Craig Kimbrel returns, takes loss as uneven season continues

September 20, 2019

Chicago Cubs — The Cubs activated Craig Kimbrel Thursday and immediately thrust him into action in a tie game in the 10th inning. He took the loss after allowing a go-ahead home run to Matt Carpenter, who hadn’t homered since Aug. 25. While he might see off days here and there, possibly including today, Kimbrel (0-3. 1.53 WHIP, 5.95 ERA) will return to closer duties for the stretch run. Meanwhile, Brandon Kintzler, who originally targeted today for a return, is now more likely to be back early next week.

Updated hierarchy: Kimbrel | Wick | Kintzler.

St. Louis Cardinals — After a gem by Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals were up 4-1 and brought in Carlos Martinez, who coughed up two runs and recorded just one out before being pulled. Andrew Miller allowed an RBI groundout to tie the game, but managed to stop the bleeding and send the game into extras. After Matt Carpenter’s homer in the top half of the tenth, Giovanny Gallegos came out for the bottom half to record his first save. Gallegos likely rewarded a significant number of patient owners who rostered him for his excellent contributions to the ratios (0.73 WHIP, 2.07 ERA, 92/15 K/BB ratio in 69.2 IP). 

Hierarchy remains: Martinez | Miller | Gallegos.

Seattle Mariners — Rookie Erik Swanson worked around a walk to strike out the side in the 11th in getting his first career save. Anthony Bass had pitched earlier in the game and Matt Magill, who recently dealt with a sore back, was perhaps getting some rest during Thursday’s matinee after earning his fifth save on Wednesday night. 

Hierarchy remains: *Magill | Bass | Tuivailala.
* = closer-by-committee

New York Yankees – Dellin Betances is expected to be ready for spring training after he partially tore his Achilles tendon on Sunday. Doctors said Betances should not need surgery and should make a full recovery, but he is obviously out for the season. He pitched in just one game this year, striking out the only two batters he faced on Sept. 15. 

Hierarchy remains: Chapman | Britton | Ottavino.

1. Matt Barnes – Brandon Workman threw 29 pitches Thursday and has pitched in four of his last six. 
2. Andrew Miller – Carlos Martinez has pitched in two straight and three of four. 
3. Rowan Wick/Steve Cishek – Though the Cubs are fighting for their playoff lives, Craig Kimbrel probably won’t pitch back-to-back so soon after returning from the IL.
4. Sergio Romo – Taylor Rogers has gone in three of four. Sergio Romo has had the same workload, but threw only 29 pitches over that span (including just five on Thursday).
5. Nick Goody – Brad Hand (arm fatigue) pitched in a side session Wednesday and “looked like himself,” but it’s not known when he will return.

1. Nick Goody — See above.
2. Michael Lorenzen — Raisel Iglesias pitched in three of four before the Reds were off on Thursday, so a Friday outing would bring his recent workload to three of four (again) and four of six. 
3. Jose Alvarez/Blake Parker — A Friday outing would be three of four for Hector Neris.

Turn the lights off when you go, Hunter Harvey

September 19, 2019

Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen pieced together three straight solid outings, leading Dodgers fans to wonder if the closer had finally turned the corner and regained his edge. Then came Wednesday and his career-high eighth blown save. The only upside for LA was that their loss kept the Yankees up late and prevented them from clinching the AL East.

Hierarchy remains: Jansen | Kelly | Baez.

Baltimore Orioles — Hunter Harvey was supposedly recovered from last week’s biceps soreness, but Brandon Hyde let Miguel Castro blow a four-run lead in the ninth without so much as getting Harvey up. After the game, Hyde confirmed that Harvey would be shut down for the rest of the season. This is a big deal: it’s no exaggeration to say that a healthy Harvey down the stretch could have been the difference between a 51-111 Orioles team no one wants to watch and a 53-109 Orioles team no one wants to watch.

Updated hierarchy: *Givens | Armstrong | Fry.
* = closer-by-committee

Philadelphia Phillies — Jose Alvarez keeps getting late-inning holds, including Wednesday’s eighth-inning bridge to Hector Neris. Also playing an important role in recent high-leverage spots has been Blake Parker, former Twins closer.

Updated hierarchy: Neris | Alvarez | Parker.

Seattle Mariners — As we suspected, now that Matt Magill is healthy, he’s back at the top of Seattle’s closer committee.

Updated hierarchy: *Magill | Bass | Tuivailala.
* = closer-by-committee

Toronto Blue Jays — The Jays rested Ken Giles a day earlier than we predicted, going to Derek Law in the ninth after an epic Orioles collapse. Law didn’t make it easy, loading the bases and giving up a run, but he ultimately escaped with the save.

Hierarchy remains: Giles | Law | Adam.

Tampa Bay Rays — All it took was an 11-inning tilt using nine Rays pitchers for Peter Fairbanks (7.94 ERA) to get his second save in eight days. We don’t expect another.

Hierarchy remains: Pagan | Anderson | Drake.

