Checking in on the closer situations around baseball, including the Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Nationals
Arizona Diamondbacks: In what should come as no surprise to anyone, the Diamondbacks removed Brad Boxberger from the closing role Monday. Boxberger has been awful of late, allowing six runs in his last four outings (2IP). The Diamondbacks have decided to go with a Fantasy owner’s worst nightmare: A bullpen by committee. This means any of Archie Bradley (also not pitching well of late), Yoshihisa Hirano or Brad Ziegler could pick up the next save chance for the club.
Atlanta Braves: We finally have a timetable for a return from the disabled list for Arodys Vizcaino. If all goes well with a bullpen session scheduled for Tuesday, then he should be activated Friday. Vizcaino will be brought along slowly so he’s not going to gather any save opportunities immediately. The Braves will see how he pitches in low-leverage situations before deciding if he should close out games or become a top setup man for A.J. Minter. The smart money is still on Minter retaining the job, unless performance dictates otherwise.
Chicago Cubs: Nothing has really changed as far as Brandon Morrow is concerned. Morrow is throwing bullpen sessions but really isn’t all that close to returning. The Cubs’ lead in the National League Central is shrinking, but it’s not because of problems with their bullpen. There simply is no reason for them to rush Morrow back into action. Pedro Strop can handle the ninth inning. The Cubs would just like to see Morrow healthy and up to speed by the time the playoffs start, assuming they make them.
Cleveland Indians: Who is the current closer for Cleveland? This is a question we are all asking. Last week, it looked like Brad Hand had the job, but then Cody Allen picked up the save Saturday and he hasn’t let up a run in his last seven outings. Hand gave up two runs in a blown save versus Tampa Bay on Monday and has also given up four runs in his last six outings. Andrew Miller was activated from the DL on Monday but he’s not in the mix for saves. Perhaps Hand gets another shot, or the Indians may go back to Allen. Either way, the ninth inning could prove to be the Indian’s undoing this year.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Kenley Jansen is back as the Dodger’s closer after staying away from the team while they played the Rockies. Both sides were worried that the thin air of Colorado could negatively affect his irregular heartbeat. Jansen is likely to undergo surgery this offseason to once again try to correct this problem.
Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Knebel picked up a save Sunday versus the Giants and looked good doing so, but before Fantasy owners start rushing to place him back into their lineups, let’s keep in mind that Jeremy Jeffress was told before the game that he wouldn’t pitch in anything except an emergency. Jeffress picked up the next save on Monday versus the Cubs and is unlikely to lose the job for any reason other than poor performance. The Brewers are fighting for a playoff berth and are unlikely to fix what currently isn’t broken.
New York Yankees: The only thing Aroldis Chapman has done lately is play a game of catch. Still, it’s progress, but let’s face reality: The best-case scenario is a return to action during the last week of the regular season and even if he does, would you feel comfortable using him, especially if those game mean nothing to the Yankees? Dellin Betances is the Yankee closer now and although he still has the cut on the middle finger of his pitching hand, which can be pretty gruesome at times, it does not seem to affect his pitching and he should continue to close for the team.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals finally made official what we speculated last week: Bud Norris has been removed from the closer’s role and Carlos Martinez has taken his place. If Martinez is available in your Fantasy league—which is certainly possible as his owners may have moved on after it was announced he wouldn’t return to the starting rotation after being activated from the DL—he is a must grab. Martinez will return to the rotation next spring, but he may also be a dynamic closer this year.
Washington Nationals: Sean Doolittle was activated from the DL on Friday, as he has recovered from his toe injury that was originally only expected to keep him on the shelf for a few days. Doolittle may pitch in a low leverage situation once or twice, but he should once again close out games for the Nationals sooner rather than later.
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you like, @georgekurtz.[table “2770” not found /]