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Mets, Nationals don't change closers -- and that's news

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
NEW YORK -- The Mets decided not to change closers Monday. The Nationals said the same thing.

And that's news?

This year, it is.

This year, if a closer isn't getting hurt, he's losing his job. Half the teams in baseball have already changed closers, some more than once.

Two long save streaks ended this year, Jose Valverde after 51 straight converted saves, John Axford last weekend after 49. The longest active streak now belongs to Jim Johnson of the Orioles, at 19.

The second longest belongs to Andrew Bailey, who converted his last 16 with the A's in 2011, and has spent this season on the Red Sox disabled list.

Axford has a 6.10 ERA but has earned enough trust that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke didn't need to answer questions on whether he would remain as closer.

Mets manager Terry Collins found himself answering those questions Sunday and again Monday after Frank Francisco had a horrible weekend in Miami (six of the eight batters he faced reached base, and five of them scored).

Collins said Monday that he had considered going to closer-by-committee before electing to stay with Francisco.

"This guy has a history of closing," he said. "We brought him here for a reason. Patience may prevail, for a short time."

So he's staying with Francisco?

"For the moment, yes," Collins said.

The moment will go on for Francisco, who survived two hits and a walk and got the save in the Mets' 3-1 Monday night win over the Brewers.

Collins said the Mets believe that Francisco has been tipping his pitches, although one scout who watched the games in Miami said, "That's the easiest excuse, when a guy is throwing balls right down the middle."

Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters in Washington that he will stick with Henry Rodriguez, who became the Nationals closer after Drew Storen had to go on the disabled list but has two blown saves in the last week.

Rodriguez's moment may not go on, despite Johnson's vote of confidence. When Rodriguez loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning Monday night, Johnson pulled him with the save opportunity intact, and went to Sean Burnett. Burnett finished off Washington's 8-5 win over the Padres and was credited with his first save of the year.

It's happening everywhere this season.

There were six ninth-inning blown saves just over the weekend alone, pushing the major-league total to 23 for May and 55 for the season.

The failure rate is high enough that it's not surprising to see managers constantly thinking about changing closers -- and constantly being asked about it.

All too often, though, they switch to someone else who can't do the job.

"What you end up doing is experimenting," Collins said. "I'm not into experimenting. When we left camp we had a plan. You've got to wring the rag dry a little."

So he said he's not changing closers -- not yet.

And that, in 2012, is news.
 
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