As I mentioned yesterday, I'm a Braves fan, so the first two games of the season have been really nice for me. That said, I'm also the kind of guy who can find fault in everything from Christmas morning to free steak, so I do have one bone of contention -- pointed out to me by my friend, fellow Braves' fan and fellow blogger tHeMARksMiTh -- and that's Bobby Cox's use of the bullpen.
Granted, Jair Jurrjens' typical inefficiency in last night's game caused Cox to go the pen earlier than he'd probably like, but why did Mike Gonzalez pitch with a four-run lead? Don't get me wrong -- I'm a fan of using one's closer in non-save situations -- but Gonzalez is still not too far removed from some bad health, and maybe he should be used a bit more sparingly until it's clear that he's 100% recovered. Besides, there were other options available, such as Blaine Boyer, Jeff Bennett (who was used last night, but only threw four pitches), and Buddy Carlyle. Maybe they're not as good as Gonzalez, and maybe Bobby just wants to be extra sure to nail down wins early in the season, but I've watched Cox manage the Braves for nearly 20 years now, and if there's one thing you can count on is him going back to comfortable habits. If he avoids going deeper into the pen now and it works, he'll keep doing it, probably past the point where it ceases to work.
The bellwether for Cox's handling of the pen will be his deployment of Peter Moylan. Moylan was, quite frankly, abused last year, to the point where even Cox recognized it. Indeed, Cox repeatedly said in spring training that he would not use Moylan on consecutive nights and would be careful with him. And to be sure, he hasn't used him yet. He has, however, had him up and throwing in the pen multiple times in both games so far. It's kind of like the guy who's trying to quit smoking hiding cigarettes around the house, you know, just in case.
All of that said, if Bobby Cox has earned anything in his career, he has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to how he handles pitchers. Still, I'm a worrier and a fan, so I'll be watching his use of the bullpen closely in the early going.