A Baseball Trend: The Set-Up Men

The set-up man didn't really exist in baseball as such until a relatively short time ago. Oh, sure, there were those who had to be thrust into the game when a starter failed early but he was hardly considered a specialist. Now, though, at every level, they've become a vital facet, particularly so in the minor leagues where pitchers tend to be on short pitch counts.

As far as Las Vegas was concerned, it was a group that had been successful down below but not particularly so after reaching the Pacific Coast League. That may well have been due to the environment in which they were forced to work rather than lack of ability but it almost universally held true, nonetheless.

Mark Alexander was the organization's Pitcher of the Year as a closer in 2006 but couldn't begin to match that as a set-up man this time around. He couldn't handle Vegas so was sent back to Jacksonville where he did better although certainly not at his '07 clip. Casey Hoorelbeke was another who faltered after being moved up. Matt Riley, onetime Oriole hot prospect, likewise, was successful with the Suns, not particularly so with the 51's.

A number of former big leaguers were tried and thrust aside as Chris Fussell, Dwayne Pollok and former Dodger Greg Bauer were brought to try to hold the tide.

Wesley Wright, a smallish lefthander,floundered in AAA as well but when he went back to Jacksonville, he thrived. So did B.J. LaMura although Luis Gonzalez didn't. Brian Akin came on to fill some needs for the Suns while the most successful of all was righthander Cory Wade. Wade excelled in the California League and kept right on doing the same in the Southern. Previously he had been known as a pitcher who tended to fade as the season wore on; this time he didn't.

On the other hand, Jordan Pratt had matched Wade pitch-for-pitch early in the Cal League season but he began getting kicked around rather regularly as it wore on. He seems to have very good stuff but has trouble staying focused. Francisco Felix and Jesus Rodriguez were others with mixed results for the 66ers.

The middle men weren't all that successful for Great Lakes, either. Thomas Melgarejo, a failed starter, was moved to the pen to give uneven performances. Joe Jones, a soft tosser moved up from Ogden, finally seemed to be getting established at the end after several lackluster showings. David Pfeiffer was also off-and-on.

Miguel Sanfler is a hoped-for lefthanded specialist but he, too, was a sometimes thing. Chris Malone, a former starter who was rehabbing, began getting stronger in the late going. In the end there was Jonathan Figueroa,who came to the Loons after serving his 60-day suspension for using a banned substance and who did surprisingly well.

Surprising for Figgy has been a shadow of the onetime best young lefty in the system that he once was. But that was five years ago; since then his fast ball had disappeared and he seldom seemed able to throw strikes. This time, though, he threw with much more authority, even hitting 90 on the gun a few times.

He's not nearly what he once was but maybe as still might have his moments. At the very least, he seems to have earned a reprieve.

As for Ogden, of the returnees, Kalen Gearhart generally fared okay, Jon Haldis generally didn't. The same with the draftees- Given Kutz performed capably; not so, Paul Koss. A number of free agents were tried with Matt Sartor showing some promise. Then there was another who, like Figueroa, came off a 60-day suspension. That would be Chales Dasni, who's always been an enigma- great stuff but wildly inconsistent. This time he did his job nobly.

Players from Latin leagues were used in this capacity for the Gulf Coast Dodgers and all had more than a few moments. Mexican Edwin Contreras was quite effective both in this role and as a starter. Luis Garcia has a mid-90's fast ball but sometimes suffered command lapses as did Luis Vasquez, coming back from arm surgery. Ramon Parades, another rehab, didn't have any pizzazz on his fast ball when he got back but utilized a curve to advantage. Kelvin Dominguez, brought over in mid-season from the Dominican League, handled himself well.

Jesus Gomez started the year as a first baseman, then was converted initially with dire results as when he walked six men in an inning. But when he settled in, he looked much better.

The Dominican Dodgers became noted for their pitching and the depth of the staff us illustrated by the fact that the set-up men weren't considered among the better prospects yet Antonio Castillo, Juan Santana, Miguel Prado, Raul Rivas, and Marlon Urriola all took turns turning in solid performances.

And did you ever notice that most of the switches from position players to the mound seem to occur among the Latinos? Like Felix Rodriguez, Guillermo Mota, Yhency Brazoban et al. Well, toward the end of the season, there was another one as infielder Charlie Mirabal made the change. Did nicely, too, in two appearances.

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories