Phillies enter committee mode; Bruce Rondon and Jim Johnson could see more save chances

May 14, 2018

Philadelphia Phillies – Two days after Hector Neris blew a save against the Mets, Gabe Kapler declared that the Phillies will no longer have a consistent 9th inning approach. This was Kapler’s initial plan in spring training, but the first six weeks of the season saw Neris in the role; now, it seems that it’ll be full-on chaos theory in Philadelphia going forward. Sure to be in the mix is Edubray Ramos, who go the save on Sunday. Neris is still in, too — he was warming up while Ramos was pitching. Seranthony Dominguez, who pitched a clean 8th and has yet to allow a baserunner in 4 major league innings so far, could get a look. So could Tommy Hunter and Luis Garcia. We’re putting Neris and Ramos at the top for now, with the understanding that, if Kapler keeps his word, the 9th inning could truly belong to almost anyone on any given night.

Updated hierarchy: *Neris | Ramos | Dominguez.
* = closer-by-committee

Chicago White Sox – Also entering committee mode are the Chicago White Sox, who turned to Bruce Rondon for the save yesterday afternoon. With Joakim Soria struggling and Nate Jones blowing his chance to seize the job earlier this week, Rondon seems like a good bet to take over if he can convert another save — though Rick Renteria isn’t calling him the new closer yet. For now, we’re slapping an asterisk on and will elevate the big righty to the top spot if he can do it again.

Updated hierarchy: *Soria | Rondon | Jones. 
* = closer-by-committee

Los Angeles Angels – Keynan Middleton exited Sunday’s game with a sore right elbow and will have an MRI today. No one really seized on the role in his recent absence, though Jim Johnson did convert a save on Thursday and is probably the best guy to own if Middleton is going to miss time.

Hierarchy remains: *Middleton | Johnson | Anderson.
* = closer-by-committee

Boston Red Sox – Craig Kimbrel was unavailable Sunday, having pitched in three of the past four days, so Joe Kelly closed out the win to earn his second save of the season.

Hierarchy remains: Kimbrel | Kelly | Barnes.

1. Kirby Yates – Brad Hand has gone two straight (3 IP, 54 pitches).
2. Jared Hughes – Raisel Iglesias has pitched in four of the last five.
3. AJ Minter – Arodys Vizcaino has pitched in two straight and the Braves have a day game today.

1. Joe Jimenez/Buck Farmer – Shane Greene, Jimenez, and Farmer have all pitched two straight; tonight’s usage will dictate who is available tomorrow.


Mychal Givens and Jared Hughes impress in save chances

May 13, 2018

Baltimore Orioles — The Orioles gave Brad Brach the day off yesterday after he recorded a multi-inning save the night before.  Mychal Givens got the call instead and recorded the last five outs for his first career save. Brach will likely get the bulk of the save chances in this committee, but Givens has only allowed one run in his last nine appearances and proved he could also handle the job yesterday.

Hierarchy remains: *Brach | Givens | Bleier.
* = closer-by-committee

Cincinnati Reds – As predicted in yesterday’s Vulture Save Watch, Jared Hughes got the save chance after regular closer Raisel Iglesias had pitched in three straight.  Hughes threw 1.2 perfect innings for his first save of the season.  Iglesias is locked in as the closer, but Hughes has been brilliant recently as he has not allowed a hit or walk in his last three appearances spanning 4.2 innings.

Hierarchy remains: Iglesias | Hughes | Garrett.

Washington Nationals – Ryan Madson pitched a perfect ninth on Saturday to pick up his third save of the season.  Sean Doolittle was unavailable yesterday, and Madson should continue to see save chances when Doolittle cannot go.

Hierarchy remains: Doolittle | Madson | Kintzler.

Atlanta Braves — Dan Winkler picked up his sixth hold of the season by pitching a clean eighth inning ahead of closer Arodys Vizcaino.  Winkler and Shane Carle have both been great for the Braves this year, but Winkler has consistently been working later in games than Carle recently so we will swap them on the hierarchy.

