Allen Could Be Key to Future Bullpen Stability or Shakeup
By Craig Gifford
When the Cleveland Indians selected relief pitcher Cody Allen in the 23rd round of last year’s Major League Baseball draft, the pick was not even a blip on the radar to most Tribe fans.
For one, a pick that low is rarely lauded. Most players selected at that point either never make it to the big leagues or take a while develop. Secondly, a reliever out of a small school like North Carolina’s High Point College is often overlooked by the media and team followers.
Allen may have been overlooked last year, but now people are noticing. The 23-year-old right hander has made people see just how overlooked he really was. He made exceedingly short work of the minor league circuit and has been nearly unhittable in his brief time in the majors.
When this season started, Allen was at Class-A Carolina and was quickly moved to Double-A Akron. After 7.2 innings of yielding just one earned run with the Aeros, the fast-rising prospect found himself in Columbus, one stop away from wearing a Major League uniform.
Such a meteoric rise has seen a lot of players falter at the Triple-A level. Not Allen. In 24 games, spanning 31.2 innings, the fastball specialist had a 2.27 ERA and 35 strikeouts to nine walks. People were noticing and when the bullpen became depleted at the end of July, Tribe brass had no choice but to call Allen to the big show. Allen debuted on July 20 and has been just as impressive against Major League hitting as he was against the lower levels.
When Allen was first called up, the Indians were still in contention for a playoff spot. With the timing and due to little name recognition, a lot of people outside the Cleveland organization thought management brought him up to showcase him for a possible trade deadline deal. Of course, in the final week of July, the Indians embarked on an 11-game losing streak, fell out of contention and no trade was ever struck. Now, Allen might be untradeable.
In nine innings of work, Allen has allowed just a single hit and no runs. Granted, he is a long way from Brad Ziegler‘s 2008 record of 39 straight scoreless innings to start a career. However, Allen doesn’t appear to be falling apart anytime soon. In fact, the recent addition to the club could see an expanded role eventually.
There are thoughts that Allen could be what Vinnie Pestano was last year. In 2011, Pestano was unheralded when he got his chance at the majors. All Pestano has done is become one of the best set-up men in the game with a good shot at being a quality closer in the near future.
Allen could be following that same path. Another few outings of scoreless ball and management might have to look at him as a late-inning guy to take pressure over the much-used Pestano and Joe Smith. Much of the season, the final three innings of close games have belonged solely to Pestano, Smith and closer Chris Perez. No one else has really stepped up as a quality set-up man. Allen has the chance to get into that role.
Furthermore, if Allen can prove over the final couple months that he can be a late-innings pitcher, it may open the door for a big offseason trade. If Tribe management develops confidence in Allen, Perez or Pestano could be used as a trade chip to bring in a much-need right-handed power hitter.
Perez, one of the best closers in the game, would surely fetch the Indians a nice return. Pestano would slide nicely into the closers role. There was some thought that Perez may have been traded by July 31 this year. The problem was, it would have weakened the back of the bullpen. Now, if Allen can prove a dependable set-up guy, the bullpen would not be weakened at all by a deal. Obviously, any trade talk is pure speculation and may not happen at all.
If no trade happens and Allen is the real deal, you are now looking at a promising relief corps for 2013. You would have Perez, Pestano, Smith and Allen. There would be the returning Rafael Perez as a fifth guy. Someone look Tony Sipp could now be given time to figure out the problems that have plagued him this year. That or Sipp or Rafael Perez could be let go as they are arbitration-eligible. Allen would be a lot cheaper of an option than either one of them.
Whatever direction the Indians take this, they can only win with the find they seemingly have in Allen. If he continues to prove himself a quality relief pitcher the Indians either have a very loaded pen or a chance to use an extra arm to patch up other holes. Not really a wrong answer either way.
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