Comment: As noted yesterday in the preview's comments section, the Phillies sensibly added Brown over an eighth relieve. Maybe it won't matter, but Brown's power in either park makes for a better desperation situation dude than the twin-less Dobbsey. With Blanton set aside for long-relief, injury, or extra-inning assignments, they're covered for those unhappy scenarios. The situational trio of Durbin, Romero, and Bastardo will be used in mix-and-match situations, but when it comes to controlling damage, the Phillies weren't among baseball's best teams in transition innings, letting opposing teams score in all but 16 of 70 opportunities when the starter had to pulled during a defensive inning.
As far as assault weapons to reach for on the bench, with Gload and Sweeney as a matched pair of veteran pinch-hitters for high-leverage situations, and Dobbs ready for use in the more disposable opportunities, Charlie Manuel has a nice spread of options. There may not be an obvious pinch-running choice beyond Francisco or Brown, but neither are pure burners.
Comment: Going with eight relievers might seem excessive, but there are no guarantees that they'll use Volquez and Arroyo in the series' fourth and fifth games in turn. You can also credit Dusty Baker with giving himself a nice collection of hard-throwing kids to turn to early in-game—maybe he'll have his starters on a short leash, because if he does, the idea of setting loose Chapman, Bailey, and Wood in the middle innings has to be tempting. Bray and Ondrusek will probably be limited to strictly situational roles, while Rhodes and Masset set up Cordero. All well and good, pretty much as expected.
The less happy outcome is Jim Edmonds' unavailability, but replacing him with Francisco does expand Baker's tactical options as far as having a bench player he can plug in at first, third, or left, but also one he might be less reluctant to use early. Edmonds' absence shouldn't guarantee anything in terms of Gomes starting every time out, although Gomes does have a decent track record as far as hitting against Halladay and Oswalt. There is no really good deluxe pinch-runner, and Heisey's flailures against southpaws probably rule out his employment as a platoon option in Game Three vs. Hamels.
Comment: With Justin Morneau finally ruled out, there are no real surprises here among the position players. Unfortantely, that probably makes for the worst bench imaginable, as ill-starred a bunch as Peter Klaven's groomsmen, but at least it's collectively planted on the pine instead of playing. The three reserve infielders will at least function as worthwhile pinch-running choices, and Tolbert and Punto might get all sacrificial on us in tight late-game scenarios—an opportunity to put A-Rod on the spot? Repko didn't do any damage against lefties, so there's no joy there as far as platoon matchups. In a series where the Twins might draw just one right-hander if the Bombers skip Burnett. The pen at least features the benefit of having three different guys with “closer cred,” so if Ron Gardenhire wants to focus on matchups and worry who accrues the statistical footnote later, so much the better.
Comment: So, you've go the usual assemblage of stars, and you've got a nice bench bat or two in Kearns for OBP against lefties and Thames for power, but drill down beyond that, and… blech, what is this, the Twins' twins? Maybe the obvious theme of the Yankeeography on Bomber benches is “They Also Played,” and maybe Girardi's borrowing from Joe Torre's age-old indifference over who gets the last three or four slots on the roster, but any situation in which Moseley and Mitre come into ballgames either involve double-digit leads or really bad things. Golson's at least present to be the team's designated Herb Washington, but he and Peña almost demand to go as unused as Mitre and Moseley. Much was made of Joba's stronger second half, but Robertson rebounded as well, and Logan as lone lefty had a fine turnaround year to becoming the quality LOOGY the Yankees needed to find after Damaso Marte disappointed them.
Comment: There's room for obvious controversy here, not just in the elective decision to make Shields the Game Two starter, but also in that Willy Aybar has at long last been identified as a bad DH. Well, controversial if you're Willy Aybar, but I figure it shows that the Rays have some command of the obvious, as well as being prone to some enduring obliviousness—if Star Trek teaches us nothing, it's that if you keep raising Shields, it's always too late and you're going to get hit. Meanwhile, it looks like they really are going with Johnson and Baldelli as their solution for their DH-ly needs. You might hope that Jennings is here in an Andruw Jones-style cameo, but it's more likely that he'll have to settle for the pinch-running chores that Fernando Perez isn't around for any more. In the pen, Choate's really a lefties-only LOOGY who can only be safely used against the left-handed batters the Rays won't pull—or basically just Josh Hamilton.
Comment: Cool on the Rangers for running with just 10 pitchers as well. As today's lineup reflected, there's a platoon of sorts between Borbon and Jeff Francoeur, and you can see Blanco as a defensive replacement for Kinsler if the occasion arises. German's not exactly a speedster as much as a competetent baserunner, with the added benefit of being playable at six positions if they get caught in an extra-inning affair. Since Moreland can move to the outfield, there's a goodly amount of play in their position assignments.
The bullpen similarly has a lot of stretch in it as well, since there are several former starters in that mix, and they could always use Hunter earlier in the series in an emergency. Holland as a situational lefty is a nasty indication of the organization's embarrassment of riches when it comes to their live arms, but they can also use him in long relief and let it ride if he's cooking in any given evening. Nippert is a bit of an odd choice for middle-innings sponge work—he's bad with baserunners, and not especially dominating, but he's disposable enough in case of big leads.