Updated hierarchy: Vizcaino | Minter | Winkler.

1. Jake McGee – Wade Davis and Adam Ottavino have both pitched in back-to-back games and neither has gone in three straight yet this season.
2. Jim Johnson – Keynan Middleton has pitched in two of three and the Angels may be cautious with him since he just returned from injury.

1. CJ Edwards – If Brandon Morrow pitches on Sunday, it will be two in a row and he has yet to pitch in three in a row this season
2. Addison Reed – It will be three straight for Fernando Rodney if he pitches on Sunday
3. Santiago Casilla – Same for Blake Treinen

It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia for Hector Neris

May 12, 2018

Philadelphia Phillies — Tommy Hunter has been excellent since his return from the DL, picking up five holds while bridging the gap to Hector Neris, who has been less than excellent of late. Neris allowed three earned runs to blow yesterday’s save, and he has two blown saves in his last four outings to push his ERA to 5.17. After Friday’s disaster, Gabe Kapler remained confident that Neris would overcome these recent struggles and that he’d be willing to use Neris tonight if necessary. We’ll keep a close eye on this to see if Neris can keep his job or if a committee of Hunter and Luis Garcia will rule the late innings in Philadelphia.

Updated hierarchy: Neris | Hunter | Garcia.

Los Angeles Angels — After pitching the eighth inning last night, Justin Anderson remained out for the ninth with a chance to pick up the save with the Angels clinging to a 4-2 lead. He allowed a leadoff home run and a double before ceding the chance to Jim Johnson and not Keynan Middleton. Johnson gave up a single and a sac fly to complete the blown save. After the game, Mike Scioscia said that he felt that Anderson had enough to get through the ninth, and when that didn’t work, he liked the matchups with Johnson. Where was Keynan Middleton in all this? Presumably resting, as he threw 22 pitches in his return from the DL on Thursday. Scioscia also probably wanted to give Johnson a night off as well before being forced to use him. We still think Middleton will eventually get the ninth all to himself, but it’s clear Scioscia is monitoring his workload right now.

Updated hierarchy: *Middleton | Johnson | Anderson.
* = closer-by-committee

Cleveland Indians — As expected, Andrew Miller returned from the DL and was immediately thrown into the 7th inning of a one-run game. He walked the first batter he faced, struck out two in a row and then gave up the go-ahead home run to Salvador Perez. Getting Miller back is a boost to the struggling Indians bullpen, despite last night’s results. Meanwhile, Tyler Olson is headed to the paternity list, leaving Dan Otero, Evan Marshall or Zach McAllister to perhaps pick up a hold in Olson’s absence.

Updated Hierarchy: Allen | Miller | Olson.

Milwaukee Brewers — As we mentioned yesterday, Josh Hader was brought in to close out a one-run lead and  complete a Brewers comeback. Corey Knebel had pitched the last two days and Craig Counsell had said he was going to ease Knebel back to the ninth inning. We’ll see how Knebel gets used this weekend, but we expect him to be closing games sooner rather than later.

Hierarchy remains: Knebel | Hader | Jeffress.

Cincinnati Reds – Amir Garrett picked up a hold last night, pitching five clean outs ahead of Raisel Iglesias. Garrett has been more of a long reliever for the Reds and has been talked about as a starting pitcher for them, but this is his fourth hold on the season and he is the best arm in the Reds bullpen behind Iglesias. This is enough to bring him into the hierarchy, but be aware that he could become a spot starter at any time.

Updated hierarchy: Iglesias | Hughes | Garrett.

Baltimore Orioles — Brad Brach picked up the second straight save for this committee, pitching the last out of the eighth before returning for the ninth. Brach is definitely the leader of this committee and with a couple more strong showings he may win the job outright.

