Being a long reliever is an inglorious job. You sit and sit and wait and wait and people make jokes about putting your face on the side of a milk carton. When the call finally comes, it is usually when your team is in dire straits (or not straits at all) and, after sitting for a week, you are expected to pitch multiple innings.
Everett Teaford was the original long man this year, sitting for seven days to start the season before being called upon to pitch four innings against Cleveland with his team down five runs. He waited eight more days before throwing three more innings and then was called upon to make a spot start last Friday.
Teaford did not have a good start on Friday: lasting just four innings. At that point, without a long man in his pen and due to the back and forth nature of that very entertaining contest, Ned Yost had to use five relievers to finish out the game. The five combined for 85 pitches and the Royals’ deep pen was suddenly in real trouble.
Probably the rain out on Saturday, which did nothing to help Kansas City’s building momentum, was a very good thing for the bullpen. That and the callup of Nathan Adcock to replace the ‘used up’ Everett Teaford on the roster.
I have to admit, when Adcock was summoned from Omaha to replace Teaford, I kind of thought it was an overreaction by the Royals. They have exhibited a tendency to panic at the first sign of stress on their bullpen arms. Yost, in particular, seems borderline paranoid at times about having a long man ready to go. Hey, the baseball men got it right this time.
Enter the bad Bruce Chen on Sunday. We see him from time to time – frankly, I remain continually surprised we don’t see him more often. When Chen doesn’t have it, balls get ripped around the ballpark. It happens to everyone not named Verlander and Halladay, and it happened to Chen on Sunday. His defense didn’t help him much, but Bruce did not help himself much, either.
With two outs in the third and six runs already in, Nate Adcock got the call.
The Royals were down 6-1 and, although they would make some runs at the Twins, this game was pretty much decided. There is no glory to be had here and, with five plus innings left to go, Yost had to be thinking he was going to grind through the pen again. With three games looming at Detroit, two of which will be started by Sanchez and Mendoza (combined will they reach double digits in innings pitched in the Motor City?), that is not a scenario where you have to burn up the likes of Collins, Coleman and Crow just to finish a blowout game. You can insert your Mitch Maier comment/joke here, by the way.
Instead of that, Adcock got Alexi Casilla to pop out to end the third. He worked around a one out walk in the fourth, wriggled out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth, faced the minimum in the sixth and was tagged for a run on two doubles in the seventh. After getting two groundouts to start the eighth, Adcock walked back to back hitters before getting Josh Williingham to fly out to end the inning.
It was not the prettiest of outings, as Adcock allowed eight baserunners in five and one-third innings, but he held the Twins to just one run over that time. Had his offensive mates managed to get more than four runs out of fourteen baserunners, Adcock might have gotten a little glory after all.
As it stood, though, Kansas City never seemed to really be in this game. That left Nate Adcock out on the mound with one mission: save the rest of the staff for games that the Royals might have a real chance to win and that is exactly what he did. The Royals enter Detroit tonight with a fully stocked and fresh bullpen, except for a long man.
There’s the rub. Adcock, by doing his job and pitching five innings on Sunday, likely got his ticket punched back to the minors so that the Royals can recall someone who will be available to throw early this week. Such is the life of the long man. Everett Teaford and Nate Adcock know the drill. They are the forgotten men: seldom needed, but expected to excel when duty calls and, if they pitch well enough, likely to be sent to the minors in exchange for a fresher arm.
Like Teaford’s performance on April 13th, we probably won’t give Adcock’s five innings of cleanup work yesterday much thought as the season progresses. However, when Ned Yost makes the slow walk to the mound tonight and on Tuesday night, you can thank Adcock for the fact that everyone is ready for duty.