There's a closer controversy brewing in Pittsburgh, as Evan Meek will start receiving some opportunities down the stretch as the Bucs evaluate the composition of their 2011 roster.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that incumbent Joel Hanrahan (pictured) will continue to receive saves, but it's anyone's guess who claims the job next year.
Starting the competition now allows the team to make a more informed decision on who is best as closer given spring training is near-impossible to evaluate closer readiness. For one, being a closer is all about pressure -- something spring training has in short supply. In addition, closers rarely see save situations in games until the final week -- and when it comes time for those, they are usually facing minor leaguers.
“It’s a good question, and it’s something I’ve thought about,” manager John Russell said. “We’ll talk about it this winter, because it is difficult to compete in spring training in that role.”
Hanrahan, 28, has a 3.59 ERA on the year, whiffing 88 in 62 2/3 innings and walking just 21. Hanrahan boasts a 96-mph average fastball which would give him an edge over most anyone in a closer's competition -- except Meek is no slouch himself with the heater, averaging 95.1 mph. Meek has a 1.99 ERA in 72 1/3 innings, but only has 60 strikeouts and 27 walks.
That strikeout difference is a big reason why Hanrahan likely has the inside road on the closer's gig, but no decisions will be made until Opening Day 2011.
-- Evan Brunell
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