Two of the most stable closer situations at the start of the season were the Giants and Rays, which was surprising because if you had conducted a poll prior to the season asking which team would be 2most likely to resort to a closer committee, the top two answers probably would have been the Giants and Rays. That's just how managers Gabe Kapler and Kevin Cash had played it in the past.
But suddenly, things aren't looking so automatic for those two bullpens. Could Kapler and Cash be returning to their roots? My hunch is no, that each team still has a clear front-runner for saves, but it may not be the pitcher you think.
Those are just two of the 10 closer scenarios I'm putting under the microscope this week.
Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves (though it's usually one and the same).
When Tyler Rogers came in for the save Sunday, one day after Jake McGee blew a ninth-inning tie, you could have argued McGee needed a day off, having worked in two straight. But then when Rogers comes back for another save Monday, well, it's reasonable to believe a changing of the guard is afoot. Rogers' submarine motion allows him to pitch most every day, so it might not make sense to use him strictly as a closer, but seeing as McGee has an 8.71 ERA in 11 appearances since mid-April, the Giants can't keep running him out there with the game on the line.
Hansel Robles -- who recorded 23 saves for the Angels in 2019, let's not forget -- worked the ninth inning Saturday for his first save as a Twin, but the circumstances were unusual. The Twins rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a one-run lead, and Robles just happened to be the one warming up at the time.
Then again, Taylor Rogers, who recently claimed the closer role from Alex Colome, has been pretty ineffective in it, allowing at least one run in four of his five May appearances. In fact, he blew a tie to take the loss in the ninth inning Sunday. It's possible Robles gets the next look, presuming Rogers is on thin ice, but it's perhaps even more likely that the Twins turn back to Colome, who has settled down since his move to a lower-leverage role.
Well, Jordan Romano got his one save, and that's probably it for him with Rafael Dolis, himself the proprietor of three saves, set to return from the IL Tuesday. There's still a case to be made that Romano is better than Dolis, but because he didn't have a chance to sink his teeth into the role, the Blue Jays will presumably go back to their prior choice. Romano, as a matter of fact, didn't even handle the team's most recent save chance. A.J. Cole did, with Tyler Chatwood setting up for him.
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The Mariners closer situation has been a tough nut to crack, but while the save chances have gone back and forth, with Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero again switching off for the past two, it's become increasingly clear that Graveman is the only reliever manager Scott Servais trusts, which means we'll probably see him for the next save chance ... unless he's needed earlier in the contest.
More interesting to me is how much longer Montero holds onto the fallback closer role given that he's already blown five saves. Soon enough, someone like Erik Swanson or even Drew Steckenrider might overtake him.
Tejay Antone recorded the most recent save for the Reds -- in rather conventional fashion, too -- to tie him for the team lead with two. Of course, those two came more than two weeks apart, and he was used as a multi-inning reliever several times in between. It's that versatility that makes me skeptical he'll ever become the full-time closer, though he's clearly the Reds most trusted reliever right now.
Heath Hembree did record a save the day before Antone's latest and has good numbers so far, but it was an extra-inning situation. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to see manager David Bell turn back to Amir Garrett, who has been much improved in May.
Could it be that those rascally Rays are up to their old tricks again? They appeared to have settled on Diego Castillo as their closer -- and with surprisingly little drama along the way -- but then he strained his groin, forcing him to the IL and creating a disturbance in the Force. He returned Sunday, having missed little more than the minimum, but even though no one else had a chance to establish himself in his absence, he entered the game in the sixth inning.
Now, maybe the Rays just wanted to ease him in after his time away. For a normal organization, I would presume as much. But these are the Rays, and being that they're Rays, we can't rule out the possibility of pandemonium.
So rarely do the Tigers get two save opportunities so close together that I can even comment on the usage, but wouldn't you know they turned out their second in five days Monday? The man on receiving end of both: Michael Fulmer. Yes, that Michael Fulmer, the former AL Rookie of the Year who fell on hard times after Tommy John surgery but looked like he was making a successful transition back to the starting rotation just a couple of weeks ago.
Apparently, the Tigers have decided they prefer him as a high-leverage reliever, and I'm at least willing to say he's part of the saves mix along with left-hander Gregory Soto. Soto was needed for one out in the eighth inning Monday, and I can't help but wonder if he would have kicked off the ninth otherwise. But as it is, Fulmer has all the momentum now.
Manager Mike Matheny meddled with the mystical forces that delivered Josh Staumont three consecutive save chances at the end of April, bringing him into the seventh inning of a game in early May only to see him implode, and it turns out the Royals haven't gotten a save since. Matheny has used Staumont more like a conventional closer since then, though, most recently having him finish off a four-run lead on back-to-back days. About the only other Royals reliever who might deserve a chance is Scott Barlow, but Matheny so far has shown no inclination to elevate him.
Despite a stretch of five appearances in which he allowed a total of eight earned runs, Daniel Bard has continued to serve as the Rockies closer, converting the team's only save each of the past two weeks. He suggested after a particularly bad outing on May 2 that he may be sequencing incorrectly or tipping his pitches, and it's not clear yet whether he's gotten to the bottom of the issue. But the Rockies really don't have anyone else up to the task. Mychal Givens got to try for a save Sunday, with Bard having worked three of the previous four days, and promptly blew it.
There's little reason to believe the Diamondbacks' next save chance would go to anyone other than Stefan Crichton, who has delivered each of the team's past four saves, but manager Torey Lovullo made the unconventional decision to use his de facto closer in the eighth inning of a 0-0 game Sunday. And Crichton responded the way closers often do in non-save situations: He gave up three runs, costing the Diamondbacks the game.
It wasn't like Crichton was brought in to face a particularly difficult part of the Nationals lineup, and Lovullo had already used Joakim Soria, the presumed next-in-line, in the seventh. It was a curious decision all the way around, but again, who other than Crichton would close out a game for the Diamondbacks?