The Indians struggles to start the season have confounded team management, and most of the blame can be centered on the Cleveland’s bullpen. Recently, team management has cited the ‘disappointment’ of the recent signing of a 1998 “Randy Johnson’s Rockin’ Fastballin’ Pitchin’ Machine” to the bullpen.
“When we were moving ahead to the ’09 season, there were several holes we NEEDED to fill. One of them was the bullpen,” GM Mark Shapiro said to reporters late Monday. “So, we signed (Kerry) Wood, and made sure that some of our other relievers were coming back strong. But we really had higher expectations of the Fastballin’ pitching machine.”
Since Jose Mesa’s departure from the Indians in 1998, Cleveland’s bullpen’s revolving door of closers has included everyone from Bob Wickman to John Rocker. Thinking the team shored up a hole with the signing of closer Kerry Wood in the offseason, GM Mark Shapiro has had a tough time amassing decent arms in the bullpen: they have blown eight saves in 15 opportunities so far this year.
Initially built for children, Randy Johnson’s toy pitching machine quickly excelled through the Indians’ minor league system within a matter of two years. It made it’s season debut last September against the Twins, pitching 1 2/3 innings and striking out 2.
“A lot of people talk about David Price or Matt Wieters as star callups. Well, we thought we had the brightest star in camp with Johnson’s fastball machine,” said second baseman Mark DeRosa.
“We even went the extra length with the pitching machine to tape a picture of Joe Borowski, you know, for intimidation. Joe was always one of our best closers, so it just made sense,” Shapiro reiterated about the machine.
Pictured as a setup man entering the season, the 1998 “Randy Johnson’s Rockin’ Fastballin’ Pitchin’ Machine” has a 12.40 ERA with six home runs so far this season in 2 IP.