Tuesday, May 20, 2014


It came a day later but Closing Time is once again upon us as we check back into the world of the ninth inning and the closers who inhabit them.  Let's get right to the latest carnage.

-Trouble in Colorado as veteran closer LaTroy Hawkins is only now starting to realize he is older than dirt and the struggles have followed suit.  Hawkins blew another save Sunday in giving up 2 earned runs in one inning which raised his ERA to 4.11 with an ugly 1.54 WHIP.  Hawkins has now given up runs in three of his last five outings and with a very capable Rex Brothers waiting in the wings, the heat is starting to rise in the Rockies bullpen. 

This can't be seen as much of a shock since prior to the season I identified Hawkins, John Axford, and Tommy Hunter as the three worst closers to start the year.  Axford and Hunter have both gagged away their closer jobs and Hawkins looks primed to join them.  With the Rockies in contention at 25-20, they surely won't be looking on by as Hawkins takes a blowtorch to the ninth inning.  Brothers has been seen as the heir apparent at closer and he is having a fine season with a 2.84 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 19 innings.  However Brothers has also walked 13 which is a bit of a red flag for someone who would possibly be entrusted to pitch in such a pressure situation.  Veteran Nick Masset has been even better than Brothers as he has pitched to a 1.50 ERA and has not pitched to an ERA over 3.71 the last three seasons.  Small sample size with only six innings but Masset is another veteran who could be in play in the ninth.  While Hawkins is likely to get some more time to work through his issues, another ugly outing or two over the next few days will change that thinking quickly.

-Another day and another blown save for Trevor Rosenthal on Sunday.  This time he gave up two earned runs in the ninth to lose the game to the Chicago Cubs.  The ERA now sits at a horrid 4.98 and for now erases the positive vibes Rosenthal generated with his three straight scoreless appearances since his last gagged save.  We have talked about this until we were blue in the face so no need to rehash.  Jason Motte will be activated from the DL Tuesday and could enter into the mix real soon once he gets a few appearances under his belt.  Rosenthal has lacked velocity all season while Motte was ringing up 95-mph bullets in his minor league outings.  The Cards want Rosenthal to be the monster he was down the stretch last season and into the playoffs but it just hasn't happened and it may never will.  Again pick up Motte in all leagues as a change could be coming real soon if Rosenthal continues to struggle like he has.

-Addison Reed has lowered the temperature over his head by pitching two straight scoreless innings after his latest blown save.  It also helped that Brad Ziegler has his first meltdown of the season just a day after Reed's last struggle. 

-Not much has been said about this but Joe Nathan has been back to his old unhittable self after a truly horrendous start to the season.  After Nathan's ERA sat at a scary 8.10 on April 19th, the Tigers closer has thrown 10 straight scoreless innings to lower that mark to a much more palatable 3.24.  No worries.

-Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli is scheduled to throw back-to-back days this week which will be the last step before activation from the DL.  Grilli has been out with a strained oblique but he appears healthy and ready to reenter the closer picture.  Mark Melancon has been very good in his absence outside of the 2 ER in 0 IP meltdown the other day. Whether it was enough to keep the job when Grilli gets back remains to be seen.  Melancon is the better pitcher now as Grilli is pushing 40 and has had increasing injury problems.  Before he got hurt Grilli was not pitching great either.  Something to watch closely this week.

There you have it.  As always let us know what you think.


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