It really does bear repeating that while sample sizes are important in analyzing the sport, baseball really is a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of game for the players and (contending) teams, especially when it comes down to the final months of the season.
And for Tommy Milone, his latest was not the impression he wanted to make on the Oakland Athletics.
Having already lost his job in the starting rotation to Sonny Gray and given a second chance to impress the team due to the injury to Bartolo Colon, Milone’s latest turn only served as a reminder for why the team sent him down to begin with.
Sure, there were some marginal improvements, but this was still a pitcher who could not get out of the fifth inning, needing 97 pitches prior to getting the hook with two outs to prevent what was already a two-run inning from turning into something a whole lot worse. Considering that he’d lasted just 3.2 inning in his previous outing that was essentially the final shoe that got him sent down, it’s difficult to image that the A’s would be too happy to slot him back into mix, and doubly so with Brett Anderson looking ready to return after his rehab start on Thursday.
However, given that the team had planned to move their ace lefty into the bullpen prior to Colon’s injury, would the same approach for for Milone?
It’s doubtful, really. Where Anderson was at a spot in his rehab that would make made him suitable for relief work, Milone has been going through no such routine. In fact, he hasn’t made a relief appearance since he was a prospect in the Washington Nationals‘ system. Moreover, the soft-tosser’s four-pitch arsenal that relies on location rather than oomph doesn’t exactly scream relief, and especially not in situations where he’ll be called in to put out any sort of fire, anyway.
Milone is a pitcher that thrives on making in-game adjustments, as his .922 OPS on pitches 1-15 vs. .584 from 16-30 will attest to. In short, it’s unlikely that a shift into a relief role will actually make him better equipped to provide the team any … unless he’s strictly used as a mop-up man to eat innings, I suppose.
If anything, you might say that it’s Sonny Gray who might be better suited for the bullpen (at least in the short term); but given what he’s done in his two starts, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon either.
So, the minor leagues beckons once more for Milone …