March 6, 2015
Baltimore Orioles — It’s a bullpen bonanza in Baltimore, as the Orioles return seven pitchers from last year, a group that combined to throw 80% of the innings out of the ‘pen last year. Zach Britton saved 37 games last season after winning the job and will be back as the closer again in 2015. Darren O’Day should get the bulk of the eighth-inning chances with Andrew Miller in New York, with Tommy Hunter and lefty Brian Matusz competing for the seventh inning.
Starting 2015 hierarchy: Britton | O’Day | Hunter.
Holds candidates: O’Day, Matusz.
Boston Red Sox — Despite heading towards 40, Koji Uehara got a two-year, $18 million deal from the Sox to remain their closer. Behind the seemingly ageless Uehara are Junichi Tazawa and Edward Mujica, who will compete for the eighth inning. Mujica got most of the save opportunities at the end of the season when the Sox shut Uehara down, and has more closing experience than Tazawa. 2011 draftee Matt Barnes might be relevant this year if Boston chooses to move him to the bullpen, and Alexi Ogando is also around.
Starting 2015 hierarchy: Uehara | Mujica | Tazawa.
Holds candidates: Tazawa, Craig Breslow.
New York Yankees — With David Robertson departed to the AL Central, the Yankees went out and got Andrew Miller. However, despite a $36 million deal, Miller isn’t the team’s closer . . . at least not yet. He’s in a battle for the job with Dellin Betances, who impressed last year with a 1.40 ERA, setting the Yankee record for strikeouts by a reliever with 135. Betances has terrific stuff and is probably the better pitcher, but it’s possible that Joe Girardi uses him more strategically, in the highest-leverage spots. Girardi could even platoon the two based on matchups. Former Brave David Carpenter projects to be the seventh-inning guy.
Starting 2015 hierarchy: Betances | Miller | Carpenter.
Holds candidates: Carpenter, Adam Warren.
Tampa Bay Rays — Joe Maddon is gone, which perhaps means a more stable bullpen in 2015. Jake McGee will lead that group when he returns from elbow surgery, as he impressed as the closer last year when he finally got the role for good. Grant Balfour struggled mightily last season but still wants the closer job. He’ll have to compete with newly-acquired Kelvin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri, as well as Brad Boxberger, who had a strong 2014. In addition, Jeff Beliveau had 28 strikeouts in 24 innings last season, and might be the only lefty on the team’s Opening Day roster.
Starting 2015 hierarchy: Balfour | Boxberger | Jepsen.
Holds candidates: Boxberger, Beliveau.
Toronto Blue Jays — With Casey Janssen no longer the Jays’ closer, Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are the top candidates for the job, but John Gibbons isn’t committing to either man yet. For now, we think Cecil has the edge because Sanchez could still snag a spot in the rotation, but it’s worth noting that Cecil was scratched from Friday’s spring training game with soreness in his shoulder. Aaron Loup and Todd Redmond are likely to pitch middle relief in front of the eventual closer, with Steve Delabar also in play.
Starting 2015 hierarchy: Cecil | Sanchez | Loup.
Holds candidates: Loup, Redmond.