Joe Nathan out for year; Mark Melancon picks up save despite continued low velocity

April 24, 2015

Detroit Tigers – Former closer Joe Nathan, the active leader in saves and the second-oldest player in the AL, is out for the season with a torn UCL in his pitching elbow. Nathan suffered the injury on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday morning. Although Nathan will require a second Tommy John surgery, he insists that he will return to pitch another day. Joakim Soria, with 5 saves in 5 chances this season, should be secure in the closer role from this point forward. Ian Krol, meanwhile, got sent to the minors to work on his delivery, which will likely lead to more holds opportunities for Al Alburquerque.

Updated hierarchy: Soria | Chamberlain | Alburquerque.

Colorado Rockies — John Axford, back from dealing with his son’s snake bite, earned his second save of the season on Thursday, shutting down the Padres in the 9th. After the game, regular closer Adam Ottavino said that he had asked for the day off due to “usual pitcher soreness.” All indications are that Ottavino is fine and will remain the closer moving forward, but Axford will play an important role as well. In other news, former closer LaTroy Hawkins has been placed on the DL with tendinitis in his biceps. This is Hawkins’s final season in what has been a $47 million career; his next appearance in one of our updates may be as part of a front office.

Updated hierarchy: Ottavino | Axford | Betancourt.

Los Angeles Dodgers — LA continues to have the most volatile closing situation in the league. On Thursday, after Chris Hatcher and Joel Peralta had already pitched, Pedro Baez got the chance at his first career save, but promptly coughed up the one-run lead, allowing a leadoff single and a game-tying triple. Although Baez managed to strand that runner on third, the Dodgers went on to lose 3-2 against the Giants. The Baez move, which puzzled the great Vin Scully, shows how wide-open things are now in the Dodgers’ ninth. The uncertainty should end soon, with Kenley Jansen scheduled to begin a rehab assignment next week.

Hierarchy remains: *Peralta | Hatcher | Baez.
*closer-by-committee

New York Yankees — Andrew Miller picked up his AL-leading sixth save Wednesday; Miller, who has not allowed a run, has 15 strikeouts in 7 games this season. Joe Girardi hasn’t confirmed that Miller is the full-time closer, but we’re sure enough to remove the committee asterisk. Dellin Betances, meanwhile, has overcome his early control issues and allowed only one walk in his last five appearances. He’ll be the guy should Miller falter or get hurt.

Hierarchy remains: Miller | Betances | Carpenter.

Kansas City Royals — On Saturday, injured closer Greg Holland will be evaluated by team doctors, who will decide when he can begin a throwing program. Holland has not thrown a baseball since feeling discomfort in his pectoral muscle, but said he “feels a lot better.” He’s eligible to return from the DL on May 3, but it will take longer if his evaluation goes poorly. Wade Davis has done a fine job filling in for Holland, and he picked up the save Thursday night after a wild night in Chicago, where a bench-clearing brawl led to five ejections.

Hierarchy remains: Davis | Herrera | Frasor.

Pittsburgh Pirates — With his velocity still down, embattled Pirates closer Mark Melancon managed to shut down the Cubs 1-2-3 in the ninth inning Thursday, finishing with a strikeout of über-prospect Addison Russell. Melancon’s cut fastball hovered in the 85-90 mph range, down from the low-to-mid-90s range he reached for most of last season. Melancon remains Pittsburgh’s primary closer, but his seat ought to be feeling very warm

Hierarchy remains: Melancon | Watson | Hughes.

Texas Rangers — Rangers manager Jeff Bannister will use Tanner Scheppers in lower-leverage situations for the time being after some rough outings. Bannister likes the righty’s stuff, so don’t be surprised to see Scheppers return to the eighth-inning role soon.

Updated hierarchy: Feliz | Tolleson | Scheppers.

Toronto Blue Jays – Liam Hendricks was ineffective in a 7-2 game, creating a save situation for Blue Jays committee head Miguel Castro. Castro made things even more interesting by giving up a three-run homer, but escaped with a fly out and a strikeout to end it. This poor outing notwithstanding, Castro remains the most likely closer on any given day.

Hierarchy remains: *Castro | Osuna | Cecil.
*closer-by-committee

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
1. Roberto Osuna/Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays — Castro has pitched in two straight games and leads a committee, so Osuna or Cecil could see a chance Friday.
2. Chris Hatcher/Paco Rodriguez, Los Angeles Dodgers — It’s a closer-by-committee system until Jansen returns. It could be Hatcher’s turn on Friday, or they could turn to Rodriguez, one of the few relievers who didn’t pitch for the Dodgers last night.
3. Ernesto Frieri, Tampa Bay Rays — Manager Kevin Cash has made it clear that he’ll use his best reliever, Brad Boxberger, in the most important moments of a game, sometimes earlier than the ninth inning. This is a wise move for the Rays, but a headache for fantasy owners. Kevin Jepsen has pitched in two straight, so keep an eye on Frieri.
4. Jordan Walden, St. Louis Cardinals — Trevor Rosenthal has pitched in two straight games and could be in line for a night off Friday.
5. Jonathan Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers — Save opportunities are few and far between for the bad Brewers, but closer Francisco Rodriguez has pitched in two straight games (and on three days out of four). Look for Broxton to fill in if K-Rod needs a breather.

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