1. Steve Cishek — Rowan Wick has thrown 51 pitches in the last three days and Brandon Kintzler won’t be back until Friday.
2. Nick Goody — There’s no guarantee Brad Hand is available.
3. Matt Barnes/Josh Taylor — Brandon Workman might get a second straight day off.

1. Jose Alvarez/Blake Parker — Hector Neris has pitched in two straight (40 pitches). Alvarez has also pitched back-to-back.
2. Michael Lorenzen — The Reds don’t play today, but Iglesias could get two days off.
3. Sergio Romo — Same with Taylor Rogers.

Keone Kela likely to take over as Pirates closer

September 18, 2019

Pittsburgh Pirates – As we told you yesterday, authorities arrested Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez on charges of computer pornography – solicitation of a child and providing obscene material to minors. The Pirates were blown out last night, but before the game Clint Hurdle indicated that Keone Kela will be his first option as closer. Kela has been terrific lately, allowing just one earned run over his last 19.0 IP. Hurdle did also mention that Kela could face the heart of the order earlier in the game, so Richard Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano may also be in line for a rare save chance.

Updated hierarchy: *Kela | Rodriguez | Liriano.
* = closer-by-committee

Milwaukee Brewers – With Josh Hader unavailable, Drew Pomeranz pitched the final two innings of the Brewers’ 3-1 win last night. After the game, Craig Counsell said that Pomeranz pitched so well that he didn’t need to turn to Junior Guerra at any point. Pomeranz has been outstanding as a reliever and will join Guerra as someone in line for vulture saves whenever Hader is rested.

Updated hierarchy: Hader | Guerra | Pomeranz.

Chicago Cubs — The Cubs are encouraged by Craig Kimbrel’s progress as he recovers from a sore right elbow. Kimbrel will be evaluated today and has a chance to return from the IL in time for this weekend’s series with the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Brandon Kintzler has not pitched since Sept. 10 and is hoping to be ready to throw a bullpen session in a few days. Rowan Wick, Steve Cishek, Alec Mills, Kyle Ryan and David Phelps will be the arms Joe Maddon trusts most to close out games until Kimbrel and Kintzler return.

Hierarchy remains: Wick | Kintzler | Cishek.

Minnesota Twins — It’s looking quite unlikely that Sam Dyson will pitch again this season, which means Tyler Duffey will get more high-leverage looks as the Twins look to clinch a division title.

Updated hierarchy: *Rogers | Romo | Duffey.
* = closer-by-committee

San Francisco Giants — Will Smith has now made two appearances since recovering from a back injury, scattering one hit across 2.1 IP. The Giants have no need to run Smith ragged over the final days of the season, so Shaun Anderson may be in line for another vulture save depending on Smith’s usage.

Hierarchy remains: Smith | Anderson | Gustave.

1. Shawn Armstrong/Hunter Harvey – Mychal Givens threw 28 uninspiring pitches last night and may get a night off. Shawn Armstrong tossed 23 pitches yesterday but should still be available today.
2. Josh Taylor – Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes have both pitched in three of the last four days.
3. Sergio Romo – Taylor Rogers actually pitched well on a second straight day of work last night, but it seems unlikely he’d pitch in a third straight game tonight. Both Romo and Tyler Duffey have also gone in two straight and three of four.
4. Joe Kelly – Kenley Jansen recorded a four-out save yesterday and has pitched in two of the last three days.
5. Joakim Soria/Yusmeiro Petit – Liam Hendriks has pitched in two straight and three of four, though he only needed nine pitches last night. Soria has gone in two straight as well, so the A’s may turn to Petit for a save tonight.
6. Jandel Gustave – Will Smith has pitched in two of three and may not be ready to throw back-to-back days yet. Shaun Anderson tossed 38 pitches last night.
7. Hunter Strickland – Daniel Hudson threw 26 pitches in two innings of work last night.


1. Kapler’s Choice – Hector Neris tossed 25 pitches last night and may get Thursday off if he goes again today.
2. Shaun Anderson/Jandel Gustave – If Will Smith does appear today, that would be two straight and three of four.
3. Derek Law/Jason Adam – It will be two straight and three of four for both Ken Giles and Derek Law if they appear today.

Felipe Vazquez arrested

September 17, 2019

Pittsburgh Pirates – Authorities arrested Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez on charges of computer pornography – solicitation of a child and providing obscene material to minors. We expect Richard Rodriguez, Francisco Liriano and Keone Kela (one earned run in his last 19.0 IP) to handle the late innings for the Pirates.

Updated hierarchy: *Rodriguez | Liriano | Kela
* = closer-by-committee

Kevin Ginkel picks up first career save

September 17, 2019

Arizona Diamondbacks – Archie Bradley was unavailable last night due to back spasms, so Kevin Ginkel came on for the 9th and notched his first career save. Bradley should be fine and expects to be available today.

Hierarchy remains: Bradley | Ginkel | Lopez.


1. Scott Barlow – Ian Kennedy threw 21 pitches last night; another long outing and he could be off Wednesday.
2. Joakim Soria – If Liam Hendriks goes tonight, it’ll be back to back and three of four.