By now, we all know what’s going on at the back of the Athletics bullpen, right? It’s a timeshare between Lou Trivino and Jake Diekman. Being a right-hander, Trivino is more often brought in for the ninth inning, but Diekman will get a save chance from time to time, with Trivino working the eighth.
Clear enough, right? There’s no longer a need to address it here unless something changes.
Yes, you can understand why I wouldn’t rehash the clearest of closer scenarios, but I must confess that two are so murky I don’t even know what to say about them. The Diamondbacks have lost 25 of their last 27, which leaves us completely in the dark as to how they’ll handle a save chance in the future (to the extent it even matters). Stefan Crichton leads the team in saves but hasn’t been handled much like a closer during this drought. Joakim Soria’s usage more resembles that of a closer, but he has an ERA over 6.00.
The Rangers, meanwhile, have yet to turn to a fill-in with Ian Kennedy sidelined by a mild hamstring strain. His absence probably won’t be long enough for anyone to settle into the role anyway, but Brett Martin and Josh Sborz are the most likely to nab a save or two in his absence.
Now for the 10 closer scenarios that are attracting the most interest …
Note: “Pecking order” refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who’s first in line for saves (though it’s usually one and the same).
Lucas Sims did appear in the sixth inning of a game recently, renewing doubts about his role, but six of his past eight appearances have been to close out a game, including five times for a save. Manager David Bell may occasionally dabble in modern bullpen theory and bring in Sims earlier, but particularly with Tejan Antone sidelined by forearm inflammation, there is no clear alternative for saves here.
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Just when it seemed like manager Kevin Cash was easing back into Diego Castillo, here comes Peter Fairbanks with two of the team’s past three saves, most recently with Castillo working the eighth. At least J.P. Feyereisen, who recorded a save in three of his first five appearances with the Rays, is no longer part of the mix. Or is he?
With Rafael Montero continuing to trip all over himself, Kendall Graveman was on the verge of closing exclusivity before landing on the COVID-19 IL, and since returning, he has worked the eighth inning of one game and the ninth inning of another. It stands to reason he wasn’t going to appear in a third straight game Monday, which is why Drew Steckenrider got the save, but I’m presuming the plan is still for Graveman to see the lion’s share of those chances.
Though Emmanuel Clase did nothing to disqualify himself from closing, James Karinchak was so overpowering as a setup man that he assumed ninth-inning duties in mid-May … and promptly fumbled his chance away. He was back to working the eighth inning with Clase handling the ninth for a save Monday, and things had been trending that way for a while.
Just when you thought you had manager Gabe Kapler figured out, he goes and flip-flops things Monday, having Tyler Rogers work the eighth inning and Jake McGee the ninth for the save. You could argue the eighth inning presented the tougher part of the lineup, which isn’t saying much against the Diamondbacks, but clearly it’s too early to say Rogers is the guy, even if he has been more often lately.
Well, we know it isn’t Cesar Valdez anymore, which stands to reason given his struggles, but the opportunities of late have been too scattered to give us clear indication as to his replacement. The team’s two most recent saves have gone to left-hander Paul Fry and right-hander Cole Sulser, who both have closer-caliber numbers, but Fry generally comes in after Sulser and it just so happens wasn’t available on the day Sulser got his save.
Like the Athletics and apparently the Giants, it may be that this one is a pure matchups game, with Taylor Rogers working the higher-leverage or lefty-heavy scenario whether it presents itself in the eighth inning or the ninth. He has recorded the team’s two most recent saves, but Robles notched the two before then and has been equally effective of late.
Manager Charlie Montoyo made the presumed explicit Monday, defending his decision to bring in Rafael Dolis with the game tied in the ninth inning by saying he was reserving Jordan Romano for a save situation. Romano is sort of the last man standing among those the Blue Jays have tried out in the role, but he did work the eighth inning in a contest recently, making it the one time in six appearances that he didn’t finish out a game, including twice for a save.
Jose Cisnero may not have had enough time to settle into the closer role with Michael Fulmer sidelined by a shoulder issue, recording just two saves in his absence. But he has been lights out since about mid-May and is a more natural fit in the role anyway, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see manager A.J. Hinch decided to stick with him.
The Royals have been so bad recently, losing nine of their last 10, that we’re kind of in a holding pattern to see if manager Mike Matheny turns back to Josh Staumont now that he’s recovered from his knee sprain. So far since returning, Staumont has worked the eighth inning twice and the seventh inning once, with Scott Barlow and Wade Davis coming in behind him. Barlow has the superior numbers at this point and recorded the team’s most recent save, so he presents the clearest threat.