When Patrick Osborn steps onto the mound to take the ball from his starter, the RiverDogs skipper is confident that no matter who he hands the ball off to, the RiverDogs will have a good chance to walk away with a win. The bullpen has been outright dominant to begin the season, and when the RiverDogs have a late lead, it's a good bet that Charleston is going to walk away with a victory.
"They (the bullpen) have really been the most consistent part of this team so far," said Osborn in a postgame interview. "They have been able to hold leads or prevent the opposing team from adding on"
The RiverDogs bullpen has been stellar throughout the month of April posting a combined 2.15 ERA throughout 104.2 innings pitched allowing just 25 earned runs. They have proved to be consistent allowing just 56 hits in there 104.2 innings pitched.
Consisting of Trevor Lane, Kolton Mahoney, Anyelo Gomez, Raynel Espinal, Christian Morris, David Sosebee, and Garrett Mundell, Osborn can turn to any arm in the pen with no hesitation. Sosebee and Lane have seen the most action, pitching a combined 30.2 innings and struck out 35 batters. The bullpen has also kept the walks low, only allowing 19.
"It's just a good group of guys coming together out of the bullpen," said RiverDogs pitching coach Justin Pope. "They really feed off each other. They come to the ballpark every day ready to work and ready to get better, and they're guys who have been around for a few years now so they have an idea of what they need to do to get ready for the game and they have an idea when they get out there of how to pitch, what they need to do to be successful. I think they really go out there and feed off each other. Their chemistry together is outstanding and night after night they see each other going out there putting up zeros so it's a friendly competition."
Raynel Espinal and Christian Morris are the two most recent additions to the bullpen staff. Both pitchers got the call up from extended spring training and have already made their presence known. Espinal has pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out 14 batters. "Saw him a little bit in spring training, strike thrower, dominates his strike zone with his fast ball, he's going to be a big addition to this bullpen" Osborn said after Espinal's first appearance as a RiverDog.
Christian Morris joined the RiverDogs last season in late April and made 22 starts throughout the 2016 season. He finished with a record of 8-5, 2.99 ERA, and struck out 99 batters as a starter. In 2017 he got one start with high A Tampa on April 10th and threw four scoreless innings. Morris has pitched 3.1 innings since his call up, striking out three batters and allowing one run on two hits.
Strikeouts have been a major factor of the RiverDogs' pitching success as a whole. They lead the SAL in strike outs with 263 including 113 of those coming from the bullpen that averages 4.2 innings pitched per game. Espinal, in a recent outing against Delmarva on April 27th, fanned nine batters in just four innings pitched.
The former Georgia Bulldog Sosebee leads the Charleston bullpen with 21 Ks through 15.1 innings pitched. "He's a little more advance with his pitch package, he has the luxury of doing a bit more with his stuff than other guys, he has a great idea of how to pitch, he knows when to add to his fastball and slider and when to take some off," Pope said following Soesbee's last outing against Delmarva when he struck out six batters in three innings pitched.
Anyelo Gomez is Charleston's closer and has been dominant in his outings. Gomez is five-for-five in saves and has appeared in eight games this season. The Dominican Republic native ranks second in the SAL in saves and has a 2.45 ERA through 10.0 innings pitched. Even though he's the closer, he has the third most strike outs in the bullpen with 16.
"The thing that's really impressed me with Gomez is how he's staying under control with his delivery, last year he would get ahead of hitters and would come out of his delivery and throw balls over the catcher's head, next thing you know he's gone from 0-2 to 2-2 or 3-2 real quick where as this year he's doing a great job of staying within his delivery and controlling the zone with his fastball which is a great sign to see," said Pope.
As a whole, the RiverDogs pitching staff has a 3.20 ERA and has allowed 79 earned runs through 222.1 innings pitched. Since the start of the season starters have been going deeper into ball games and resting the bullpen more with fewer innings to pitch.
With a lead after five innings, the RiverDogs were previously undefeated until a late rally by the Delmarva Shorebirds on Sunday, April 30, but still tout an impressive 7-0 record when leading after the fifth and sixth innings, and a 7-1 mark when leading after the seventh. Charleston is 10-0 when taking a lead into the ninth inning.
Not only has the bullpen held leads, but they have also kept Charleston hanging around to allow the club to mount some of the more impressive comebacks they have already enjoyed this season. The RiverDogs boast seven come from behind victories this year, including three walk-off wins at The Joe. While heroes like Leonardo Molina and Carlos Vidal have lifted Charleston to victory with their swings at the plate, it's the unsung heroes in the bullpen that have kept deficits from turning into blowout losses.
On April 13 in Rome in maybe the most extreme example of the bullpen's durability, the RiverDogs trailed by as many as five runs in part due to three defensive errors that dug them into an early hole. Left-hander Phillip Diehl turned in an iron man-like performance out the bullpen to keep the RiverDogs in it. After giving up a run on an RBI knock in the third, the Cincinnati native punched out two straight batters to end the inning and would settle in from there, finishing with seven strikeouts and just three total hits allowed across five frames. Charleston would end up winning the ballgame, 14-5.
Whether it's slamming the door in the ninth with Gomez, setting up a close game with Mundell, or racking up strikeouts with Sosebee or Espinal when a starter's night is cut short, RiverDogs manager Patrick Osborn has plenty of tools at his disposal to not only eat up innings, but keep Charleston hanging around with a chance to win each night.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.