The culprit is the Clones’ leaky bullpen, which has been responsible for six of the Clones’ eight losses.
The most glaring example of the team’s relief woes came last Sunday on July 4, when the Jamestown Jammers were knocking balls around the park like bottle rockets.
And these fireworks blew up in the Cyclones’ faces. Manager Wally Backman pulled starter — the solid Chris Hilliard — with a 12-1 lead in the sixth inning, and the bullpen promptly gave up a whopping 12 runs.
Backman knows there is much work to be done.
“Right now, [the bullpen] is a trial and error process,” the skipper said.
Mostly error, so far.
Two relievers, Pedro Martinez —pitching nothing like the three- time Cy Young Award-winner who shares his name — and Hunter Carnevale, both have ERAs of 18. Another, Brian Needham, has a 12.27 ERA.
“I got a closer [Johan Figuereo],” said Backman. “There are eight other guys available, and everyone has to earn a spot.”
Someone better grab the brass ring soon, Backman isn’t known for his patience, and the Cyclones have an important road trip in the next week.
Fortunately, three of those are against the lowly Lowell Spinners, who are already nine games back in their division.
Starting pitcher Wes Wrenn wasn’t too nervous about the road series.
“It’s the same game, regardless of where we’re playing,” Wrenn said. “I’m not worried about it — sometimes it’s nice to get a change of scenery.”
Easy for Wrenn to say — he’s not coming out of the bullpen. Of the Cyclones six games lost late in the game, four of them were on the road.
Backman tried to see the bright side.
“We’ve been ahead of most games late,” the skipper said.
But until some reliable relievers emerge, those late-inning leads will remain tenuous.
“I have to juggle — we need to find relievers,” Backman said. “Right now, no one has stepped up and grabbed it.”