Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has caught some undeserved grief in the past 24 hours or so because his Phoenix Desert Dogs team in the Arizona Fall League ran out of pitchers and couldn’t finish the nine-inning game, as Scott Merkin of MLB.com reported.
As someone who wishes the next Dodger manager had more experience, I nevertheless found this to be completely unremarkable. Some people have been using it to launch more snark at Mattingly, but that snark betrays a lack of understanding of what the AFL is – a series of games designed to provide a limited number of players with practice in a (pseudo-)competitive setting.
The math is simple: Mattingly was given five pitchers to work with Thursday (two others were injured), and was expected to get them all in the game while adhering to strict pitch-count limits. Over the first six innings he used three hurlers, none of whom pitched all that well, leaving him with two for the final three.
The real trouble began with Dodger prospect Steven Ames, a 17th-round pick in 2009, couldn’t retire any of the seven batters he faced in the seventh inning. The next pitcher, Marlins prospect Steve Cishek, fared little better, retiring only two of the next seven batters, using 36 pitches in the process.
That forced Mattingly to use a sixth pitcher, Braves prospect Cory Gearrin, who was supposed to pitch today, in order to complete the seventh inning Thursday.
Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles spoke to Mattingly today and sent along these quotes:
“You only have so many guys, and we have two starters down (with injuries),” Mattingly told Jackson. “Each organization dictates how much you can use their guys and how much they can pitch. Ames just got here, and he was only supposed to go one inning or 30 pitches. And then Cishek, he could only go 40 pitches or two innings. And then I had to bring in Gearrin, and he only had 14 pitches left.’
“This had nothing to do with managing a game. I would do it every day exactly the way we did it, because I’m not going to send somebody out there and get them hurt, either somebody from our organization or from another organization. And you’re not about to send another (position) player out there (to pitch) and risk getting them hurt just to get through one inning. … We saw this coming for three or four days. We’d send a guy out there and cross our fingers and just hope he could give us an inning or get a double play or whatever, just to get us through. But it finally caught up with us.”
It’s happened before, and it’s happened again. Save the grievances about Mattingly for when they actually matter …
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