Bullpen Report: August 23, 2019

With a handful of closers unavailable to pitch, Thursday turned into Substitute Closer’s Day. The appearance by a fill-in that could signal the biggest fantasy impact was Derek Law’s foray into a save opportunity against the Dodgers. That’s because the Blue Jays’ placed Ken Giles on the paternity list prior to Thursday night’s game, and the incumbent closer could be miss the entire upcoming weekend series in Seattle. In other words, Law could have more save chances over the next three days.

Law had already filled in for Giles on a short-term basis earlier this month, when he was out with right elbow inflammation. Since returning on Aug. 13, Giles has made only three appearances, and only one of those outings was for a save opportunity. Because of Giles’ relative inactivity, we have kept Law in the grid as a co-closer, as it’s conceivable he could get saves if the Jays want to be careful with Giles’ workload.

Now Law has been given a chance to get multiple saves in a short span of time, but he squandered the first of those potential opportunities on Thursday night. He entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and a 2-0 lead, and Law needed only one pitch to retire A.J. Pollock on a flyout. Still with a two-run advantage, Law started off the bottom of the ninth by walking Max Muncy. He got the first out on a Justin Turner lineout, but that would be the last out he would get. Law gave up back-to-back doubles, and the latter one by Corey Seager tied up the game. Seager would then score on Enrique Hernández’s walk-off single.

Despite blowing the save against the Dodgers, it would be a surprise if Charlie Montoyo went with another reliever, such as Tim Mayza or Jason Adam, should a save opportunity avail itself in the Mariners series. The runs allowed by Law on Thursday night were the first he had yielded since July 18.

Heading into Thursday’s series finale against the Giants, the Cubs had played three games since Craig Kimbrel’s return from the IL, and their closer had pitched in each of those contests. The last Cubs reliever to get a save before Kimbrel was activated was Rowan Wick, and Joe Maddon turned to him again on Thursday. Wick and Kyle Ryan teamed up to protect a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth inning, with the left-handed Ryan taking care of Mike Yastrzemski for the first out. Then Wick came in to retire Buster Posey and Alex Dickerson for a combined 1-2-3 inning.

There may not be many situations going forward that will call for someone to fill in for Kimbrel, and given how Maddon likes to play matchups, we can’t be certain that he will rely on just one reliever to spell his incumbent. However, Wick has clearly risen in the Cubs’ bullpen hierarchy, and I have leapfrogged him over Brandon Kintzler for the second spot in the closer grid.

The hierarchy behind Liam Hendriks in the Oakland bullpen has been steady for awhile, but recent usage patterns have left the setup roles a little less clear. Recently, it appeared that Joakim Soria had fallen behind Yusmeiro Petit and Blake Treinen in the progression of setup relievers. However, on Thursday night against the Yankees, it was Soria who filled in for Hendriks, who had pitched in the series’ first two games and notched a five-out save on Wednesday night. Petit had also pitched in consecutive games, but Treinen’s five-pitch appearance on Wednesday night was his first since Saturday. Soria pitched the top of the ninth inning with a 5-2 lead, and in allowing Gleyber Torres‘ solo home run (and nothing else), he had a sufficient cushion to record his first save of 2019.

As a result of this game, I have replaced Treinen in the third column of the closer grid with Soria. We should also keep tabs on A.J. Puk, who got a hold in his major league debut on Wednesday night after starting off the eighth inning with a 6-4 lead. Puk gave way to Hendriks after retiring only one of three batters, two of whom (Mike Tauchman and Mike Ford) were left-handed.

Perhaps the least expected save of the night went to Paul Sewald, who pitched the top of the eighth inning against the Indians before the game was called in the bottom of the eighth due to rain. In hurling a perfect frame, Sewald kept the Mets’ lead at 2-0 and he was credited with the save, which was his first of the season and the third of his career. It was just the second appearance for Sewald since he was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Aug. 16, and since then, he has pitched two scoreless innings with five strikeouts. He has averaged 92.7 mph in average fastball velocity over those two outings, as compared to the 89.0 mph he averaged over his previous four appearances this season.

On the basis of Sewald having pitched in the eighth inning in what would have normally been a hold situation, I considered putting him in the grid behind co-closers Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz, but decided it was premature. It’s a spot where we might have seen Justin Wilson, but the lefty had pitched in four of the previous five games.

While the Marlins don’t have a clearly-identifiable closer, Ryne Stanek has been emerging as Don Mattingly’s primary option. The Marlins’ manager turned to Stanek with a 2-1 lead over the Braves in the bottom of the eighth inning, and even after allowing Freddie Freeman’s game-tying home run, he came back out for the bottom of the ninth with the score knotted at 2-2. Mattingly stuck with Stanek despite him allowing a leadoff double to Adeiny Hechavarría and a one-out walk to Tyler Flowers. It looked as if Mattingly’s patience would be rewarded, as Stanek had Ronald Acuña Jr. in a 2-2 count with two outs. Stanek would not win the battle, as Acuña would bring Hechavarría in on a walk-off single.

Stanek has struggled since coming over to the Marlins from the Rays, walking six batters in 6.1 innings and allowing eight runs (seven earned). The Marlins’ situation is one that fantasy owners should avoid, both because of Stanek’s recent performance, as well as the lack of attractive alternatives.

Quick hits: Roberto Osuna (30), Carlos Martínez (15) and Emilio Pagán (14) were the only non-substitute closers to record a save on Thursday…Ryan Pressly has been placed on the IL and is expected miss four-to-six weeks, as he is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday. The Astros’ righty is tied with Zack Britton for the major league lead with 27 holds…Nick Anderson got the final two outs in eighth inning of the Rays’ 5-2 win over the Orioles for his 10th hold of the season. Since coming over to the Rays from the Marlins, Anderson has pitched 9.2 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts, no walks and three holds…Austin Adams (lat) made the first appearance of a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday night. He tossed a perfect inning with two strikeouts.

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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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“Now Law has been given a chance to get multiple saves in a short span of time” — How so? He still pitches for the Blue Jays, doesn’t he?


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