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Closers: Blue Jays, Yankees, A's, Mets

My agent's on the line, and he wants to know why I'm being shuttled between the bullpen and rotation like a 30-year-old journeyman junkballer. If you have any tips for the crimes being committed against my arm, please ping us on Twitter at @closernews, where you'll find all the latest breaking news on stoppers.

Blue Jays
After defying sketchy peripherals throughout most of 2011, things have finally caught up to Francisco Cordero. The 37-year-old struggled badly in a three-week stint as Sergio Santos' replacement before manager John Farrell had finally seen enough and replaced him with old friend Casey Janssen last week.

Janssen has quietly come into his own over the past two seasons (3.18, 2.74 SIERAs) and seems to have turned a corner from some early-career setbacks that included Tommy John surgery in 2008. He's carried that into 2012 (the 4.38 ERA is very misleading) and cleanly converted his first two save chances as the Jays' second interim closer. I expect him to do well so long as he's in the role.

However, Santos may only be about 10 days away from beginning a minor league rehab stint, so Janssen's trial run is looking relatively short-lived. Santos could be back by the end of the month, at which point I fully expect him to be reinstalled as closer. His return is far from a given, as shoulder injuries can be tricky, and if he does return on time he may need an outing or two in non-save situations in order to reacclimate, so Janssen is a worthwhile own until he's been entirely displaced.

Yankees
David Robertson didn't fare well in his first two save chances last week, including a meltdown vs. the Rays. Sure enough, the Yanks' next save opp arrived the following night. It went to Rafael Soriano, as D-Rob was apparently unavailable after throwing too many pitches (although I'm sure he was nursing his bruised psyche, as well). Raf-Sor nabbed the Yanks' next save chance -- last night -- so it looks pretty clear that he has taken over for Mariano Rivera in something of a minor upset.

To boot, following last night's game Joe Girardi announced that Robertson has been dealing with a ribcage injury and is slated for some tests. I'm not crazy about cutting Robertson right now, because I think he could still factor into the saves mix, but it's getting tougher to make the argument, so cut away if you must.

Athletics
Grant Balfour got off to a fast start as Oakland's closer, but things have fallen apart the past couple weeks, to the extent that the A's were desperate enough to revert back to Brian Fuentes.

Oakland's decision to bail on Balfour is not without its merits; the right-hander's 6.88 K/9 is well off his 9.77 career rate, and there's not enough daylight between it and the 3.71 BB/9 for him to be effective. As for whether Fuentes was the appropriate replacement is dubious, at least based on past performance. While his tidy walk rate (1.29 BB/9) is especially sharp, we can't count on that lasting (3.69 BB/9 career), unless Fuentes has suddenly changed his steez at age 36.

With Balfour and Fuentes both looking like underwhelming options (not to mention trade candidates), the buzz is that right-hander Ryan Cook is on-deck. Cook, 25 next month, is drawing some buzz for his 0.00 ERA through 15 appearances, but that is surely a product of some very good fortune, as his strikeout-to-walk ratio sits at a ho-hum 2.0. A promotion for Cook may seem inevitable now, but his average-ish peripheral profile leads me to wonder whether he can perform well enough to hold onto the job. I think he's AL-only material right now.

Mets
Frank Francisco's ERA sat at 8.56 after a meltdown on Sunday, so Mets manager Terry Collins hinted the time might finally have arrived to go with the good ole eight-man committee. It proved only to be an empty threat, though, as Francisco got the call on Monday night and converted for a very shaky save. FF is no stud, but his 3.76 SIERA hints that better days are probably ahead. We'll have to see how long the Mets show patience with him, though with a so-so bunch of alternatives in Jon Rauch, Bobby Parnell and Ramon Ramirez, I don't think they're especially motivated to move.

If you're digging deep on a spec add, Parnell is probably the way to go, as he's shown some improvement so far this season and is the nearest thing the Mets have to a prototypical closer after Francisco.

Quick-ish Hits
Apparently motivated by my cavalier dismissal last week, Dale Thayer has converted each of his three save opportunities for the Padres in Huston Street's absence. Thayer is 31 and has logged only 66 career big league innings to date, so he more closely resembles a journeyman mop-up type than a prototypical closer, but  he'll see the saves till Street returns, which could be somewhere around May 20-25, barring complications. ... Chris Sale went from starter to closer to starter for the White Sox last week, leaving the Pale Hose to deploy a supposed three-man closer committee of Addison Reed, Matt Thornton and Hector Santiago. Reed imploded in a non-save situation over the weekend and was then brought back for a save opp on Monday, which he converted but not without trouble. This might only get uglier, if that's possible. ... Scott Downs has returned from a bruised knee and appears to have the trust of Halos skipper Mike Scioscia. He should see the next few save opps, at least.


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