Heat in Philly over bullpen use? Cubs’ Joe Maddon has been there, done that

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Maddon on Opening Day last week.

CINCINNATI – Is it possible for a guy to over-manage his way onto the hot seat just three games into his big-league managing career?

Philadelphia’s Gabe Kapler raised that question over the weekend, when he raised eyebrows around the majors over the inexplicable management, and mismanagement, of his pitching staff.

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The heat was intense and immediate in Philadelphia and spread quickly around the game.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon can relate in at least one small way – not that Maddon has ever brought a reliever into a game without having him warm up first, as Kapler did Saturday.

But the only man to manage the Cubs to a World Series championship in the post-Model T era was criticized sharply and widely in the days and months AFTER pulling off the rare and long coveted title.

And he thinks he knows a big part of the reason why.

“Because the only part I think a lot of fans really understand is bullpen decisions,” Maddon said during a conversation late in spring training. “Because there’s so much nuance in the game, whether playing infields in, playing infields back, where do you put this guy on the shift, the pinch-hitting situation, why did you move your outfield, why did you set your lineup that way. That’s really void of scrutiny most of the time because people don’t understand that.

“But what they think they understand is bullpens,” he said. “I would hope that people get a little bit more sophisticated and not just scrutinize bullpen decisions and really delve into the rest of the game.”

The criticism Kapler got for decisions made in the Phillies’ opening series against the Braves was admittedly well deserved.

“I understand that in Philadelphia and nationally, people are going to have strong reactions, and they should,” Kapler told media before Tuesday’s game in New York. “I think they’re justified in this particular case.”

<em>Kapler</em>

Kapler

Kapler took Aaron Nola out of the opener with a 5-0 lead in the sixth at 68 pitches (and lost 8-5). He brought reliever Hoby Milner into a blowout loss Saturday before Milner threw a warmup pitch in the bullpen – earning a call from the league over the delay it caused.

Following a plan that involved heavy reliance on a nine-man bullpen with extra off days in the early part of the season, Kapler got just 36 outs from his starters the first three games, 44 from relievers and three from a position player.

“I guess you’re going to find out if those guys can hold up like that,” Maddon said of what looks like a postseason pitching approach to the regular season. “I like what we’re doing and how we do it, but that’s how they want to do it. We’ll see how it plays out.”

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