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The Kansas City Star wrote:Posted on Sun, May. 09, 2004
Peña isn't sure who will close
MacDougal is out for now; manager seeks replacement
By BOB DUTTON The Kansas City Star
BOSTON — If Mike MacDougal is out as the Royals' closer — and he is, at least for the moment — then who now gets the ball in the ninth inning when the club has a lead to protect?
“I'm going to go with …” manager Tony Peña said. “I'm going to go with … I don't know.”
In short, there is no clear answer.
Right-hander Nate Field, previously designated as the backup closer, is a leading candidate. Field had allowed only one earned run in his first 10 appearances before surrendering two in the eighth inning of Saturday's 9-1 loss to the Red Sox.
But Peña also likes left-hander Jaime Cerda, who collected his first career save last Monday by bailing out Field in the 10th inning of a 3-2 victory over Toronto.
Further, the Royals are counting the days until they can recall right-hander Justin Huisman from Class AAA Omaha, Neb. Huisman is eligible to return Tuesday after spending the required 10 days in the minors after being optioned off the major-league club.
Huisman worked three scoreless innings in two appearances in a brief stay last month with the Royals and has yet to allow an earned run in eight outings for Omaha.
“He gets ground balls,” Peña said, “and he throws strikes. He's not going to walk anyone.”
Huisman has 169 strikeouts and 65 walks in 248 1/3 career minor-league innings.
That control offers a sharp contrast to MacDougal, who has 307 walks in 519 2/3 innings in his professional career.
MacDougal walked two of three hitters in blowing a save Monday in Toronto and two of four hitters Friday in blowing a save in a 7-6 loss to the Red Sox.
“It's been a struggle so far,” he said. “The other night (in Toronto), I felt pretty good. And (against Boston), I felt some of those pitches were pretty close. But not consistently, and not enough of them.”
The Royals, at this point, are debating whether to send MacDougal to the minors or shift him to middle relief.
“We're going to have to make that decision,” general manager Allard Baird said. “I think bringing him right back (from the disabled list) and throwing him right into the fire is a lot to ask. That's tough, whether it's for a veteran guy or an inexperienced closer.
“But the mode that we are in, we're looking for results.”
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