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Closer Updates: Astros, Athletics, Bucs, Cards, Halos, Jays, Mets, O’s, Tribe

Believe it or not, we’ve had another eventful week in the wonderful world of closers. As always, we’ve had a rash of injuries and poor performances, as well as some interesting demotions and depth chart changes. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look…

Baltimore Orioles – Given the recent struggles of Tommy Hunter, it may be a matter of days before Darren O’Day gets the call. After two consecutive blown saves earlier in the week, manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t commit to keeping Hunter in the role. While Brian Matusz is a strong candidate (3.75 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 6.0 K/9), Darren O’Day (0.60 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.6 K/9) should get the first chance to close.

Cleveland Indians – After being removed from the closer role, John Axford has slowly been working his way back to the ninth and turned in a perfect inning of relief on Tuesday night. If he returns as closer, he’ll have to demonstrate that he can pitch consistently before skipper Terry Francona trusts him again. That being said, it seems that Bryan Shaw (1.45 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 8.2 K/9) has the slight edge over Cody Allen (1.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 13.5 K/9) when it comes to the Tribe’s save opportunities.

Houston Astros – Although the closer picture in Houston is still unclear, it seems that the closer-by-committee approach may be disappearing due to the injury bug. With Anthony Bass hitting the DL, the favorite is now Chad Qualls. Although Josh Fields has been recalled from Triple-A, Qualls should receive any save opportunities until everyone else becomes healthy (Jesse Crain and Matt Albers are also on the DL with Bass).

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – On Tuesday, it appeared that Ernesto Frieri had regained his role in the ninth inning. However, the Angels followed up on Wednesday night by giving Joe Smith the save opportunity (which he converted easily). Therefore, manager Mike Scioscia has stayed true to his word by using both relievers to close out ballgames. Although Frieri should take the job outright from Smith at some point, it may take a little while and both relievers will have value until this situation sorts itself out.

New York Mets – After Wednesday’s game, the Mets released former closer Kyle Farnsworth (3.18 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 5.3 K/9) and left their closer job up for grabs. With a number of contenders, including Jeurys Familia (3.44 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 7.4 K/9), moonwalking Jenrry Mejia (4.89 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 9.3 K/9), and Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.60 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 11.4 K/9), it’s not yet clear how they’ll proceed in Queens.

Oakland Athletics – After a brief attempt to return Jim Johnson to his closer role, the A’s have again decided to take a closer-by-committee approach in the ninth inning. Therefore, the normal candidates return to the fold, including Johnson, Sean Doolittle, and Luke Gregerson. Because Doolittle has struggled occasionally when closing in the past, Gregerson might have the slight edge in this race.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Although Mark Melancon has pitched well (only one run allowed since April 24, with five of six save opportunities converted) in the absence of Jason Grilli, it seems that Grilli may be ready to return to the majors (and the ninth inning) very soon. After a 24-pitch simulated game on Wednesday, Grilli declared that he’s ready to return. Melancon may still hold value even when he returns given Grilli’s proclivity for injury.

St. Louis CardinalsTrevor Rosenthal has had a strong season (10 saves, 5.19 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.9 K/9) and has only blown one save all season. That being said, former Cards closer Jason Motte has been rehabbing nicely and may return to the bullpen in short order after missing the entire 2013 season. Once Motte returns, the Cardinals will likely find a way to utilize the former closer extraordinaire and it should be a matter of time before he challenges Rosenthal for the job. With Rosenthal's knack for pitching himself in and out of trouble, Motte may perform well enough to take his old gig back.

Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays have to be excited that Casey Janssen has been activated from disabled list after a long first six weeks of the season. With the bullpen struggles in Toronto (their 4.77 ERA is good for the majors’ fourth-highest), Janssen should provide some much needed stability. If you’ve been waiting patiently for Janssen to return, you already know that he’s pitched well in his two appearances thus far (1 save, 2.0 IP, 33 pitches, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K).

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




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