March 22, 2019
Atlanta Braves – There were spring whispers AJ Minter may ascend to become the team’s save-getter, but he’s currently battling a shoulder issue and likely won’t be healthy enough for Opening Day. Arodys Vizcaino will assume his familiar role at the back end of the bullpen. With Darren O’Day also likely headed for the IL, expect veteran Jonny Venters to lead a crop of younger pitchers in setting up Vizcaino at the start.
Updated hierarchy: Vizcaino | Venters | Sobotka.
Miami Marlins – Before spring action began, Don Mattingly indicated he’d mix and match in the ninth inning among a group that includes Drew Steckenrider, Sergio Romo and Adam Conley. That plan appears to still be in place, but Steckenrider (9.82 ERA) has had a rough spring, while Romo (3.68 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) has impressed. Complicating things is the Marlins’ likelihood to use Romo as their relief ace and opener at times, and the fact that the Marlins probably won’t win many games at all, leaving this situation one of the most volatile in baseball. Perhaps Romo begins the season at the top of the pecking order? Stay tuned.
Updated hierarchy: *Romo | Steckenrider | Conley.
* = closer-by-committee
Chicago Cubs – Pedro Strop is battling a hamstring injury, but manager Joe Maddon expressed optimism Thursday that his reliever will likely be ready to open the season healthy. That would leave Strop to close while Brandon Morrow (elbow) continues to work his way back. Morrow won’t be ready until May. If Strop isn’t ready to go, Steve Cishek and CJ Edwards would be the next men up.
Hierarchy remains: *Strop | Cishek | Edwards.
* = closer-by-committee until Brandon Morrow returns
Milwaukee Brewers – The strength of the Brewers is typically their bullpen, but some top options will not be with the team on Opening Day. Corey Knebel has been pitching with a UCL injury for a while, according to manager Craig Counsell, and now the pitcher is set to seek a second opinion about the injury. Counsell earlier said there’s “reason for concern” about the injury. Couple that with the fact Jeremy Jeffress won’t be ready to pitch Opening Day either, that explains the club’s interest in free agent closer Craig Kimbrel. Out of the gate, Josh Hader is the immediate favorite for saves.
Updated hierarchy: Hader | Barnes | Albers.
St. Louis Cardinals – Dakota Hudson will begin the season as the team’s fifth starter, so that takes him out of the bullpen hierarchy. In his place, let’s slide in John Brebbia behind Jordan Hicks and Andrew Miller — with both of these men likely competing for saves, based on matchups — to start the season.
Updated hierarchy: *Hicks | Miller | Brebbia.
* = closer-by-committee
Arizona Diamondbacks – Manager Torey Lovullo still isn’t ready to announce a closer. He’ll be choosing among a group that includes Archie Bradley, Greg Holland and Yoshihisa Hirano. It’s anybody’s guess at this point, so we’ll stick with Bradley for now. But Bradley could become the team’s relief ace instead, leaving save opportunities for Holland and Hirano. Stay tuned!
Hierarchy remains: Bradley | Holland | Hirano.
San Francisco Giants – Mark Melancon began the spring in contention to close, but he has been dreadful in his six appearances, posting an 11.12 ERA in 5.2 IP. Will Smith has been the opposite of dreadful, allowing no runs and just three hits in his four innings of work this spring. Bruce Bochy has not named a closer, but Smith should be the front-runner based on the aforementioned numbers and the fact that Melancon isn’t even a lock to make the Opening Day roster anymore.
Updated hierarchy: Smith | Dyson | Melancon.