Baseball is in full swing and the first week has provided the usual surprises and disappointments. The position that seems to get the most attention in fantasy baseball the first week, well nearly every week, is who is closing out the ball game for each team.
Most teams settled on a closer coming out of Spring Training, but there were some who were the “tongue in cheek” option and on a short leash from the get-go. Here are some situations to keep an eye on.
Fernando Rodney vs. Addison Reed
The Twins signed the 41-year-old Fernando Rodney to be their closer midway through the offseason and he pitched Opening Day, and then not again until the past two days. Opening Day was a poor first impression for Twins fans, giving up a walk off home run to Adam Jones in the 11th inning. He gave up two hits in an inning of work against the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday, and then recorded his first save in a relatively clean inning (1 K, 1 BB) yesterday against the Seattle Mariners.
I don’t think the Twins will be quick to pull the role from Rodney, but on a team with high expectations and a closer with a higher than average risk profile, Addison Reed is ready if called upon. Through four appearances and 5.1 innings of work, Reed hasn’t allowed a run and gave up only one hit. He did give up three walks in one appearance, but otherwise has six strike outs on the season.
Reed has experience closing with the New York Mets so he wouldn’t be thrown into a completely new situation if Paul Molitor were to make a change.
Brad Boxberger vs. Archie Bradley
Manager Torey Lovullo stated at the beginning of Spring Training that the closer’s role would be open with Brad Boxberger and Archie Bradley both trying to take the spot vacated by the departed Fernando Rodney. After a sit down meeting with Bradley, Lovullo stated that he, along with Bradley, wanted to keep him in the setup role thus leaving the closing duties to Boxberger.
If that is where Bradley feels comfortable, then more power to him, and Boxberger is pitching well in the early going recording three saves and no runs allowed in four innings. However, I question whether Boxberger is the answer to the D-Backs closing situation long-term. Based on pure “stuff”, I think Bradley will have the role, albeit possibly reluctantly, sooner rather than later.
Greg Holland’s Impending Arrival
St. Louis Cardinals
This one really was a no brainer. Pundits all off season talked about how the Cardinals needed a true closer and that the idea that manager Mike Matheny and the front office had to use the closer-by-committee option was a disaster waiting to happen. Dominic Leone gave up back-to-back home runs against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 3rd and all three of his outings have been shaky to start the regular season.
Signing Greg Holland, finally, will solidify the back end of the bullpen but how much time will he need to get ready? He was reported to have been working out with other unsigned Scott Boras agents in Florida but “practice” and game action are two very different things. Holland is currently pitching in the minors to get ready, and could be called up next Monday, April 9th.
Corey Knebel to the Disabled List
A late breaking fourth team added to our closer carousel roundup and a possibility for future save opportunities, as the Brewers closer Corey Knebel injured his hamstring last night helping mop up an 8-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Knebel collapsed on the mound, grabbed his hamstring and needed to be helped off the field. It looks bad, and clearly, he is headed to the DL with an MRI scheduled for Friday to test the extent of the injury.
Manager Craig Counsell gave no early indication who will cover in Knebel’s absence, or even whether it will be a single primary reliever to close games, or a selection from a committee based on matchups. Names to consider at this time are Jacob Barnes (6 IP, 5 K, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB) and Josh Hader (3 IP, 7 K, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB), plus Matt Albers and Jeremy Jeffress.