the bullpen controversy of 2013 had begun. Ron Washington’s competency and his ability to manage his bullpen were thrust into the spotlight, and the hopes and dreams of the Rangers going 162-0 were over.

Why were Ross or Ortiz not brought in for this at bat? Why was the long reliever used instead of a left-handed specialist?  I think this is just the beginning of a snowball narrative for the 2013 season. How will this bullpen be able to consistently protect leads without a dominant arm beyond Joe Nathan? Will Ron Washington be able to manage this bullpen effectively? How much blame should be put on the shoulders of Mike Maddux and his input on this bullpen?

I believe in the grind of the season and the fact that over the course of 162 games the better team(s) will emerge to the top of the standings, but it was frustrating to watch the lowly Astros dominate the Rangers on a national stage on the opening night of the 2013 baseball season.

Despite the frustrating start to the 2013 season, don’t jump off the proverbial cliff and remember it was only 1/162.

Jeff Johnson is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Jeff.Johnson@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @Houstonhog
Jeff Johnson

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