When Sean Gallagher entered Sunday’s game in the second inning, his roster spot was on the line.
Hampered by an early-season injury, Gallagher had walked more than he had struck out. In 14 innings, he’d walked 14 batters. That put his FIP at an ugly 7.38.
With Tim Stauffer due back from the DL any day now (he’s on rehab in AAA), someone has to go. The player initially called up to replace Stauffer, Ryan Webb, has quickly won a high-leverage bullpen role and posted an ERA around 1.00.
With no other obvious candidates around to be sent packing, the spotlight fell on Gallagher, who is out of options, meaning he could wind up outrighted off the 40-man roster if the Padres jettisoned him for Stauffer.
And, lo and behold, the big righty came through.
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After Kevin Correia only managed to get five outs, allowing five runs, Gallagher came in in a mopup role and threw 3 1/3 shutout innings. The control issues were still there–he walked two batters, including pitcher Joe Blanton, and hit another–but Gallagher struck out four and was a huge lift against a talented Phillies lineup. In one impressive sequence, Gallagher struck out the heart of the Philadelphia order. He got Chase Utley on an awkward swing at a 92-mph fastball to end the third, completely fooled Ryan Howard with a slider to record the first out in the fourth, and then got Jayson Werth to chase two low sliders before blowing a 93-mph heater by him up in the zone.
Gallagher is still the worst reliever in the bullpen statistically, but this outing makes the decision on who to get rid of for Stauffer quite a bit more difficult.
First off, this is the classic “showing flashes of dominance” outing. You don’t want to DFA a 24-year-old righty with this sort of promise.
Second, Gallagher showed that he can be a valuable long reliever, which is a skill that nobody (except for Stauffer) really possesses in this bullpen.
Gallagher’s outing puts more pressure on Webb and perhaps Ed Mujica, who’s shown a bad homer issue this season, to step up. Before today, I would’ve said Gallagher was the odd man out. Now, I’m leaning more toward Mujica, despite his 3.21 ERA–seven homers in 28 innings is awful, although man…a 29/3 K/BB ratio is miles ahead of Gallagher’s 16/16.
Honestly, given Wade LeBlanc’s recent slump, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if LeBlanc is sent down and Stauffer is moved into the rotation. Padres brass has stated Stauffer will be stretched out in his rehab assignment as if he were a starter, so maybe Stauffer or even Gallagher winds up displacing LeBlanc, and all the relievers are safe.
Or maybe I’m just overthinking everything and Webb is going back down.
It’ll be an interesting decision to watch.