Bullpen Performance Has Been Pleasant Surprise For West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.VA. — When West Virginia Power relief pitcher Blake Weiman gave up a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning Thursday against the Augusta GreenJackets, it was a rare instance of the Power bullpen giving up much of anything.

Prior to Thursday’s game, which the Power eventually won 8-7 in 15 innings, West Virginia relievers had allowed just four earned runs in its previous 27 1/3 innings pitched.

The Power has kept itself in the South Atlantic League Northern Division first half race, and the bullpen’s ability to keep the club in games has been a big part of that. It was on display again Thursday as Power pitchers logged nine innings of work, allowing three runs on five hits nine batters to help keep the team in a game it would go on to win.

“I think one of our question marks coming in maybe was our bullpen, and they’ve been solid,” Power manager Wyatt Toregas said. “We’ve got a bunch of little, scrappy guys that have some kind of funk to them. They come out and they go after guys and they’re aggressive. They’re not nibbling, they’re not passive and they take it to the other team. It’s fun to watch. When you’re aggressive like that, you’re gonna get hit sometimes.”

Weiman, prior to Thursday, had 19 strikeouts with zero walks and a 1.15 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. Matt Seelinger hasn’t allowed a run in six innings with opponents batting just .130 off him. Beau Sulser has only been with the team a short time, but has a 1.50 ERA, seven strikeouts and no walks in six innings spanning two appearances. Drew Fischer (pictured), another recent call up, allowed no hits or runs when he pitched three innings of relief on April 27 at Lexington. Adam Oller pitched some solid innings for West Virginia prior to his recent promotion to Bradenton. The list goes on. The relievers as a group have been pretty good for the Power.

Catcher Deon Stafford, who we featured here last week, gets a lot of credit from Toregas for corralling West Virginia’s relievers. He’s not shy about telling a pitcher what he needs to hear, and, as Toregas tells it, he’s earned the respect of the pitching staff.

“Deon Stafford is just perfect for them,” Toregas said. “He’s our primary catcher here and his personality is so confident, it just bleeds on to them and I think they’re confident because of that.”

Former Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan is the West Virginia pitching coach this season. On his watch, some of that old closer’s mentality has rubbed off on the pitching staff, and not just the relievers. Starters Travis MacGregor, Domingo Robles, Gavin Wallace, Braeden Ogle, Ike Schlabach, and Evan Piechota have all shown the ability to log good innings, albeit with varying consistency. Toregas said Hanrahan has his complete trust and so far, for the most part at least, he likes what he sees from the Power pitchers.

“D (Stafford) is great for the bullpen guys and I think Hanny has been great for the starters,” Toregas said. “If you can get the closer’s mentality into starting pitchers, you’ve got Max Scherzer. Max Scherzer has a closer’s mentality with starting pitcher stuff. With all the pitchers, starters and relievers, Hanny’s the best. In the short time I’ve worked with him, I just trust him. I let him do his thing. He’s got it.”