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Closer Updates: Brewers, Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Red Sox

It's been a pretty good week to be a closer. Sure, we've had blown saves, injuries, and even seen one closer scurry out of the clubhouse in his street clothes, but, hey, no one lost their job. In the up and down world of closing ballgames, not losing your job counts as a win for everyone with less prestige than Mariano Rivera (and, to a lesser extent, Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Kimbrel).

With no job losses to present our favorite kind of opportunities, we can safely ignore relievers and the waiver wire for another week, right? 

Sure you can. But I won't, and neither will your leaguemates. Just because no changes have happened yet doesn't mean there couldn't be trouble brewing. With that said, let's start things off with the...


Actually, there isn't really any "trouble" coming down the pike for Milwaukee closer Jim Henderson. There's some bad news for the few John Axford owners still out there, because the Brew Crew just added all-time single-season saves leader Francisco Rodriguez to their beleaguered bullpen. Considering how well Henderson has pitched (10.50 K/9, 5.00 K/B, 1.06 ERA, 1.37 FIP, 95mph fastball), I don't see K-Rod's rusty right arm pushing him out of the ninth any time soon. But considering how unbelievably bad Axford's been (I won't show you the numbers, in deference to his owners), Frankie Rodriguez will likely climb into the top setup slot and become the first backup in line soon. I wouldn't add Rodriguez at this point, but I would drop Ax-man.


Ryan Madson and I had thought this might be a good time to scoop him up, in case the Angels got overexuberant and handed him the closer's job they signed him for. Well, the latest word is that his rehab stint may last "several weeks." One can understand the Angels playing this one cautiously, but I wouldn't be surprised if they activated Madson earlier than that--if he's healthy and dominant in rehab. Keep an eye on what Madson does in AAA, becuase incumbent closer Ernesto Frieri has had a lot of success but will need to cut down on his 6.23 BB/9 before it catches up with him. (To be fair, that number is cut down from where it was a couple weeks ago when I suggested watching his backups.)


Remember when Heath Bell was one of the top closers drafted? Me neither. Arizona GM Kevin Towers did, though, and looked like a fool when he traded to get Bell in the offseason. Maybe we should have trusted Towers' history with relievers, because it's a pretty long track record of success. Thus far, Bell has been outstanding and his fastball velocity and frequency appear to have returned to the levels of the good ol' days in San Diego. Does that mean David Hernandez isn't looming? No. But it does mean that he managed to blow a save Sunday and had enough leash to come back for two in a row Tuesday and Wednesday. If you've got Hernandez, I hope you're counting holds, because Bell has a solid grip on the saves in the desert.


Brandon League is a good-but-not-great pitcher, and he's been pretty shaky so far this season. Kenley Jansen is a dominant strikeout pitcher and he's dominated this season. So why is League still the closer? There are two reasons, one more important than the other. First of all, someone decided that lots of money = infinite money and threw 30 some-odd million dollars at League to close. That's big money for a setup guy and there's some face to be lost by demoting him. That's the lesser reason, I think. The real reason, and the reason they gave all that money to Mr. League in the first place, is the reason they initially traded for him: Jansen's health.

I'm doing a little bit of speculating here, as I am neither a medical doctor nor an employee of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I think they're giving League as much leash as his performance will allow (maybe more) so that they can keep Jansen as fresh as possible for when they really need him. Earlier this week, Jansen came in to get a big one-out save, but League was back Wednesday to preserve a two-run lead in the ninth. When did Jansen pitch? In the seventh and eighth with a one-run lead--when sabermetricians tell us the Dodgers really needed him.

Hang on to League as long as he's just good enough to justify running out there in the ninth, because I think the Dodgers are trying to maximize their bullpen value by having Jansen available for all (and only) the highest-leverage innings. If that's what they're up to, more teams should do the same.

Red Sox

Junichi Tazawa hasn't pitched since losing the game last Saturday, but, then, the Red Sox haven't brought him any save opportunities since. While the Boston decision makers have seemed confident enough in Tazawa, it looks like Bailey will be coming back no later than Monday, if all goes according to plan. Of course, things may not go according to plan, so don't drop Tazawa just yet. However, if a short-sighted owner happened to drop Bailey, go to your waiver wire and claim him, because he's pitched too good not to return to the ninth inning when he's ready. Plus, the Red Sox probably want to show off whatever stability they can.


Unfortunately, this isn't a big week to find closing bargains. Bailey (and Tazawa, actually) make the best adds, on the off chance they aren't owned yet in your league. Speaking of League, if frustrated owners have dropped him, I'd pick him up, as there's a good chance he gets to snag the easier save chances in L.A. Finally, "several weeks" is a long time for a rehab assignment, but if you've got space on your DL it might be a good idea to lock up Madson. The Angels did sign him with the intent of using him to close, and they may still go that route when he comes back to the Bigs. Of course, they may not, so if you play the wait-and-see game and lose, don't beat yourself up.

And by the way, don't forget to check out @CloserNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information, and our up-to-date Closer Depth Chart, for each team's stopper and top backups.

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