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

The past week has been a relatively quiet one on the closer front. Relatively meaning, of course, that we had an established closer return from the DL to set up for his replacement, another closer slide backwards in his climb back to the ninth inning, one guy start pulling away from the closer-by-committee pack, and another continue to push himself out of job security. So yeah, quiet week.


Last week we mentioned the trouble that J.J. Putz has gotten himself into, and now he's blown another save. The good news for owners is that he saved two successfully and earned a win in the past week, but he's still up to four blown saves, meaning he's just 5/9 in SV/OPP. He hasn't pitched horribly, but he hasn't been great, and that might not be good enough much longer.

Arizona isn't saying anything about demoting Putz, to whom they've allocated a significant contract, but they do have other options. Lucky for Putz owners, the best of those options, David Hernandez, just blew a game himself. Heath Bell "can handle the ninth" because he used to be good at it, and Matt Reynolds has shown himself to be a quality arm. If things don't get better for Putz, expect to see some combination of these three pitchers in the ninth inning for Arizona.


Carlos Marmol (10BB/10.7 IP) is a known walk machine, but this level is bad even for him. He's supposedly still in the Cubbie committee, but for how long? Making matters worse is that six of those have come in his last four appearances, while Kevin Gregg has pitched like a hero. He's saved four games in a row without walking a batter in that span. Looking to before he was inserted into the closing picture, Gregg has struck out six batters in 5.1 IP, with just three hits and two walks allowed. Even better, his last three outings have been perfect. The question is less one of competition between Gregg and Marmol, but about whether Gregg closes when Kyuji Fujikawa returns. 

A word of caution: a few well-timed good innings shouldn't make us forget why the Cubs were able to find Gregg on the proverbial scrapheap in the first place: we're talking about a guy with a lifetime 4.04 BB/9 rate, whose last two season-long WHIP's were in the 1.60's. Proven closer does not mean proven control artist.


John Axford was supposed to be on his way back to the closer's job, but an eighth inning loss to the Pirates pushed his ERA back over 10.00 and him just a little farther from his old line of work. The homer he allowed was his fifth in 10.7 IP this season. Yeah, he's allowed a longball every other inning. Maybe Axford's progress was real and this is just a hiccup on the road back to ninth-inning dominance. Or maybe not. For now, keep hanging on to Jim Henderson.

Red Sox

Joel Hanrahan is back off the DL, but Andrew Bailey is still closing for the Sox. Bailey has been flat-out excellent, and if that doesn't change it's hard to see Hanrahan (who came into the year sporting shaky peripherals) muscling his way back into the ninth inning. Right now, the plan is to let Hanrahan work his way into a setup role, but no farther. While that may change, Bailey is looking like one of baseball's most solid closers at the moment.

The above is what I wrote before seeing that Hanrahan came in for the save Thursday while Bailey was out with bicep soreness. So far it appears that the injury is minor and that Bailey will close when available. Hang on to Hanrahan for now, though I still expect Bailey to run with the job.


Ernesto Frieri (11BB/12.3 IP) has only blown one save, but he could be in for some seriously bad outings if he can't get his wake rate of nearly 9.00/9. The good news is that he's striking out over a batter per inning (15K's), and holding his ERA (2.19) together. There might be a reason that the Angels wanted Ryan Madson to close. I would strongly consider moving him before the blown saves start racking up. Dane de la Rosa and Scott Downs have worked a lot in the eighth inning lately, though Downs's left-handedness gives the edge to de la Rosa.


Gregg (Y!: 37%/ESPN: 66.7%/CBS: 26% owned) is worth picking up in pretty much all formats. David Hernandez (Y!: 16%/ESPN: 7.8%/CBS: 16%) is the best choice for a handcuff to J.J. Putz. The nice thing about picking him up is that he's one of the most valuable setup men around, meaning he won't waste your roster spot while you wait for him to take the job. If you're desperate for saves or worried about Frieri, then de la Rosa (basically unowned) might be a good choice. Keep in mind that Frieri will probably have to blow a couple actual games before the Angels even make noise about a change.

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