Another save for McGee in Rays’ closer-by-committee, Josh Fields returns for Astros

July 5, 2014

Tampa Bay Rays —   Yesterday it was Jake McGee’s turn again in the Rays’ committee and he didn’t disappoint, pitching a scoreless 9th for his 4th save of the season.  However, the most important work out of the bullpen came from Brad Boxberger.  Boxberger, who picked up the save on Wednesday, came on with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 6th inning.  He was able to limit the damage to one run by getting a double play and a strikeout.  Boxberger came back out for the 7th and struck out 2 batters in a perfect inning of work.  This is still very much a committee, and Joel Peralta pitched a scoreless 8th yesterday so it is hard to put Boxberger on the hierarchy yet, but with 51 Ks in 33.1 innings, he could move ahead of Balfour and Peralta as the primary righty in the committee if he continues to pitch well.

Hierarchy remains: McGee | Balfour | Peralta.

Houston Astros – Josh Fields was activated from the DL yesterday and immediately used in a big spot in the 7th inning.  He gave up a hit to the first batter, which allowed an inherited runner to score and tie the game, but he struck out the next four batters he faced.  Fields was pitching well before his injury and his strikeout potential (41 Ks in 28.2 innings) makes him a good candidate for high-leverage spots in the later innings.

Updated hierarchy: Qualls | Sipp | Fields.

1. Jason Grilli, Los Angeles Angels – Joe Smith has pitched in 2 straight and 3 of the last 4.
2. Joel Peralta/Grant Balfour, Tampa Bay Rays – McGee got the save last night so it could be Peralta or Balfour today.

Jason Grilli lurking after several good outings

July 4, 2014

Pittsburgh Pirates – His first two appearances as a Pirate had gone relatively smoothly, but last night, Ernesto Frieri had one of his signature meltdowns, allowing five runs and five hits in just 0.1 innings. At this point, with the way Tony Watson is pitching this year, we don’t think Frieri would be first up for a save chance on nights when Mark Melancon is unavailable.

Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Watson | Frieri.

Los Angeles Angels – Joe Smith has been awesome lately, picking up five saves in his last nine appearances while posting this line: 8.1 IP, 1 ER, 11 Ks, 1 BB. But he remains on our Hot Seat because Mike Scioscia has said repeatedly that he wants Smith in a more flexible role, where he can be used strategically to get big outs in the 7th and 8th innings. So the fact that Jason Grilli has now posted 3.1 innings for the Angels without allowing an earned run (including three 8th-inning appearances ahead of Smith) is especially relevant, given the fact that Scioscia has implied that he’d like to see Grilli compete for 9th inning opportunities. If Grilli is on your waiver wire, now might be the time to pounce. One slip-up from Smith and the aging righty could start getting saves again.

Hierarchy remains: Smith | Grilli | Jepsen.

1. Tommy Hunter, Baltimore Orioles – Both Zach Britton and Darren O’Day have pitched in three straight.

Brad Boxberger the latest Tampa closer du jour

July 3, 2014

Miami Marlins — A.J. Ramos was placed on the disabled list, retroactive to June 27, with right shoulder inflammation. Bryan Morris hasn’t allowed a run since May, a run of 14 straight appearances, and he will maintain an important role in the Marlins bullpen.

Updated hierarchy: Cishek | Gregg | Morris.

Tampa Bay Rays — It’s unclear precisely what good deed Brad Boxberger performed to get the latest nod in the ninth from mystic philosopher-king Joe Maddon. All we know for sure is that if you want a reliable source of saves, Tampa relievers aren’t for you.

Hierarchy remains: McGee | Balfour | Peralta.

Seattle Mariners — It’s still really close between Danny Farquhar and Yoervis Medina — Medina has been getting a lot of eighth-inning work and hasn’t allowed a run in 51 days, but Farquhar has closed in the past, got a vulture save opp in May, and was lined up for another in June. We’ll keep them in this order until and unless there’s a clear indication that Yoervis has moved ahead.

Hierarchy remains: Rodney | Farquhar | Medina.

Atlanta Braves — As predicted in Wednesday’s Vulture Save Watch, Jordan Walden picked up his third save of the year, allowing Craig Kimbrel a night off.

Hierarchy remains: Kimbrel | Walden | Carpenter.

Joe Maddon rewards the chivalrous Grant Balfour

July 2, 2014

Tampa Bay Rays — Oh, Joe Maddon. No one was surprised to see him call on Jake McGee to face the Yankees’ 2-3-4 hitters in a one-run eighth. A few people were surprised when he summoned Grant Balfour to nail down the save with the same score in the ninth. But everyone was surprised when Maddon revealed his reasoning in a postgame statement and tweet: he was rewarding Balfour for the good “karma” he sensed as the embattled reliever walked his octogenarian Aussie grandmother through the lobby of the team hotel. Some Rays fans called the move brave, but honestly, with the way the Yankees have been hitting lately, Granny B could have taken the mound herself.

Hierarchy remains: McGee | Balfour | Peralta.

Atlanta Braves — After two successful rehab outings for AAA Gwinnett, an optimistic David Carpenter will be activated from the disabled list on Wednesday. His return should displace Shae Simmons and Luis Avilan.

Updated hierarchy: Kimbrel | Walden | Carpenter.

Toronto Blue Jays — While Sergio Santos has been overlooked in high-leverage spots, Aaron Loup has resurfaced as a top option, albeit one who hit the only batter he faced in the eighth on Tuesday. This is probably all academic, as Brett Cecil has only one more rehab outing planned for Buffalo before he joins the Jays on Thursday in Oakland. In his first Bisons appearance on Monday, Cecil gave up the tying home run to Syracuse in the eighth, and came off as a little insensitive to his temporary teammates. Hope he bought dinner at Dinosaur.

Updated hierarchy: Janssen | McGowan | Loup.

Los Angeles Angels — Joe Smith earned two saves in one day — the first coming in a five-run game he entered with the bases loaded and nobody out — on a mere 13 pitches. No vulture save watch for this guy!

Hierarchy remains: Smith | Grilli | Jepsen.

1. Edward Mujica, Boston Red Sox — Koji Uehara threw 20 pitches and blew the save on Tuesday, his third day of work in the last four.
2. Jordan Walden/David Carpenter, Atlanta Braves — Craig Kimbrel has pitched in four of five. If the Braves are ready to toss Carpenter back into the fire right away, he could get the vulture save call.
3. Neil Ramirez/Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs — Hector Rondon has pitched in three of the last four games; perhaps tomorrow we will learn if Pedro Strop has truly surpassed Neil Ramirez in the Cubs pen.

Rays committee chugs along; Wilhelmsen picks up save

July 1, 2014

Tampa Bay Rays – Every time we think Jake McGee has creeped closer to claiming the ninth-inning duties for the Rays, Joe Maddon reminds us that he truly believes in his committee. On Monday, he had McGee face the Yankees’ 2-6 hitters in the eighth inning before allowing Joel Peralta to pitch to the bottom of the order in the ninth. His plan was foiled, however, when a Brian Roberts’ solo shot off Peralta tied the game. It’s clear that Maddon wanted his best reliever to face the Yankees’ best hitters, and it’s thinking like that which will keep the Rays’ committee alive and well.

Hierarchy remains: McGee | Balfour | Peralta.

Seattle Mariners – Tom Wilhelmsen pitched the final three innings of a 10-4 Mariners win and picked up his first save of the season.

Hierarchy remains: Rodney | Farquhar | Medina.

1. Jordan Walden, Atlanta Braves – Craig Kimbrel has pitched in back-to-back games.