Bullpen Report: April 5, 2019

We went into Thursday’s skimpy slate of games with eight of the majors’ closer situations marked as committees in our grid, and we are now up to nine. A.J. Minter (shoulder) made his return from the IL on Thursday, and while he did not pitch in a save situation, he was called upon with one out in the ninth inning after Chad Sobotka let a 9-0 lead over the Cubs shrink to a 9-3 lead. Prior to Thursday night’s game, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Minter would share save opportunities with incumbent closer Arodys Vizcaino.

Minter’s 2019 debut did not go smoothly. He began by loading the bases with walks to Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist, and then the lead was whittled down to five runs when Mark Zagunis grounded into a force out at second base. No further damage was done, as Minter finished with a five-pitch strikeout of Albert Almora Jr.

It is tempting to think that, as the lefty in a co-closer situation, Minter might not see many save opportunities. However, Vizcaino is still dealing with his own shoulder issues, and he was unavailable for Thursday night’s game, other than for an emergency situation. Also, Vizcaino’s average fastball velocity is roughly 2 mph below where it was early last season. Minter is worth stashing, and the payoff in terms of saves could come quickly.

If you drafted Shane Greene, you certainly can’t complain about the payoff he has provided over the season’s first eight days. Greene picked up his fifth save on Thursday, preserving a 5-4 lead against the Royals in the ninth inning. He isn’t getting many strikeouts or whiffs, but Greene has frozen batters 14 times in his 62 pitches for a 22.6 percent called strike rate. He also has yet to issue a walk or give up an extra-base hit.

Kyle Zimmer took the loss for the Royals. He walked all three batters he faced in the seventh inning, and Kevin McCarthy allowed two of them to score, breaking up a 3-3 tie. Zimmer is not only having control issues (34.2 percent Zone%), but he has induced chases on only four of his 25 out-of-zone pitches.

Mychal Givens was brought in to pitch in the eighth inning with a one-run deficit for the Orioles, and he worked his way out of a jam left for him by John Means, but he ran into trouble in the ninth. The Yankees led off with a Tyler Wade single and a Brett Gardner walk, and after Givens struck out Aaron Judge, he gave way to Miguel Castro. Givens had not pitched in four days, so there may not be much to read into his usage in a non-save situation. However, he has struggled in back-to-back appearances, both of which extended beyond a single inning.

Though he averaged a relatively modest (for him) 96.4 mph on his fastball, Aroldis Chapman had little trouble finishing off the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. The only blemish was a leadoff single for Richie Martin. At that point, the Yankees’ lead had expanded to four runs, so Chapman did not earn a save with his performance.

Quick hits: Felipe Vazquez got his first save of the season, working around a wild pitch on a third strike to Matt Kemp and a Jose Iglesias double. The Pirates prevailed over the Reds, 2-0…Brad Hand earned his first multi-inning save of the season, getting the last four outs in the Indians’ 4-1 victory over the Blue Jays. He threw 23 pitches in the ninth inning, allowing two singles and an RBI double to Teoscar Hernandez…The Nationals’ bullpen had a quiet afternoon, tossing 2.1 scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Mets. The only hit allowed by any of the four relievers was a Wilson Ramos single yielded by Sean DoolittleLou Trivino emerged with his fourth hold of the season, and he did so in impressive fashion, striking out Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi in the sixth inning. He has allowed only a double and a walk in 6.2 innings to date, and he is tied with teammate Blake Treinen for most innings pitched by a reliever…Relieving seems to be agreeing with Sam Gaviglio. After turning in 1.1 scoreless innings against the Indians on Thursday night, he has a 1.69 ERA and 0.56 WHIP over 5.1 innings with a 17.5 percent SwStr% and 39.4 percent O-Swing%…After walking the only two batters he faced in the Cubs’ 9-4 loss to the Braves, Carl Edwards Jr. now has five walks in 1.0 inning of work this season.

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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Keep a watch on Brad Hand. His velocity is down roughly 1.5 mph and his slider looks limp and toothless. I know he tends to start slow, but it’s something to keep an eye on if nothing else.