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Closer Updates: Brewers, Dodgers, Mariners, Tigers, Padres

Ninth inning drama is great for baseball. It makes things exciting, gives every team hope, and makes heroes out of future Hall of Famers and lifelong benchwarmers alike. It can make middle relievers into household names, bartenders into millionaires...and it can take all that away. Closing is fickle work, and things may have held steady last week, when we went off-format to talk about the year's top perfomers, but things are back to their heart-wrenching normal. There's a reason Rolaids sponsors the Fireman of the Year Award....

Brewers

Apparently, this is Sparta. Though closer Jim Henderson who, as his owners may remember, was filthy-dominant before his injury, is back from the DL, he's going to be seeing time in other innings for a while. This is a pretty normal thing, as teams like to see what their closers look like and let them shake off any remaining rust before handing them the ball with the game on the line. What isn't normal, though, is the team's reasoning for the decision to leave Francisco Rodriguez in the closer's role for the time being: K-Rod is just two saves from 300. (I told you this was Sparta.) Loving round-numbered milestones as we apparently do, the Brew Crew will let Rodriguez try to get to this one. Though they're being a bit coy with the details, it looks like Henderson will have an opportunity to get his job back after that, but we'll see. To be fair, K-Rod has pitched well enough. 

For now, owners should hang onto both pitchers, while we see how things shake out.

Dodgers

"Finally!" shouted everyone in the world not named Don Mattingly. Seriously, even Brandon League would have pulled himself from the closer's role before now. True, the Dodgers had plenty riding on using League as closer, but the latest meltdown was more than they could handle. After a while it does become pretty tough to justify using a guy with an ERA more than a point higher than his K/9 in the ninth inning while Kenley Jansen rattles around in the eighth. Anyways, though Jansen was already owned in most leagues, his ownership should jump to near 100%, because he could immediately be a top closer. No guarantees: I still suspect that Los Angeles knows worrisome things about his long-term health status, but that's just a guess. If he stays healthy, he should rack up saves, and he will rack up strikeouts.

Mariners

Ever have your boss tell you to come into her office and "talk about your role" at work? Yeah, that's what poor Tom Wilhelmsen is in for, according to manager Eric Wedge. I can't say what the result of that will be, but the former bartender has exchanged a strict menu of strikeouts for a open bar of runs scored. While the M's don't have a lot of other options in their bullpen, if Wilhelmsen keeps pitching like he has been, other pitchers won't have to be any good to be a lot better than him. I'm thinking my window for trading him has passed, but I'd still give it a shot. His ERA is still a respectable 3.77, so you may get something useful from an owner desperate for saves. If Wilhelmsen is tossed from the role, keep an eye on Carter Capps, who's struck out 34 batters in 28 IP this season.

Tigers

Before the season, everyone knew the Tigers weren't interested in re-signing Jose Valverde to close. And then nobody else seemed up to the job and nobody else wanted Valverde. It was a marriage of necessity; unsurprisingly, it's on the rocks at the moment. The closer's only blown three saves (he's had 12 chances), but he isn't striking people out (6.26 K/9), he's walking people (3.52 BB/9), and his xFIP is 5.01. In his latest blown save, Valverde didn't even start the inning--that honor went to Drew Smyly, to take advantage of the lefty-lefty matchup. The trouble is, you don't need to play matchups like that when you trust your closer. Though Detroit doesn't look ready to ditch Valverde for Smyly or anyone else, it's clear that the honeymoon period is over. If they do make a change, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a committee develop involving Smyly, Joaquin Benoit, and the rest of the pre-season's suspects.

Padres

Luke Gregerson just blew a save opportunity, but it looks like he and Dale Thayer will continue to see most of the opportunities in the current closer committee situation. That may not be for much longer, however, as Huston Street is rehabbing and may be just a couple appearances from a return to the Majors. As the replacements haven't really set the world on fire, I expect the Padres to get Street back into his role as soon as is viable. Of course, Street isn't the healthiest closer on the block, so I wouldn't drop Gregerson or Thayer until Street actually pitches a ninth inning.

Add-Vice

As I write just about every week, Jansen is a great add. Now he's an actual closer, so those in even the shallowest leagues should be picking him up, even if it means dropping a mid-level closer to get him. If you're a Wilhelmsen or Valverde owner--or if you're in so much need for saves that you could use some longshot speculative saves--try picking up Carter Capps or Drew Smyly. Also, don't forget about Rex Brothers or Vinnie Pestano as they fill in for Rafael Betancourt and Chris Perez, respectively.




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