Bullpen Report: April 4, 2018

We are not quite a week into the 2018 season, but as far as surprising stories go, Kenley Jansen being one of the shakiest closers has to be at the top of the list. On Tuesday night, the Dodgers dropped to 2-4, as Zack Godley outdueled Clayton Kershaw, and Jansen got the night off. The Diamondbacks opened up their lead in the seventh inning against Scott Alexander, and with the Dodgers failing to rally, there was no need for Dave Roberts to call on his closer. We will have to wait at least another day for Jansen to reassure his fantasy owners.

Further down I-5, another closer drama was waiting to be resolved. The Angels blew out the Indians, 13-2, but incumbent closer Blake Parker did make an appearance, tossing a perfect eighth inning. As of this writing, there is no reason to draw any particular conclusion from Parker getting some work in a lopsided game. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register certainly didn’t seem to be making any assumptions about the 30-year-old’s role one way or the other in the following tweet.

The reference to Parker as the Angels’ closer in past tense is curious, but this appearance may very well have been an opportunity for him to “figure things out” before getting thrust back into a higher-leverage situation.

The other situation that owners are watching closely is in Baltimore, but in falling five runs behind the Astros in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game, Buck Showalter had no need to call upon either Brad Brach or Darren O’Day. Near the end of spring training, Showalter alluded to Mychal Givens as being a part of his closer committee, and he did summon Givens to pitch the sixth inning. At that point, the Orioles held a 4-3 lead, but Givens’ entry into the game in the middle innings suggests that he probably won’t enter prominently into the closer picture in the near future. Coughing up a two-run homer to Josh Reddick also didn’t help Givens’ case.

The Cardinals’ signing of Greg Holland put an end to the uncertainty around the long-term closer situation in St. Louis, and he could report to the team as soon as Monday. Until then, it’s hard to know who might be in line for saves. There were no save opportunities through the Cardinals’ first four games, though Dominic Leone and Jordan Hicks had each been brought in to pitch the ninth inning in games where they would have to protect a four-run lead.

Tuesday night’s game at the Brewers presented Mike Matheny with his first opportunity to use a closer. He opted to send Leone out for the ninth inning with a 4-3 lead, after the former Blue Jay got the final two outs of the eighth inning in relief of Tyler Lyons. While Leone escaped a dicey situation left to him by Lyons (though he did allow one inherited runner to score) and got himself within one out of his first National League save, he failed to secure the win. Back-to-back homers from Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun gave the Brewers a walk-off victory. Given that Lyons and Leone frittered away a three-run lead, one has to wonder if Hicks might get the next save chance. He was unavailable for Tuesday night’s game, so owners should not read anything more into his absence from the late innings of a tight contest.

Edwin Diaz collected his third save of the season on Tuesday, twirling a perfect ninth inning against the Giants. When Diaz got Nick Hundley to pop out to end the game, he recorded his first out of the season that was not a strikeout. He now has a total of eight strikeouts over three innings and 16 swinging strikes out of a total of 50 pitches. If not for a pair of hit batsmen on opening day against the Indians, Diaz would be having a perfect — and nearly immaculate — season so far.

Quick hits: Keone Kela notched his first save of the season, allowing just a Jonathan Lucroy single in a 4-1 win against the A’s on Tuesday night. Though Rangers manager Jeff Banister has designated Kevin Jepsen as his secondary closer, he did not call on him to set up for Kela. Jepsen had pitched on Sunday and Monday, and he has already been used in four games. Instead, Chris Martin clocked in for eighth-inning duty…Kelvin Herrera got his first save of 2018 on Tuesday, pitching a strong frame against the Tigers. In his three appearances to date, Herrera has thrown 19 of his 29 pitches outside the strike zone, but he has induced swings on 13 of them for a 68.4 percent O-Swing%…Jeurys Familia recorded his second save on Tuesday night against the Phillies, though he had runners on the corners with only one out and a two-run lead. He has walked a batter in each of his three appearances, and he has induced just one grounder out of seven hit balls…Anthony Swarzak, who is on the 10-day disabled list with an oblique strain, will be sidelined for at least “a few weeks.”

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Brad Boxberger Yoshihisa Hirano Archie Bradley
ATL Arodys Vizcaino A.J. Minter Jose Ramirez
BAL Brad Brach Darren O’Day Mychal Givens Zach Britton
BOS Craig Kimbrel Matt Barnes Joe Kelly
CHC Brandon Morrow Carl Edwards Jr. Pedro Strop
CWS Joakim Soria Nate Jones Juan Minaya
CIN Raisel Iglesias Jared Hughes Kevin Quackenbush David Hernandez
CLE Cody Allen Andrew Miller Zach McAllister
COL Wade Davis Jake McGee Bryan Shaw
DET Shane Greene Alex Wilson Drew VerHagen
HOU Ken Giles Chris Devenski Joe Smith
KC Kelvin Herrera Brandon Maurer Justin Grimm
LAA Blake Parker Cam Bedrosian Keynan Middletonn
LAD Kenley Jansen Josh Fields Scott Alexander
MIA Brad Ziegler Kyle Barraclough Drew Steckenrider
MIL Corey Knebel Matt Albers Josh Hader
MIN Fernando Rodney Addison Reed Trevor Hildenberger
NYM Jeurys Familia A.J. Ramos Anthony Swarzak
NYY Aroldis Chapman David Robertson Dellin Betances
OAK Blake Treinen Ryan Buchter Chris Hatcher
PHI Hector Neris Luis Garcia Adam Morgan Pat Neshek
PIT Felipe Rivero George Kontos Michael Feliz
STL Dominic Leone Jordan Hicks Tyler Lyons Greg Holland
SD Brad Hand Kirby Yates Craig Stammen
SF Hunter Strickland Sam Dyson Tony Watson Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz Juan Nicasio Nick Vincent
TB Alex Colome Sergio Romo Chaz Roe
TEX Keone Kela Kevin Jepsen Chris Martin
TOR Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Seung Hwan Oh
WSH Sean Doolittle Ryan Madson Brandon Kintzler

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

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.

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Great work, Al.