MLB.com wrote:PITTSBURGH -- Jose Mesa's time as the Pirates' closer has come to an end.
The 39-year-old Mesa, who ranks 12th all-time in Major League history with 319 career saves, has been mired in his biggest slump since joining the Pirates in 2004. Mesa has blown three consecutive saves after converting 27 of his first 30 opportunities.
"We just feel that we want to open it up and give [interim manager] Pete [Mackanin] the ability to use whoever he wants," said Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield. "Out of respect to Mesa and what he's done for us, we talked to him about that and let him know that it's the direction we're going to go for the rest of the season.
"I would say that we'll still continue to include Mesa to a certain degree. It just depends on the matchups and how guys are throwing."
The decision is a strong indication that the team will not pick up Mesa's club option for 2006. The Pirates will use the final three weeks of the season to audition right-hander Salomon Torres and southpaw Mike Gonzalez as potential replacements.
"What they do the rest of this month would give us an indication," said Littlefield. "Both of them certainly have stuff enough."
Littlefield was quick to note, however, that closing games is more demanding mentally than physically. He's curious to see how Gonzalez and Torres handle the added burden for the first time.
"Most of the closers you see aren't purely about elite stuff," said Littlefield. "It's about throwing strikes. It's about having the confidence to stand out there and deal with the pressures of the ninth inning and the last three outs that most people can't handle."
There goes my $10 closer. Damn that Mesa.