Checking in on the closer situations around baseball, including the Cardinals, Indians and Yankees
Atlanta Braves: Arodys Vizcaino was moved from the 10-day to the 60-day disabled list over the weekend. The move is for accounting purposes only, as Vizcaino will miss 60 days regardless of when he returns. As for when that might be, Vizcaino started a rehab assignment Sunday and could be ready to return to the bullpen for the Braves when first eligible on September 10. While it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Vizcaino returns as the team’s closer, it seems highly unlikely. A.J. Minter has done more than a solid job closing out games in Vizcaino’s absence and seems to have a firm hold on the job, at least until Vizcaino proves he is at full strength.
Chicago Cubs: Brandon Morrow has begun a throwing program but a return to the Cubs is still two to three weeks away. Maybe he returns, maybe he doesn’t, but the Cubs have stated that when he does return, he won’t be pitching on back-to-back days. This makes sense, as they won’t feel the need to push him—at least not until the playoffs. This seems to mean that he won’t return as the team’s closer, but rather as a setup man to Pedro Strop, who has done nothing to lose the job.
Cleveland Indians: It seems that the Indians have made a change at closer. Brad Hand has picked up the last three saves for the Indians as Cody Allen continues to struggle. The Indians are likely just trying to get Allen back on track and allowing him to do so when the pressure isn’t as great as it is in the ninth inning. The problem for Fantasy owners, especially those in head to head leagues, is that you may need those saves now, not next week, or two weeks from now. Hand can do the job and, if he continues to be successful in the role, the Indians may not feel the need to go back to Allen. Andrew Miller was also placed back on the DL with a shoulder injury and, although he is expected to pitch again this season, he isn’t a threat to take away saves from Allen or Hand.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Kenley Jansen is back to looking like his old self and seems to have mostly recovered from the irregular heartbeat that shelved him for a couple of weeks in August. While that is good news, the Dodgers seem to want to play it safe and won’t take him with the team when they travel to play the Rockies this weekend. The Dodgers don’t want to chance Jansen having any problems in the thin air of Colorado. Ryan Madson would seem to be the leading candidate to take over for Jansen should a save situation arise, but Kenta Maeda can’t be counted out either.
Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Knebel was recalled by the Brewers over the weekend but he’s not going to re-gain his closer’s role, at least not immediately. Jeremy Jeffress is still in charge of the ninth inning and Josh Hader may still be next in line. That being said, Knebel was expected to be one of the top closer’s in the game coming into the season and they may want to give him one final chance to realize those expectations.
New York Yankees: The odds of Aroldis Chapman returning this season seem to be getting worse and worse with each passing day; general manager Brian Cashman certainly didn’t sound optimistic in his last report. Chapman has had multiple PRP injections and the best-case scenario may be a return during the second-to-last week or final week of the season. Fantasy owners should not be holding their breath here. While David Robertson may get a save chance here and there, it looks like Dellin Betances has become the favorite for saves. One problem for Betances, however, is a cut on his finger that keeps opening up each time he pitches. Betances said that the cut doesn’t affect his pitches, but there is no denying that a good amount of blood leaks from that finger each time he pitches.
Philadelphia Phillies: Pat Neshek is the current closer for the Phillies, but his job is anything but secure. Seranthony Dominguez seemed to tire over the long season but could still get another shot at the role, as he has had three straight outings without allowing a run. Neshek’s numbers this season—a 1.47 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP—are exemplary. The Phillies may feel it’s beneficial to go with the veteran as they fight for a playoff spot, rather than entrust their chances of playing in October to a rookie.
St. Louis Cardinals: There may be a change coming at closer for the Cardinals after Bud Norris blew his second-straight save chance Monday. Norris has now allowed five earned runs over his last two appearances and may not get a chance to right the ship. Most believe Jordan Hicks and his 100-plus MPH fast ball would be next in line, but let’s not forget that Carlos Martinez is also in the bullpen. The Cardinals seem to want to keep CMart as a reliever for the remainder of the season, and it’s not absurd to think they might go with the veteran pitcher to close rather than the rookie Hicks. While Martinez did pick up the save versus the Nationals on Wednesday, he came into the game in the eighth inning and then finished off the Nats in the ninth. They may have just wanted him to pitch multiple innings.
Washington Nationals: It’s amazing, no matter what season it is, the Nats always seem to have issues in the closing department. Sean Doolittle is still rehabbing a toe injury and could return from the DL at some point later this week. While he may not resume closing duties immediately upon return, it shouldn’t be long after that he takes the job from Koda Glover or Justin Miller.
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you like, @georgekurtz.[table “2768” not found /]