May 30, 2012
In the past week, the closer situation has cleared in Washington, while becoming more muddied in Chicago and Los Angeles. There’s a new closer (for now) in Seattle, and Heath Bell continues his roller-coaster season. Though there’s not much news on the top closers, a number of teams have new set-up men and would-be replacements if injuries were to strike. Take note, and be prepared.
- From My Cold, Dead Hands -
Craig Kimbrel, ATL (Next in line: Eric O’Flaherty)
Jonathan Papelbon, PHI(Next in line: Antonio Bastardo)
Jim Johnson, BAL (Next in line: Pedro Strop)
Joe Nathan, TEX (Next in line: Mike Adams)
Joel Hanrahan, PIT (Next in line: Jason Grilli)
John Axford, MIL (Next in line: Francisco Rodriguez)
John Axford has moved back into the elite tier after bringing his shutout streak up to 8 innings, in which time he has just a 0.88 WHIP to go along with 3 saves. He’s back.
- Stranglehold -
Chris Perez, CLE (Next in line: Vinnie Pestano)
Santiago Casilla, SF (Next in line: Sergio Romo)
Rafael Betancourt, COL (Next in line: Matt Belisle)
Brett Myers, HOU (Next in line: Brandon Lyon)
Fernando Rodney, TB (Next in line: Joel Peralta)
Jason Motte, STL (Next in line: Mitchell Boggs)
Aroldis Chapman, CIN (Next in line: Logan Ondrusek)
Brett Myers has been moved down a tier after taking the loss on Monday night. He has now allowed 3 earned runs and 7 hits while recording 2 losses and a blown save in his last 5.2 innings. His job is secure for now, but with Brandon Lyon pitching as well as he has (0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 15 Ks in last 12.1 innings), Myers could be in trouble if he continues to struggle.
In his last 5 appearances, Jason Motte has allowed 3 earned runs and has 2 blown saves and a loss. Still, he’s pitched well and should have a relatively long leash. Mitchell Boggs and Mark Rzepczynski have been solid, though, combining for 6.1 shutout innings and a 0.79 WHIP in the past week.
- Firm Grasp -
Kenley Jansen, LAD (Next in line: Javy Guerra)
Jose Valverde, DET (Next in line: Joaquin Benoit)
Jonathan Broxton, KC (Next in line: Greg Holland)
Addison Reed, CWS (Next in line: Hector Santiago)
Rafael Soriano, NYY (Next in line: Boone Logan)
Frank Francisco, NYM (Next in line: Jon Rauch)
Matt Capps, MIN (Next in line: Glen Perkins)
J.J. Putz, ARI (Next in line: David Hernandez)
Brian Fuentes, OAK (Next in line: Grant Balfour)
Addison Reed was officially named closer last Wednesday and promptly gave up 2 earned runs the following night. He’s still the best the White Sox have, but that outing prevented him from joining Chapman in the higher tier. He’s close, though.
Rafael Soriano has continued to slam the door, reinforcing the belief that he is the full-time closer going forward. David Robertson should return from the DL sometime within the next week or two, so we’ll know for sure soon.
After being anything but lights-out through the first month and a half of the season, Frank Francisco has now thrown 6 consecutive shutout innings, his longest streak of the year. Considering the lengthy leash he was given while struggling, his recent performance has certainly earned him even more slack.
Apparently, J.J. Putz was just lacking confidence, because after Kirk Gibson said he would remain the Diamondbacks’ closer on Wednesday, Putz went on to convert 2 saves without allowing a run. It looks like it’s going to take a major meltdown for Gibson to take the ball out of Putz’s hands.
Brian Fuentes had been cruising before blowing last night’s save against the Twins. Usually one bad outing wouldn’t be a big deal for a closer, but I get the feeling that Fuentes doesn’t have much room for error. Bob Melvin has said the Grant Balfour, who has allowed just 1 hit in his last 5.1 innings, would have the opportunity to win his job back, and I think another blown save in the next week might be enough for him to get that opportunity.
- Hanging on by Fingertips –
Heath Bell, MIA (Next in line: Steve Cishek)
Tom Wilhelmsen, SEA (Next in line: Brandon League)
Heath Bell is at it again. In consecutive save opportunities last week, Bell was pulled after recording only one out and allowing a combined 3 earned runs, 4 hits, and 2 walks. Ozzie Guillen continues to say that he’s the closer, but the fact that he is so quick to pull Bell at the first sign of trouble tells me that he’s not exactly comfortable with it. He’s pitched well in his last 2 games, though, so maybe we’ll just have to deal with his occasional hiccups throughout the season.
Although Eric Wedge has removed Brandon League as the Mariners’ closer, he also promised, “Brandon will be back.” Though there hasn’t been a save opportunity since League’s demotion, one would assume that Tom Wilhelmsen will be given the first crack once one comes along.
- Tug of War -
Scott Downs v. Ernesto Frieri, LAA
Carlos Marmol v. James Russell v. Shawn Camp… v. Casey Coleman?, CHC
The Angels’ closer situation is pretty messy, at least from a fantasy perspective. Last Wednesday, after Mike Scioscia had called Scott Downs his closer, Ernesto Frieri ended up recording an 11th-inning save. They’ve since alternated saves in each of the last 3 opportunities (Frieri would’ve recorded the save last night if the Angels hadn’t scored an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th). It seems that whoever stumbles first will be relegated to set-up duty, but so far, they’ve both been stellar.
It’s even more of a mess in Chi-town, but the stakes are much lower. First of all, the Cubs stink and don’t often find themselves in save situations. Also, Carlos Marmol is back with the team and figures to reclaim his role as closer soon. For the time being, though, save opportunities will go to someone else. When Marmol was demoted, Rafael Dolis was supposed to share the saves with James Russell, but Russell never got the chance. That would seem to make Russell the favorite, with Shawn Camp the darkhorse candidate. However, in Monday’s game, in which the Cubs led by 4 in the 7th inning, Camp came in to record 1 out, Russell pitched the 8th, and Casey Coleman pitched the 9th. If either Camp or Russell had allowed a run to score, Coleman would’ve gotten the save. Yesterday, with a 2-run lead, Camp pitched the 8th before getting the first batter to ground out in the 9th. He was then replaced by Russell who eventually recorded the next two outs for the save. Russell still seems to be the favorite for now, but Marmol is the pitcher to own.
- Place-Holders -
Casey Janssen, TOR (DL: Sergio Santos)
Tyler Clippard, WAS (DL: Drew Storen)
Alfredo Aceves, BOS (DL: Andrew Bailey)
Dale Thayer, SD (DL: Huston Street)
Huston Street is going to throw a bullpen session today and could begin a rehab assignment as soon as this Friday, meaning Dale Thayer’s time is almost up.