Hierarchy remains: *Brach | Givens | Bleier.
* = closer-by-committee

1. Tommy Hunter/Luis Garcia — Hector Neris may get a night off just based on usage. He’s pitched three of four and five of the last seven.
2. Jared Hughes — Raisel Iglesias has pitched each of the last three days and four times over the last five days.

1. Tommy Hunter/Luis Garcia — If Neris pitches Saturday and actually does well, he’ll still need a day off for sure on Sunday.
2. Kyle Barraclough/Drew Steckenreider – A third straight appearance for Brad Ziegler on Saturday should earn him an off day Sunday. If Barraclough also gets the ball on Saturday, that will be two straight outings for him.
3. Ryan Madson — Sean Doolittle will have pitched in three straight games if he goes on Saturday.

Keynan Middleton back from the DL, but it’s Jim Johnson with the save for the Angels

May 11, 2018

Los Angeles Angels — Keynan Middleton was activated from the disabled list and promptly pitched in the eighth inning for the Angels, picking up the hold ahead of Jim Johnson, who secured his first save as a Halo. Perhaps Middleton will be eased back in, but he did face the top of the Twins’ order, while Johnson retired the 4-5-6 hitters in the ninth. What does it all mean? No new details emerged after the game, but we still like Middleton to get more of the save chances moving forward. As many as five guys could still be in the mix on any given night.

Updated hierarchy: *Middleton | Johnson | Bedrosian.
* = closer-by-committee

Milwaukee Brewers — Corey Knebel pitched for a second straight night on Thursday — this time in the eighth inning to set up Jeremy Jeffress, who nailed down his third save. Craig Counsell has said Knebel would be eased back in, but we still think he’ll close games soon for this loaded Brewers bullpen. We suspect Josh Hader may get the next chance, with Knebel, perhaps, getting the one after that, if he continues to pitch well.

Hierarchy remains: Knebel | Hader | Jeffress.

St. Louis Cardinals — Pitching for the first time since leaving a game last weekend with triceps tightness, Bud Norris looked sharp, tossing a scoreless inning with one strikeout to earn his eighth save. Greg Holland picked up his first hold setting Norris up. Will Holland return to the ninth? Healthy again, Norris appears locked into the closer’s gig for now.

Hierarchy remains: *Norris | Holland | Hicks.
* = closer-by-committee

Cleveland Indians — Andrew Miller is expected to be activated from the disabled list as early as Friday (discussion starts at 9:33 of recording). Miller threw 35 pitches during a simulated game on Tuesday and reported no hamstring issues. The return is a welcome one for an Indians bullpen that has had a rough go of it lately.

Hierarchy remains: Allen | Olson | Otero. 

Philadelphia Phillies — Introducing Seranthony Dominguez, who will likely be tracked by the Closer Monkey for years to come. The rookie righty recorded his first career hold Thursday and has a perfect inning with one strikeout in each of his first three career appearances. If he does that again, he’ll be the first pitcher to do so in 110 years. He’s worth keeping an eye on.

Hierarchy remains: Neris | Garcia | Hunter.

Baltimore Orioles — An MRI on Darren O’Day’s injured right elbow revealed no structural damage. He apparently hyperextended the elbow when someone ran into him while he was stretching in the bullpen.

Hierarchy remains: *Brach | Givens | Bleier.
* = closer-by-committee

Atlanta Braves — Here’s your chance at a free year of Closer Monkey Premium. The first person to prove they had 21-year-old lefty Luiz Gohara in their lineup for his three-inning vulture save Thursday night is the winner. Pics or it didn’t happen! (UPDATE: OKAY OKAY WE’VE GOT ABOUT 30 SUBMISSIONS ALREADY PLEASE STOP WE KNOW YOU LOVE GOHARA)

Hierarchy remains: Vizcaino | Minter | Carle.

