What is the best bullpen in baseball? Here’s what the Tigers relievers have to say.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s a lazy afternoon in the visiting clubhouse, hours before game time, and the talk is about the bullpen.

As Detroit Tigers reliever Michael Fulmer begins to run through the pros and cons of various American League facilities, teammate Alex Lange moves on.

“Langer, what are the good enclosures? »

Lange, caught off guard, begins to think about the best relievers in the league. He could even make the case for the Tigers who, despite their tough start to the season, have an impressive 2.86 relief ERA.

“No, I mean the real paddock,” says Fulmer. “The waiting area for pitchers.”

There is a long silence as the two pitchers begin to think.

“Minnesota?” suggests Fulmer.

Lange shakes his head. “Too small seating area.”

“It’s true.”

“Kansas City is good,” Lange offers.

Really?” Fulmer responds in disbelief.

After a few more moments of consideration, Lange makes a decision: “New York is probably the best.”

“That’s what I was leaning towards,” Fulmer agreed.

Yankee Stadium is the winner. But why?

What factors go into making a great enclosure?

“First of all, there has to be a bathroom,” Fulmer begins emphatically. “All we do there is drink water. We drink, drink, drink the first five innings. There’s not much to do there other than hydrate.

Other characteristics of a good enclosure? A small space for storing equipment; a fine selection of Gatorades and Red Bulls and waters; and a room for privacy in case a pitcher needs to rub the balm on their shoulder or get treated with a massage gun.

The Fulmer remembered another essential. “A good TV to watch the game. We don’t have the best line of sight.

Tropicana Field doesn’t even really have a bullpen, but it does have a great line of sight.

That’s why the conversation started today. Tropicana, where the Tigers face the Tampa Bay Rays, is one of only two stadiums left in the major leagues without an actual bullpen. Pitchers just warm up in foul territory along the baselines.

It used to be common. Now it’s a novelty.

“Most guys don’t like that,” veteran reliever Jacob Barnes said. “It’s blocked now, but the fans could touch you, which is not good.”

Barnes said pitchers feel more “on stage” when they’re on the field, so they don’t feel as comfortable doing elaborate warm-up routines that include running and stretching. They may also be hesitant to work a certain pitch for fear of accidentally throwing it into the infield.

“If you do that, everyone stops and turns around to look at you,” Barnes says.

To this comment, his fellow reliever Andrew Chafin intervenes: “There is also an advantage to this.

“There are,” Barnes agrees.

Need a little more time to warm up? Whoops ! This land has just escaped me.

Tampa Bay and Oakland are the last two holdouts in the bullpen, largely due to stadium design rather than any aesthetic choice. Relievers have moved to bullpen behind the fence in San Francisco and Wrigley Field in Chicago in recent years.

“San Francisco used to be bad. There was no bench there so you had to sit in the dugout,” Barnes said. “Then when they said, ‘Jake, go get ready! ‘ you would run from the bullpen to the dugout to free yourself, as there was no real seating area.

“Everyone sees you. Your guy is pitching, he’s struggling and he sees the reliever sprinting out of the dugout like, ‘Here we go.’

This is one of the many reasons why an open enclosure is just plain awkward.

“You try to do your job, but the starting pitcher hears you and sees you clearly and it’s just a bad vibe all around,” Barnes said.

The other factor that only relievers have to worry about: when sitting on the ground, they have to be riveted to all ground. Otherwise, they risk having their heads taken off by a line reader.

“In other relievers, if you go through gears or something, you can actually focus on that,” Chafin said.

Bulldogs are a different breed and pens are their unique habitat. Many find the atmosphere in the canoe stifling.

“The bullpen is definitely a totally different environment than the dugout,” Chafin said. “I don’t know exactly why. Usually, for lack of a better way to put it, they are more tense and anxious in the dugout. While in the bullpen, it’s like we’re on our own, messing around and trying to keep our minds straight so we can go out and go from being a fan to pitching in the game.

“I have to keep it light, keep it fun. I couldn’t just sit there and be serious and locked up all the time or I’d lose the edge I have. I feel like we only have a limited ability to super-focus, if you will. I just save it all for the five to ten minutes I actually need.

Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) talks to relief pitcher Jose Alvarez in the bullpen between innings of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Monday, August 3, 2020 , at Yankee Stadium in New York City. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)PA

Ask the bullpen: What’s your favorite MLB bullpen?

Barnes“I like Seattle. It’s a cool little place. You can see the field. The fans are close to you so there’s a little interaction, which we don’t normally like, but they’re pretty good there. You can see the whole game. And it’s a great ballpark. I’ll go with Seattle.

Fulfill“New York (Yankee Stadium) is pretty good. They have a place where you can sit inside. They have a bathroom in there.

Lange: “New York is probably the best.”

chafin“I’ve seen them all except Baltimore and Boston. San Diego is nice. It’s a bit hidden. I really liked Denver until they put an extra fence in front. Previously, you could sit above the outfield fence, overlooking the field. It was decided. Now you have to look through a chain-link fence, so it’s back to being a cage. Atlanta has the benches on the side where you can sit and see more. I hate looking through a fence to watch a game. I won’t really watch the game that closely because if I’m sitting there looking through a chain link fence, you get a headache. I can’t have this.

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