Bullpen Report: April 22, 2015

Mark Melancon’s velocity dip is beginning to become a national story. One night after imploding in excruciating fashion, baseball columns and podcasts alike were abuzz with discussions of the righty’s nearly 5 mph dip. Of course, this isn’t new news to Bullpen Report readers, but there’s nothing like copious run allowance to bring ugly peripherals to the surface. Earlier this afternoon, manager Clint Hurdle said that he was sticking with Melancon, although the wormburner wasn’t available to take to the mound tonight.

Arguably the next three relievers in line all pitched high-leverage innings this evening. Arquimedes Caminero was impressive, fanning two in a scoreless inning on the strength of his upper-90’s heat. The righty has impressed greatly so far in 2015, although the fact that he was coming off three straight appearances with at least one earned run allowed probably knocked him down the leverage tree a bit. Jared Hughes did the most to torpedo Pittsburgh’s chance at a win tonight (-.381 WPA), allowing four baserunners and a couple earned runs after coming on in the eighth. While tonight was rough, the righty setup man still owns a 10/2 K/BB ratio and a 2.58 xFIP in his small sample size. Unfortunately, his outing came at a bad time, likely pushing him even further behind lefty Tony Watson, who racked up the multi-inning save. The 29-year-old fanned one in his two innings of work en route to his fifth career save. While you can make an argument Watson and his career 3.57 xFIP is the least sexy option of the three setup men, that, and the fact he’s a lefty, seem to have no impact on Hurdle using him as Melancon’s 1B for now. He’s probably gone in leagues that speculate, but I’d grab him if available — Melancon’s velocity drop seems to be too deep and too persistent not to merit at least a trip to the disabled list.

• Joe Maddon has left the building and the Rays still can’t settle on a closer. Further showcasing their use of the “relief ace,” Tampa’s best reliever (Brad Boxberger) was called up on the 7th inning tonight. He did was he usually does, striking out three in the heart of Boston’s order. While the game leverage of his arrival was not the highest of the evening (counter to the fireman theory), his WPA was the best on the Rays staff. Keep running him out there. Notching the save was Steve Geltz, who is less than a couple weeks removed from his first career start. While Geltz will undoubtedly show up on some “most added” lists come tomorrow morning, don’t be fooled. The owner of both mediocre whiff and walk rates, it seems unlikely Geltz will be a top ninth inning choice with any frequency.

Miguel Castro was indeed Toronto’s closer tonight, although he didn’t make it super easy. The youngster brought the heat, but also allowed the tying run to reach base in a 4-2 game before whiffing Caleb Joseph and getting “Dude you’re getting a” Delmon Young to ground harmlessly into a double play. Castro’s elite velocity hasn’t translated into a whole lot of punchouts this year, and he owns a 6/4 K/BB in 34 batters faced. On the positive side, his 10% SwStr% portends some upside is to be had in strikeouts. Of note, Brett Cecil retired the first two batters of the eight uneventfully. While the lefty’s velocity is still down a couple miles per hour from last year, he has picked up almost 4 mph since his awful opening to 2015. If you own Castro and Cecil hit the wire, I’d cuff them. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Cecil back in the role at some point.

• While I didn’t there was a high probability of Joe Nathan regaining his closer gig upon returning from the disabled list, I figured it would be due to horrible ineffectiveness. Unfortunately, it looks like the righty has much bigger problems after he left a rehab outing with a pain he described as “… [feeling] like [he] broke [his] arm.” Further, manager Brad Ausmus said that the team was going to “hold off” on making any comment about Nathan’s injury. This is purely speculation, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we’ve see the last of Nathan on a big league mound.

• Quick hits: Francisco Rodriguez blew a save gave up the go-ahead run in a tie game, in turn allowing Aroldis Chapman to get a save. He hasn’t been fantastic yet this year, but no reason to think he’s fallen off the wagon. Steve Cishek got some work in a non-save situation. His velocity is also down, although he had a similar lull last April and ramped up as the season went along. Bears watching, but don’t panic.

• Injuries and others: Greg Holland thinks he’ll be throwing at some point this weekend. His owners are obviously crossing their fingers, while Wade Davis fans are hoping Holland’ll take his time. Worth figuring that Kelvin Herrera will likely appeal his suspension as long as possible to keep the Royals bullpen from getting too shallow. Jerry Blevins to the disabled list with an arm fracture. John Axford and LaTroy Hawkins swap places on the grid, with the latter suffering from some “biceps issues.” Perhaps real, perhaps imaginary.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Addison Reed Evan Marshall Brad Ziegler
Atlanta Jason Grilli Jim Johnson Luis Avilan
Baltimore Zach Britton Darren O’Day Tommy Hunter
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Edward Mujica
CHI (NL) Hector Rondon Pedro Strop Jason Motte
CHI (AL) David Robertson Jacob Petricka Zach Duke
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jumbo Diaz Tony Cingrani Sean Marshall
Cleveland Cody Allen Bryan Shaw Scott Atchison
Colorado Adam Ottavino Rafael Betancourt John Axford LaTroy Hawkins
Detroit Joakim Soria Al Alburquerque Joba Chamberlain Joe Nathan
Houston Luke Gregerson Chad Qualls Pat Neshek
KC Wade Davis Kelvin Herrera Ryan Madson Greg Holland
LAA Huston Street Joe Smith Vinnie Pestano
LAD Joel Peralta Chris Hatcher Pedro Baez Kenley Jansen
Miami Steve Cishek A.J. Ramos Mike Dunn
Milwaukee Francisco Rodriguez Jonathan Broxton Will Smith
Minnesota Glen Perkins Caleb Thielbar Casey Fien
NY (NL) Jeurys Familia Carlos Torres Buddy Carlyle Jenrry Mejia
NY (AL) Andrew Miller Dellin Betances David Carpenter
Oakland Tyler Clippard Eric O’Flaherty Dan Otero Sean Doolittle
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Ken Giles Luis Garcia
Pittsburgh Mark Melancon Tony Watson Jared Hughes
St. Louis Trevor Rosenthal Jordan Walden Seth Maness
SD Craig Kimbrel Joaquin Benoit Dale Thayer Kevin Quackenbush
SF Santiago Casilla Sergio Romo Jeremy Affeldt
Seattle Fernando Rodney Danny Farquhar Yoervis Medina
TB Brad Boxberger Kevin Jepsen Ernesto Frieri Jake McGee
Texas Neftali Feliz Shawn Tolleson Keone Kela Tanner Scheppers
Toronto Miguel Castro Brett Cecil Roberto Osuna Steve Delabar
Wash. Drew Storen Aaron Barrett Blake Treinen Casey Janssen

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]

There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

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as always, thanks for the great stuff