The first weekend of the season is behind us, and incredibly, all of the bullpen situations in the majors are stable and calm.
Of course, several closer situations are precarious, if for no other reason than the role itself is changing. A few of the relievers in some of the more amorphous late-inning pecking orders did themselves no favors in Sunday’s games.
So we fantasy owners should be particularly grateful for Blake Treinen, Kirby Yates, Kenley Jansen, Shane Greene and Alex Colome, all of whom notched saves with a minimum of stress. Jose Leclerc did not get a save, but he did pick up a win by getting four outs while the Rangers were knotted with the Cubs at 10-10.
The Mariners’ situation looked straightforward just three days ago, with Hunter Strickland installed as the closer, but he has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 lat strain. He won’t need surgery, but according to Scott Servais, Strickland could miss as much as two months. For now, the team will go with a committee. Cory Gearrin’s usage (as much as we can tell through six games) suggests that he could play a prominent role in that committee, and he was given the chance to close out the Red Sox on Sunday with a 10-7 lead. He walked the bases loaded with one out, however, and gave way to Chasen Bradford, who let one of those runners score by giving Blake Swihart a free pass. Bradford did bail Gearrin out by retiring the next two batters, collecting his first career save.
Gearrin’s control has been inconsistent, and of the 38 pitches he has thrown outside of the strike zone, only five have coaxed a swing. No one in the Mariners’ current bullpen stands out as a reliable candidate for saves, especially since both Anthony Swarzak (shoulder) and Shawn Armstrong (oblique) could return sometime this week.
We have known to expect that Andrew Miller and Jordan Hicks would share save opportunities for the Cardinals, but neither one of them helped himself to get a leg up on the other on Sunday. Miller entered first against the Brewers, inheriting a 4-1 lead and a runner on first with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. He walked Christian Yelich and then coughed up successive RBI singles to Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw. Miller escaped with a one-run lead, which he was able to hand off to Hicks with two outs in the eighth inning. His attempt at a four-out save was quickly in peril in the ninth inning, as he began by yielding a Ben Gamel double and a Lorenzo Cain single. Yelich drove them both home with a liner into left center.
This was just the second appearance for both Hicks and Miller, and both were fine in their initial outings (aside from Yelich homering off Miller, which apparently can happen to anybody). It is still too early to give either of them the “not very stable” tag in the bullpen grid.
After tossing a shaky inning on Friday, Jacob Barnes acquitted himself well for the Brewers, pitching a scoreless ninth inning and getting credited with the win. He remains an option to split saves with Josh Hader.
Brandon Hyde followed through on his intention to use Mychal Givens in situations other than the ninth inning by bringing him in for the bottom of the eight with a 7-4 lead against the Yankees. Though it was an adventure for Givens (including a hit by pitch, an error, a wild pitch and a walk), he emerged unscathed…until he issued another walk and gave up back-to-back singles with two outs in the ninth. He was relieved by Paul Fry, who struck out Troy Tulowitzki for the save. As with Hicks and Miller, it’s too early to worry about Givens, who turned in a strong inning just one day earlier.
Sean Doolittle also hit a snag in a multi-inning save attempt, allowing two RBI singles that allowed the Mets to tie the Nationals in the eighth inning. He rebounded for a scoreless ninth inning, and Trea Turner’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the frame gave Doolittle the win.
If not for Tony Sipp and Trevor Rosenthal allowing three singles between them, Doolittle’s presence may not have been needed in the eighth inning. Rosenthal in particular has not been sharp in his two outings, having allowed four hits and a walk without getting an out. While his command has been shaky, velocity has not been an issue for Rosenthal, whose fastball has averaged 98.1 mph.
The Marlins are among the teams to not name a closer, and they may be even more inclusive in their closer options than many of us were imagining. Wei-Yin Chen was called upon to protect a 3-0 lead in the top of the ninth inning against the Rockies. However, after coughing up a Charlie Blackmon double (not especially hard hit at 93.8 mph, per Baseball Savant) and walking David Dahl, he was bailed out by Sergio Romo, who retired the side.
Quick hits: Josh James’ second appearance of the season out of the Astros’ bullpen was impressive, as he tossed two perfect innings, striking out the last four batters he faced…The Rays prevailed over the Astros, 3-1, but with Jose Alvarado having pitched in back-to-back games, it was Diego Castillo who came on to get the save. Alvarado may prove to be the primary closer, but we will list the situation as a committee for now. Then again, the Rays are showing interest in Craig Kimbrel, so Alvarado owners have another reason to feel uncomfortable…Felipe Vazquez needed 25 pitches to get through four batters, so after he walked Eugenio Suarez on four pitches, Clint Hurdle replaced him with Keone Kela. It was a non-save situation for the Pirates…We did not get to see Greg Holland try to get his second save on Sunday, as Yoshihisa Hirano failed to protect a two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Dodgers….I didn’t shade Chris Martin’s box in the closer grid yellow just for the pun, as he relinquished a two-run lead against the Cubs in the top of the eighth inning…A.J. Minter (shoulder) may return for the Braves this Thursday, per David O’Brien of The Athletic.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.