Chase Watkins – Picture by Todd Johnson
While everyone has been fixated on the starting rotation and Cade Horton in South Bend, along with the arrival of James Triantos, something is happening this month that has gone relatively unnoticed. The back end of South Bend’s bullpen has just been outstanding this month in large part to five guys carrying a big load.
They are an eclectic mix of players. Three of them arrived in summer of 2022 and then the other two arrived back in April.
I guess we should not be surprised to see Adam Laskey and Sheldon Reed exceed expectations because the duo did the same thing last spring at Myrtle Beach. Both had minuscule ERAs and almost virtually did not allow a hit. Reed gave up two hits all spring while Laskey did not give up an earned run until he arrived in South Bend in late June/early July. But moving to High-A was a bit of a struggle for both relievers as it took them until late August to figure some things out and that has carried over to this year.
For Adam Laskey this month, he’s appeared in seven games up through Tuesday and has a 1.46 ERA this month. He’s thrown 12.1 innings and he’s struck out 15. Opponents have a batting average against of .182. Those are some pretty stout numbers that tend to get one promoted fairly quickly.
As for Sheldon Reed, he has really turned it on this month. In nine innings in May, he has a 1.00 ERA and a batting average against of .056!!! His strikeout to walk ratio is 4.33 to 1. That’s pretty darn good and will probably get Sheldon some Reliever of the Month consideration.
Frankie Scalzo, Jr. has also been a pleasant surprise. He struggled quite a bit last year at Myrtle Beach but looks like a different guy this year. He’s chugging it in the mid-90s and pitching 2 to 3 innings a pop. With a 2.75 ERA, he is holding the opposition down in mostly long relief, not by strikeouts, but he’s not allowing hits as he has a .196 batting average against.
Lefty Chase Watkins has a 2.61 ERA in May and struck out 12 batters in 10 innings. When I got to see him pitch in Beloit, I was impressed as he does have a starter’s repertoire with the ability to throw four pitches. He has the potential to start, but he’s much more valuable as a reliever than as a starter, especially since he’s a lefty.
Jarod Wright has been a big surprise this month. Since being signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2021, his rise through the system has been slow. But this year, things are starting to click. Maturity helps, but he also has pretty good command of what he’s throwing out there and is able to put the ball where he wants it in the strike zone.
He has a 1.93 ERA for the year, but in May it is 0.84.* His batting average against is just .200 while he is striking out about a man per inning. His greatest strength might just be his mental acuity to not let either a walk or a hit get to him and he’s just making guys get themselves out. When I saw him pitch in Beloit, he just got right to work, and just attacks, attacks, and attacks. That is what you want in a reliever.
It will be interesting to see who else joins them in the sub 3.00 ERA range in South Bend this month. Joe Nahas is close. Eduarniel Nunez could get there with a couple of solid outings as well. That’s a pretty deep pen!
*Of course, after this post was written, Jarod gave up 2 runs in yesterday’s outing. Sometimes that’s how it goes but his May ERA is now at 2.13 which is still excellent.