“They’re the best bullpen in the league”
Brooklyn Cyclones manager Luis Rivera has a lot of confidence in his bullpen, and he isn’t afraid to say it.
“They’re the best bullpen in the league,” Rivera said last week after his bullpen combined for five innings of two-run ball to close out a win versus the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the night after a rare late-game blowup.. “… I trust my bullpen, I trust my pitchers, and I know they’re going to keep doing their job.”
He’s not just saying things, the stats back it up as well. Of the 12 teams in the South Atlantic League, no team has had better results from pitchers who come on in relief than the Cyclones. Through 32 games, Brooklyn relievers have a 3.25 ERA and 2.10 batting average against, both of which rank No. 1 in the league, as well as a WHIP of 1.30 which ranks No. 3.
Rivera credited the work that the entire pitching staff puts in, both on their own every day and with pitching coach A.J. Sager, as one of the main reasons for their success. He also mentioned the team’s philosophy on how they attack each at-bat.
“The priority is to be ahead in the count, and I think we’re doing that,” Rivera said. “When you have a pitching staff that gets ahead in the count, you’re gonna be successful.”
The Cyclones have gotten standout performances this season from a couple of players who were formerly featured on the Brooklyn Cyclones Report — Josh Hejka and Jesús Vargas. Hejka, now in Double-A, threw 7.2 scoreless innings before his promotion. Vargas, who is still with the team, has given up just six earned runs in 20.2 innings out of the bullpen while also throwing six scoreless in his lone start.
Hunter Parsons has also been a major contributor, as he’s still yet to give up an run over 14.2 innings and nine appearances.
“I like Parsons, he has done a really good job for us,” Rivera said. “Another guy who likes to attack hitters and get ahead.”
The same goes for Justin Courtney, who currently leads the team in saves, going a perfect 4-for-4. He’s given up five earned runs in 15 innings, also over nine appearances. On Wednesday he picked up his fourth save, working out of inherited trouble in the eighth and then again out of a two-on, no-out jam in the ninth after runners reached on an error and a walk to begin the inning.
“He’s very reliable,” Rivera said. “He throws strikes, he throws all his secondary pitches for strikes. He holds the runners well.”
Sammy Tavarez has also been a big contributor, giving up just two earned runs in 9.2 innings over eight appearances, while also being perfect in save chances at 2-for-2.
“His strike percentage is getting better, that’s what we want,” Rivera said. “He’s doing great. I’m really, really, really happy for him that he’s getting better.”
The Cyclones also added one more familiar face to the pitching staff on Wednesday — Jordan Yamamoto. He made two appearances in the big leagues last year before injuring his shoulder in May and getting shut down for the rest of the year. He is on Brooklyn’s roster, not on a rehab assignment, and said he does not know how long he will be with the team.
“It’s nice to get back on the mound,” Yamamoto said after his appearance on Wednesday. “It’s not ideal to give up a two-run bomb to let them back in the game, we were up three runs. But we still got the win, so that’s all that matters. It’s nice to get back out, compete, and actually play for a win or a loss out there.”
In his 1.2 innings, he surrendered three hits, two walks, and two earned runs while striking out two. He said his shoulder feels great, and that he’s fully healthy and he’s “feeling strong, healthy, and ready to go.”
“Today was a stepping stone back in the right direction,” Yamamoto said.
The Cyclones will be home through May 22 finishing up a series vs. the Hudson Valley Renegades. They will then be away for two straight weeks as they take on the Bowling Green Hot Rods and the Jersey Shore BlueClaws. For ticket and promotion information, click here.