With the MLB in full-swing, some bullpen hierarchies are becoming a lot more clear, while others have fallen apart. While some managers may keep fantasy owners guessing, it is important to at least have an idea of who has a chance at a save and who is most likely not even going to appear in a game today. Don’t sleep on saves! In a shortened season, they all count that much more.
First, notes from last night and thoughts on today’s games:
- The Cardinals will return to action on Friday against the Cubs for their first game since COVID forced them into an eight-day layoff. Notably, manager Mike Shildt announced that closer Kwang-hyun Kim would be moved to the rotation to replace Carlos Martinez, who was sent to the IL. He went on to indicate a number of possible replacements for Kim: Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, Andrew Miller, and Tyler Webb. Gallegos was perhaps the favorite to land the closer role in the preseason with Martinez moving to the rotation, but after a late arrival to camp, he may still need more time to get fully up to speed (two batters faced so far). Therefore, Helsley would seem to be the favorite for the next chance, with Miller also a possibility if a lefty-heavy situation develops.
- No save chance in Pittsburgh yesterday, but that may be for the best as the Pirates had to shelve promising closer Nick Burdi on the 45-day IL with an elbow injury. Richard Rodriguez will slide into the closer role, but he will need to start keeping the ball in the park (1.9 HR/9 in 2019-20) and the 2-10 Pirates will need to start winning some games for any significant value for fantasy players to form. JT Brubaker will make his first career start on Thursday for Pittsburgh, having made two relief appearances already this year. As a result, this could set up some vulture work for long relievers such as Chad Kuhl behind him if the Pirates can muster some offense.
- The muddled bullpen situation in Texas may get a bit more clarity as Rafael Montero is on track to be activated from his bout with elbow tendinitis as soon as Friday. Montero brings high-leverage experience, having performed well (2.48 ERA, 3.83 FIP) as the Rangers’ 8th inning man in 2019. With Jose Leclerc out of action, and Edinson Volquez and Jesse Chavez combining to lose Tuesday’s contest, Montero’s primary competition will be 23-year-old upstart Jonathan Hernandez and off-season waiver acquisition Nick Goody.
- A one-pitch save appearance in the early half of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Yankees was Hector Neris’s first work since Philadelphia’s return to action. He should still be fine for Thursday, though opponent Zack Britton, who needed only eight pitches for his save in the nightcap, has thrown on three of the last four days and may yield a chance to Adam Ottavino on Friday if the Yankees choose to rest him.
- Seth Lugo was called on in the 8th to protect a 3-1 lead for the Mets on Wednesday, and, after retiring the side on just six pitches, was left in to complete the save. All told, Lugo retired the only six batters he faced on 19 pitches, netting two strikeouts in the process. The Mets would certainly still like to get their return on the hefty investment they made in Edwin Diaz, but, for the moment, Lugo has proven to be the more reliable option at the back end, and may continue to get chances until Diaz proves he is ready to re-assume the role.
- His early struggles already starting to seem like a distant memory, Brad Hand scored his second save in as many days in Cleveland on Wednesday, and was fairly efficient throughout, needing 25 pitches total between both outings. Francona’s favored #2 James Karinchak has also pitched two in a row but has needed even less effort (14 pitches total), so look for him or the more-rested Nick Wittgren if Cleveland plays it safe Thursday.
- Brandon Kintzler has thrown two consecutive days for Miami with a reasonable workload (10 and 11 pitches, respectively), but coming off their long break, the Marlins will likely rest him Thursday. Additionally, Richard Bleier pitched both days (10 and 5 pitches), so Brad Boxberger, who last worked a scoreless 8th inning on Tuesday, is the fresh arm in line.
- In Oakland, Joakim Soria picked up a five-out save, and has potentially pitched himself into more vulture situations with his outstanding work so far this year (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 11/2 K/BB). Liam Hendriks was available if needed, having only thrown 10 pitches on Tuesday, but with Soria dealing, he got a break. Hendriks has been fine as well (1.69 ERA and 3 SV in 5 G), so it seems unlikely that he has lost his seat after his dominant 2019, and he’s definitely the closer for Thursday with Soria having now pitched two in a row.
- Taylor Williams was knocked around by the Angels in Seattle on Wednesday, ceding a 8th-inning three-run Mike Trout homer, though he luckily entered with a four-run lead. Afterwards, Carl Edwards came on for the save and struck out two without allowing a baserunner. Williams threw 24 pitches in this game and Edwards has thrown two days in a row, so Dan Altavilla should get any shot at a save for the Mariners on Thursday. Opposite them, former Angels closer Hansel Robles appeared in the 8th inning down 7-6, so it appears the closing job in LA is Ty Buttrey’s for now.
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