CLEVELAND -- This month, fans of opposing teams have been driven crazy by Indians manager Terry Francona's many pitching changes. September callups have resulted in a crowded bullpen, and while the use of so many relievers might seem unnecessary to outsiders, the manager has a method in his madness.
During last Sunday's rout of Houston, Francona used eight relief pitchers in a game for the fourth time this season. In addition to getting experience for his young pitchers, the manager has been able to ease the load of his more established regulars -- the pitchers who would come out of the bullpen most over the course of the postseason.
"There's been a couple games that have been spread out -- sometimes in the wrong direction -- but we haven't had to go to guys and we've kind of used it two-fold," Francona said. "We've gotten guys like Josh Tomlin a couple innings that were important for him. C.C. Lee has got some much-needed experience. Blake [Wood] got an inning or two coming back from his surgery that will get him going for next year.
"Obviously, you try to win every game, and when you can't win every game, you try to accomplish something that day, regardless of whether it's something maybe seemingly small like getting C.C. a couple hitters or something like that."
In 21 September games, the Tribe's callups have recorded a 4.79 ERA while pitching 20 2/3 innings in relief. The seven regulars, on the other hand, have assembled a 2.18 ERA over 53 2/3 innings. The main relievers are still bearing the brunt of the load, but it's not as heavy as it normally would be.
"That's the idea, so nobody's really on fumes," Francona said. "So if you do go to the bullpen in the fifth inning, you're not asking too much of somebody."
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.