We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled programming to bring you an early Bottom of the 9th this week. This is not a test. This is a real emergency. Meltdown status is in full effect. Over the last few days, we’ve seen turnover at the closer position with the White Sox, Cubs, Yankees, Angels, Padres and Marlins, and we may not been done yet. We’ll break down each of those bullpens as well as a few other closers in danger right now.
After Carlos Marmol walked three batters and allowed one hit without recording an out on May 3, manager Dale Sveum had enough, yanking him out of the closer role. Sveum said that James Russell and Rafael Dolis could both be used in the role based on matchups, but lo and behold, Russell was trotted out in the seventh on May 4 in a game where Dolis would wind up with the save. Marmol pitched an uneventful eighth on Saturday with his team down 5-0. On Sunday, Russell pitched the eighth and ninth with the Cubs down 3-2, and when they tied it up in the ninth, Dolis pitched the 10th and 11th and got the win. Dolis is the man to own now, but don’t forget about Kerry Wood, who could slide into closing after he gets comfortable and if Dolis struggles.
Pick up in this order: R.Dolis, K.Wood, J.Russell
Chicago White Sox
Not to be outdone by the Cubs’ announcement, the White Sox had their own closer news: starter Chris Sale, who has mild tenderness in his elbow, has been shifted to the closer role … permanently. Sale had started the season with a 3-1 record in five starts and stellar stats all around, including a 2.81 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 29/8 K/BB ratio. This is one of the most peculiar closer changes you’re ever going to see, but we’ll just have to roll with it. If you own Matt Thornton or Addison Reed, you’ll have to keep them until we know for sure Sale’s elbow “tenderness” isn’t a sign for a more serious injury. The White Sox say it’s been done to preserve his career; that sounds pretty serious to me. Hector Santiago can be dropped in all leagues.
Pick up in this order: C.Sale, A.Reed, M.Thornton
Los Angeles Angels
Scott Downs has been very good this season, throwing 9.2 scoreless innings. However, he twisted his knee on Sunday and could miss time. If he’s healthy, he’s the obvious option for the ninth inning, but until we’re sure about his health, you’ll have to mine for some saves in this bullpen. LaTroy Hawkins closed out the save Sunday but fractured his pinkie in the process. He seems likely to hit the DL. Ernesto Frieri pitched the eighth inning, and he has 22 Ks and six walks in 13.2 innings. He’s the guy I’m adding until we know more about Downs (which will likely come today, so monitor our Closer thread). Jason Isringhausen could factor in as well, but he hasn’t been great this year. I feel Jordan Walden would be thrust back into the role before Isringhausen.
Pick up in this order: E.Frieri, J.Walden, J.Isringhausen
Ozzie Guillen has finally pulled Heath Bell out of the ninth inning for the near future after Bell blew a save for the fourth time this year on Friday. Bell had just 14 blown saves in three years as the Padres closer, but his uneven start to 2012 has left him with an 11.42 ERA and a 2.88 WHIP. Guillen’s ninth-inning choices boil down to Steve Cishek, who pitched three innings on Friday in relief of Bell to get the win, and Edward Mujica, who recorded saves on Thursday (before Bell was pulled from the role) and Sunday. Guillen has named Cishek the fill-in closer, so why did Mujica get the Sunday save? A heavy workload for Cishek on Friday likely kept him unavailable these past two days, but he’s been better than Mujica this season, with a 0.63 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 15 Ks in 14.1 innings. I’ve added him wherever possible.
Pick up in this order: S.Cishek, E.Mujica
New York Yankees
The most shocking closer news of all — yes, even topping moving a starter to the closing role — was Mariano Rivera’s torn ACL and torn meniscus. This guy has been Mr. Automatic for so long, it’s just going to be too weird not seeing him in the ninth for the Yankees for months. What it does do is give David Robertson the chance to audition for the long-term gig. He’s been awesome this year, posting a 21/3 K/BB ratio in 12 innings that includes eight Ks in his last three innings (all perfect). Rafael Soriano could enter into the equation, but I’d be surprised if Joe Girardi went with anyone but Robertson in the ninth inning on normal rest. He should be a top-10 RP for the rest of the year, and I’d definitely look to trade for him and convince his current owner to turn a quick profit.
Pick up in this order: D.Robertson, R.Soriano
San Diego Padres
Huston Street hit the DL with a lat injury, but he says he won’t be out very long. For Street, that could mean anywhere from three weeks to three months (he’s not exactly the Cal Ripken of closers). Andrew Cashner would seem like the guy to pick up the saves while Street is out, but he’s been very wild and he may not inspire the most confidence. In fact, he was brought it in the eighth inning of a tie game on Sunday; you would think he’d be saved for the ninth. Maybe he should have been — he gave up three hits and two walks while recording two outs, surrendering four runs (three earned). He’s still my first option in the bullpen, but Luke Gregerson and Dale Thayer could factor in.
Pick up in this order: A.Cashner, L.Gregerson, D.Thayer
Los Angeles Dodgers
Javy Guerra allowed runs in three straight games heading into May before picking up a save on May 1 with an uneventful ninth. His next opportunity came on Sunday, and he blew another save while giving up two hits and a walk against the Cubs. Even with a quality 16/5 K/BB ratio in his 12.1 innings this year, Guerra just can’t be trusted in the ninth inning right now. He has a 5.84 ERA and 1.70 WHIP, while dynamite setup man Kenley Jansen has a 2.70 ERA and 0.96 WHIP as well as a 27/7 K/BB ratio in 16.2 innings. The Dodgers could make the switch as soon as today. Both guys are likely owned in fantasy leagues, and if you have Guerra, you should try and trade him for something of value.
Grant Balfour recently went through a rough two-game stretch five runs on five hits and two walks while recording just one out between the two games. That gave Brian Fuentes, who’s having a strong year, the chance to swoop in and steal a save, but Balfour closed out an extra-inning game on Saturday, one where Fuentes picked up the win after pitching the 10th and 11th. Fuentes was brought in for the eighth inning of a 9-5 game on Sunday, and to me, that means Balfour is probably safe for now. However, if you want to speculate on saves and somehow missed out on the other 50 guys out there that look like they have a shot at closing after this weekend, feel free to add Fuentes.
Toronto Blue Jays
Sergio Santos should be back within three weeks or so, which is great news, because Francisco Cordero has flopped in his absence. He’s allowed runs in four of his last five appearances, seeing his ERA rise to 5.73 to go with a 1.91 WHIP. Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen both look like options if a change is made, but both guys have also recently dealt with stretches of appearances with runs allowed similar to the one being suffered by Cordero. Lefties Luis Perez and Darren Oliver could also factor in. It’s best just to forget about this mess of a bullpen and try and find saves somewhere else — anyone you do pick up may get you just 2-4 saves by the time Santos returns.
Waiver Queue for Saves
ARI J.J. Putz
ATL Craig Kimbrel
BAL Jim Johnson
BOS Alfredo Aceves
CIN Sean Marshall
CLE Chris Perez
COL Rafael Betancourt
DET Jose Valverde
HOU Brett Myers
KC Jonathan Broxton
MIL John Axford
NYM Frank Francisco
PHI Jonathan Papelbon
PIT Joel Hanrahan
SEA Brandon League
SF Santiago Casilla
STL Jason Motte
TB Fernando Rodney
TEX Joe Nathan
WAS Henry Rodriguez
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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