Padres Editorial: Where Did All the Lefties Go?

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Yesterday the Padres made an minor move that might have flown under the radar. They optioned Chris Rearick to AAA and called up Cory Mazzoni. It seems like an innocent enough move, after a short outing by Ian Kennedy the pen was short and Rearick was one the relievers used that had options, but the reason that move is so intriguing is that it leaves the Padres with no left handed pitchers on the major league roster.

Having a rotation without a lefty isn’t all that uncommon. The Padres are one six teams with a rotation without a lefty. The best five starters in the organization are on the big league roster, so there’s no issue with that. The bullpen is a different story. With the optioning of Rearick, the Padres have the only bullpen without a lefty. It was strange that for most of last year and the start of this year that the Padres only had one lefty in the pen, but now with no lefties they’re in a unique situation. It may be unique, but not a situation that Bud Black and the Padres haven’t been in before.

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While Alex Torres was the lone lefty in the pen for a large portion of the 2014 season, he was not a lefty specialist. Torres was actually much more effective against right handed hitters than he was against lefties. Essentially the Padres went most of 2014 without a specific reliever that had any significant advantage over left handed hitters. In today’s game a lot of people blame specialized relievers for scoring being as low as it is, but the Padres had the best bullpen without any specialized relievers. That’s because with the rotation and the great back end of the bullpen they had there wasn’t a pressing need for one. Having the ability to have a starter go six or seven innings and then follow them up with some combination of Dale Thayer, Kevin Quackenbush, Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street meant that a lefty specialist was an unneeded luxury. This year it’s the same crew with the exception of Craig Kimbrel being swapped in for Street.

So while having a bullpen without a lefty seems pretty strange, it’s really not all that necessary. It likely won’t be long before a lefty returns to the pen though. Frank Garces and Rearick were only optioned because they were nonessential members of the bullpen who had options and the pen was short. Once Garces reaches the 10 day minimum of days required in the minors, I expect him to come back up and Mazzoni to be optioned back to El Paso. Even so, it’ll be interesting to see how Bud Black manages the pen this next week.

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