1. Greg Holland — Bud Norris returned from injury Thursday, throwing 15 pitches. If the Cardinals want to ease him back and avoid two straight appearances, Holland may get a look.
2. Jared Hughes — Raisel Iglesias has pitched on three of the last four days, tossing 53 pitches over 4.1 innings.

1. Archie Bradley — Brad Boxberger, Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano have all gone in two of three and four of six. Whoever pitches Friday will need a rest on Saturday.
2. Joe Kelly — Craig Kimbrel has pitched in two straight (31 pitches).
3. Luis Garcia — Hector Neris has appeared in two of three and four of the last six.

Tyler Clippard gets the first chance to close in the new Toronto bullpen

May 10, 2018

Toronto Blue Jays — Tyler Clippard got the first shot at a Toronto save in the absence of Roberto Osuna. Clippard doesn’t have the job locked down, though; all indications are that it’s a true committee. Seung Hwan Oh, the favorite of many to lead the committee, pitched the sixth in Wednesday’s game, followed by John Axford and Ryan Tepera — all with the team behind. All four of those guys are pitching well this season, and all but Tepera have at least two seasons of full-time closer experience. Clippard believes any of them can handle the ninth, and we’ll all have to wait and see who gets the next opportunity.

Updated hierarchy: *Clippard | Tepera | Oh.
* = closer-by-committee

Milwaukee Brewers — Corey Knebel’s first appearance after his injury started with a long home run, but quieted down with three consecutive groundouts. Knebel was used in a low-leverage spot with the team down four, and Craig Counsell says he’s not going to rush his closer back into the ninth. For his part, Knebel is willing to sacrifice his role for the team, saying he doesn’t expect to return to closing right away and that it “doesn’t matter” where he’s used, given the talent in the bullpen. We’ll see whether the Brewers stay in the committee mindset going forward.

Hierarchy remains: Knebel | Hader | Jeffress.

Atlanta Braves — It’s been all Arodys Vizcaino ever since Brian Snitker talked about sometimes playing matchups with AJ Minter. We’re no longer buying the committee tag here.

Updated hierarchy: Vizcaino | Minter | Carle.

Boston Red Sox — Seeking to protect a narrow lead over the rival Yankees in the game and the division, Alex Cora called on Craig Kimbrel to do something he’d never done before: collect a five-out save. He failed. With a triple and a home run, the Yankees captured both leads, picking up their 17th win in 18 games.

Hierarchy remains: Kimbrel | Kelly | Barnes.

Baltimore Orioles — With Darren O’Day on the DL with a hyperextended elbow, Brad Brach returned to the role of closer/trade bait. A desire to showcase the perennial trade chip to possible suitors is a major reason Brach might have the job to himself in O’Day’s absence.

Updated hierarchy: *Brach | Givens | Bleier.
* = closer-by-committee

Chicago White Sox — The White Sox haven’t been earning many save opportunities, and when one arises, their putrid 5.68 ninth-inning ERA hasn’t led to many conversions. Wednesday they called on Nate Jones with a three-run lead in the ninth, and he gave up four runs on four hits to take the loss and run his own ninth-inning ERA to 8.44. Joakim Soria (6.14 ninth-inning ERA) should get the next save chance, in a week or so.

Hierarchy remains: *Soria | Jones | Rondon.
* = closer-by-committee

Houston Astros — Two straight days, two straight uneventful saves for Ken Giles, but AJ Hinch’s love of matchups compels us to keep the committee tag, for now at least.

Hierarchy remains: *Giles | Devenski | Peacock.
* = closer-by-committee

1. AJ Minter — Even if the Atlanta situation isn’t a committee anymore, Vizcaino has gone in three of four.
2. David Robertson — Aroldis Chapman has gone in two straight games and Robertson got Wednesday off.

1. Jared Hughes — Raisel Iglesias pitched two innings on Wednesday. He needed only 19 pitches, so he might be good for Thursday — but if so, don’t expect him to go in three straight.
2. Joe Kelly — Another tough outing for Kimbrel and he’ll need a day off.