Nowhere to turnJays' bullpen options running thin
By MIKE RUTSEY, TORONTO SUN
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Kerry Lightenberg, right, reacts after walking Anaheim Angels Jeff DaVanon to score Angels Vladimir Guerrero during the seventh inning in Toronto Saturday. (CP PHOTO/Aaron Harris)
YOU HAVE to feel sorry for Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca. If his starter can't make it past the seventh inning and his team is trailing, he's pretty much cooked with nobody he can turn to.
Vinnie Chulk, the setup guy, can go more than one inning on occasion before handing the ball to closer Jason Frasor. But they're not used in games in which the Jays are behind.
None of the other relievers in his bullpen -- Pat Hentgen gets a pass on this one -- has shown he can do the job consistently when called on with runners on base.
Kerry Ligtenberg has been the worst in that regard, but when Ted Lilly ran out of gas against Anaheim yesterday with two out, runners on first and third in the seventh and trailing 4-2, Tosca gave him the call.
Ligtenberg turned a two-run game into an Anaheim 11-2 rout and sent the majority of the 20,635 fans in attendance to the SkyDome exits.
The right-hander never made it out of the inning, and never retired any of the six batters he faced.
Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen rapped consecutive singles off him, allowing both inherited runners to score. On the season, Ligtenberg has allowed 12 of 15 inherited runners to come home.
And before being pulled, he also gave up an infield single, a bases-loaded walk and a grand slam to Bengie Molina.
"He's had a lot of success against Guerrero and Guillen and those guys are pretty good hitters," Tosca said of Ligtenberg's performance. "You'd like to think that he could get one of the two out. He makes a good pitch on (Darrin) Erstad and to his credit he beats the ball out. The big at-bat of the inning was Molina's. If one of those right-handed hitters is retired, we're still in the game."
"But once that happens, the inning really looks ugly."
So who does Tosca turn to in the future, as Justin Speier and Terry Adams haven't been any better?
"We need to have someone step forward and take that roll for us," Tosca said. "I'm hoping that after the break we can put these things behind us and come back and pitch like we're capable of pitching in those situations."
Ligtenberg has now given up 41 hits and 19 earned runs in 29 1/3 innings for a 5.83 ERA.
"I felt like I made pretty good pitches to Jose Guillen and Darin Erstad (that went for singles)," Ligtenberg said. "The one to Vladi (Vladimir Guerrero) could have been in a little bit more and I walked two guys and threw one right down the middle to Molina. Overall it was hit or miss and when I made good pitches they got hit.
"We still had a chance to win that game. Unfortunately, I couldn't get out of there and limit the damage. By the time I was out of the game, the game was out of reach."
Ex-Blue Jay Kelvim Escobar struck out nine and held his former team to five hits. But on the negative side, he ran his pitch count to 105, which was why he was yanked after just 5 1/3 innings.
Still, with solid relief supplied by Brendan Donnelly and Kevin Gregg, it was enough to give him the win and even his record at 5-5.