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Closer Updates: Giants, Blue Jays, Rangers

We've got the latest on all the @closernews closer news, so unless you want to walk off the mound a loser, read on ...

Giants
The headliner since we last spoke came this weekend, when news broke that Giants closer Brian Wilson sustained a serious injury, one that San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy ham-handedly phrased as "structural issues." Yes, that's one way of putting it, Boch. The short of it is, The Beard is very likely headed for a second Tommy John surgery, in which case he would be sidelined for the year and perhaps into next.

Of course, we wish Wilson the best and hope to see him back at full strength as soon as possible. Apropos of nothing, may I suggest this excellent piece by Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com for an interesting look at Wilson, which somehow manages to both strip away and prop up Wilson's "Beard" persona.

Anyway, what do we make of this unfortunate situation from a fantasy perspective? Well, Bochy wasted no time in announcing that he'd be deploying a closer-by-committee of Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez, much to frustration of owners everywhere. It's my experience that fantasy types tend not to appreciate ambiguity in these kinds of situations.

The way it plays out may be simpler than it appears at first glance, though. Lopez can probably be discounted as a seriouus closing candidate on account of his LOOGY profile, unless it should work out that he's brought in to face a tough lefty for the final out of a game. That leaves us Romo and Casilla, and though Romo would be the rightful successor as one of the dominant relievers in baseball, he must be handled gently on account of his propensity for injuries, as Baggarly notes in the above-mentioned article. We can debate it from an old school-new school perspective all we want, but frailty is not a virtue for ballplayers -- especially not for closers, who are supposed to get their Dale Earnhardt on on the mound.

In fact, Casilla is the trendy own, and I think it has merit. Recall that the Giants faced life without Wilson for a substantial chunk of the second half last season on account of an elbow strain (ominously enough). During that time, the bulk of save opportunities went to the right-hander Casilla, a strong-armed reliever whose shiny surface stats have seemed to belie rather pedestrian peripherals for a couple years running now (3.66 SIERA vs. 1.74 ERA in 2011, for example). Casilla will likely get first crack, and although I worry about whether he can run with the job, he's the better pickup.

Blue Jays
Sergio Santos got off to a slow start as a Blue Jay, allowing four earned runs in his first three innings of work. Then, he had the indecency to tend to the birth of his child, which left his ugly small-sample-size numbers to linger on his owners' stats sheets like two-week-old Easter candy.

The good followers at @closernews pinged us with a few questions regarding Santos before he bounced for paternity leave. Though we've seen even the most entrenched closers receive ye olde demotion over the years, I'm not yet worried about Santos' job security. For one, the Jays made a point of trading for him and his team-friendly contract this offseason, so you know he's Their Guy for the foreseeable future. For two, Francisco Cordero ain't much of an alternative at this juncture of his career. I mean, what would be the point?

Unless Santos is injured -- and I have absolutely no reason to believe that -- bet on him bouncing back now that Mary's dropped his baby girl. I hesitate to ignore that whole correlation-causation rule, but would it shock you if Santos' poor early production had something to do with an impending addition to his family? We can't say that for sure, but don't do anything crazy like dropping or selling low on Santos. Sit him down for an outing or two, if you're really concerned.

Rangers
Like the Blue Jays and Santos, Texas has seen newly acquired closer Joe Nathan scuffle in his first few outings as a Ranger. Ron Washington quelled any concerns with an unequivocal declaration as to the identity of his closer (hint: it's Nathan), but this is a situation I'm watching a little more closely.

Nathan is old and two years removed from Tommy John surgery. The latter concern may not be worth mentioning considering the usual time frame for pitchers to fully recover from the procedure, but at Nathan's advanced age, it may be fair to wonder whether he's looking at a different time table. After all my 29-year-old legs tire when I hike up more than two sets of subway steps at a time, so I can't even imagine whipping a baseball at 93 mph eight years from now coming off TJ.

That being said, the Rangers lavished two guaranteed years and $14.75MM on Nathan this offseason, so the last thing they want at the one-percent mark of the deal is a closer controversy. Nathan will receive every chance to get right. It took Neftali Feliz till August-ish to hit his groove last season, and though he presented the Rangers several opportunities to look elsewhere, they never did.

But what if Nathan doesn't get right? Could it finally be the year for Mike Adams? This is one to keep tabs on.

Marlins
Heath Bell's first few outings in Florida Miami haven't gone, um, swimmingly, either. The chubby stopper has allowed two runs in two of his four outings this season, and in one of the others, he issued three free passes. Ugh.

Bell's peripherals took a pretty drastic downturn last season, so this is not an altogether shocking development. Is he hurt? That's hard to say. His velocity is down about one mph, but that's in a very small sample, and ... it's one mph. That being said, let's wait a few more outings till we write off Bell as another free-agent flop (joining Ryan Madson). The Marlins -- perhaps even moreso than the Rangers -- have every incentive in the world to stick with their closer till his arm falls off because of the roundly criticized contract they signed him to during their offseason feeding signing frenzy.

Ironically, Bell was one of the beneficiaries of the Marlins' awkward hey-look-at-us-we-have-money campaign. Now, we'll get to see how serious they are  in handling him if it comes down to wins and losses.

Edward Mujica is my pick to succeed the Heater in the event something should go down (although Steve Cishek would be a candidate too, I spose), and while I have my cursor on the add-drop button, I'm not acting until Bell turns in another clunker.


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