After left-hander Erik Bedard worked himself into a jam in the 6th inning by giving up three straight singles in the Pirates eventual 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, Manager Clint Hurdle called upon Chris Resop from the ‘pen.
Resop was familiar with that role. The righty ranked ninth among N.L. relief pitchers in innings pitched (69.2). He also allowed just 18 of his 56 inherited runners to score during the 2011 season.
“We get the bases loaded, no outs, you know who we’ll go to there,” Hurdle said laughing. “Based on last years performance.”
The right-hander retired his next two batters before intentionally walking A.J. Ellis. Hurdle elected lefty reliever Tony Watson to face pinch-hitter James Loney to get the final out. The strategy paid off, as Watson got Loney to pop out to leave the bases loaded.
Resop doesn’t usually make an appearance with a clean base path. And he’s okay with that. It takes somewhat of a different mentality to handle those high-leverage situations. Resop said he enjoys them.
“I don’t know if it’s something where you just lock in and go do to a different place,” Resop said. “You know there is zero room for error. I don’t know what it is. I had success doing it last year. And I like it. I like the pressure situations. I think it makes me focus more for some reason. I like that stuff. I like to come in those pressure situations and see what my stuff’s like, see how good I am.”
In his first full season in the Majors with Pittsburgh last season, Resop posted a 4.39 ERA over 76 appearances. Resop’s 79 strikeouts was tied for eighth among National League relievers. The former outfielder turned reliever worked hard over the offseason to get better. The 29-year-old added a few new pitches to his repertoire.
“I’m trying to throw my changeup more often then I really ever have,” Resop said. “I’m trying to throw in, four-seam fastballs in more then normal. I usually throw away a lot. Sometimes you get away with it. At times hitters are looking out over the plate if you’re not going to throw in. They can kind of block off, or zone off half of the plate. It’s throwing it in different locations. Which makes it a new pitch because it’s something I’ve never done. That’s really what I’ve been concentrating on.”
With a couple of new weapons for Resop to throw out of the bullpen, the righty is looking to improve upon his 2011 season. Hurdle knows what Resop brings to the mound. And when he needs a strikeout, or to get out of a jam and keep the score intact, he knows who to call upon.
“The finish to his pitches is real and it’s true,” Hurdle said. “Some pitchers it’s easier to draw a beat on, you can follow pitches. You might have a natural two seam, just a little tilt late. His ball just seems to carry. There’s times he gets on the side of it and it dramatically runs. The finish is what’s it for me. Then when he adds the breaking ball to it, that’s when you see I think the commutation of the outings where he’s gone multiple strikeouts.”
“The curveball can be so sharp,” Hurdle said. “He understands his importance out there. He’s a guy that as you profile your pitchers, who you get ground balls from, who you get strikeouts from, if you definitely think if you need a punch-out, he’d be a guy to go to.”
During his outing on Wednesday, Resop was hitting 91, 92 on the gun with his fastball. Hurdle said that number will continue to improve.
“I think he’s got plus velocity,” Hurdle said “I think well still see more. His velocity isn’t right now what it was a month into the season. He’s kind of going through the same ritual he did last year. His velocity actually spiked about the third week in April, and it stayed at that point for a consistent period of time. It’s inching up there.”
So far this season, Resop has made two appearances in relief. He’s pitched 1.2 scoreless innings with one hit, two walks and two strikeouts.