Bullpen Report: June 16, 2017

Just as it looked like Felipe Rivero might have the Pirates’ closer job all to himself, Clint Hurdle made good on his word to have him share the role with Juan Nicasio. With a 4-3 lead, Hurdle summoned Rivero for the eighth inning, as the top of the Cubs’ order was due up. However, the lefty needed 20 pitches to work through Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell.

But work through them he did, allowing only a Happ double. The ninth inning, then, belonged to Nicasio, who allowed a pair of doubles and a single and issued an intentional walk to Kris Bryant. He departed the game with a blown save and no outs recorded. Nicasio was followed by deposed closer Tony Watson, who allowed all three inherited runners to score (saddling Nicasio with the loss), plus two more runs to create a 9-4 deficit.

In his post-game comments, Hurdle indicated that using Rivero for a two-inning save was considered, but he made too many pitches in the eighth inning. After Nicasio’s implosion, it will be interesting to see if Hurdle uses Rivero outside of the ninth inning again. While it’s entirely possible he will, Nicasio did not make a great case for eating into Rivero’s save chances.

Handed a five-run lead, Wade Davis pitched the bottom of the ninth for the Cubs in a non-save situation. He started off similarly to Nicasio, allowing each of the first three batters to get a base hit, and the Pirates closed the gap to 9-5. Unlike Nicasio, Davis stuck around to finish out the inning.

After breezing through the first quarter of the season without having given up an earned run, Davis has allowed four earned runs over his last six innings. Over this mini-slump, Davis has been throwing strikes, and the double he allowed to Andrew McCutchen was only the second extra-base hit he allowed during this period. There is no apparent cause for concern.

The same cannot be said for Greg Holland, who notched his major-league leading 24th save on Friday against the Giants. He allowed two hits — a Gorkys Hernandez triple and Austin Slater RBI single — and walked Buster Posey on four straight pitches, but Holland got out of the inning without further damage. Fortunately, he was given a three-run lead, unlike on Thursday, when Holland gave up the game-tying run that resulted in his first blown save of the season.

Holland still has a svelte 1.40 ERA, but his recent performance could point to more ERA growth and blown saves in the near future. After throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes through the end of May, Holland has just a 54 percent strikes-thrown rate in seven June innings. Heading into Friday, he had located only 34.3 percent of his pitches in the zone this month, and only six relievers had a lower rate. The extreme wildness doesn’t mean that Holland is doomed to failure; after all, Roberto Osuna and Jose Leclerc are two of the relievers who have been even wilder. However, none of the six relievers with a lower Zone% in June have a lower O-Swing% than Holland’s 30.8 percent. (Incredibly, Osuna’s is 65.9 percent.)

Either Holland has to start pitching in the zone more, or he has to induce more chases. Otherwise, he could be in for some rocky times ahead.

The ride appears to be nearly over for Dellin Betances as the Yankees’ fill-in closer. Aroldis Chapman, who is on a Double-A rehab assignment, told MLB.com he expects to be activated Sunday.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported that the Marlins could trade A.J. Ramos and David Phelps if the team does not put itself in position to contend soon. Since the Marlins are 10 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East as well as the second wild card slot, the odds seems long against Ramos and Phelps remaining with the team. Nick Wittgren has pitched well of late and has been used frequently in the seventh and eighth innings, but after a difficult month of May, Kyle Barraclough is looking like a closer-in-waiting again. He has not allowed a run over his last six appearances totaling seven innings, giving up four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Fernando Rodney Archie Bradley JJ Hoover
ATL Jim Johnson Arodys Vizcaino Jose Ramirez
BAL Brad Brach Mychal Givens Richard Bleier Zach Britton
BOS Craig Kimbrel Matt Barnes Heath Hembree Carson Smith
CHC Wade Davis Koji Uehara Carl Edwards Jr.
CWS David Robertson Tommy Kahnle Anthony Swarzak Nate Jones
CIN Raisel Iglesias Michael Lorenzen Drew Storen
CLE Cody Allen Andrew Miller Bryan Shaw
COL Greg Holland Adam Ottavino Jake McGee
DET Justin Wilson Alex Wilson Shane Greene
HOU Ken Giles Will Harris Michael Feliz
KC Kelvin Herrera Joakim Soria Mike Minor
LAA Bud Norris David Hernandez Blake Parker Cam Bedrosian
LAD Kenley Jansen Pedro Baez Josh Fields
MIA A.J. Ramos David Phelps Kyle Barraclough
MIL Corey Knebel Jacob Barnes Carlos Torres
MIN Brandon Kintzler Matt Belisle Taylor Rogers Glen Perkins
NYM Addison Reed Jerry Blevins Paul Sewald Jeurys Familia
NYY Dellin Betances Tyler Clippard Jonathan Holder Aroldis Chapman
OAK Santiago Casilla Ryan Madson Sean Doolittle
PHI Hector Neris Pat Neshek Joaquin Benoit
PIT Felipe Rivero Juan Nicasio Daniel Hudson
STL Seung Hwan Oh Trevor Rosenthal Matt Bowman
SD Brandon Maurer Brad Hand Ryan Buchter Carter Capps
SF Mark Melancon Derek Law Hunter Strickland
SEA Edwin Diaz James Pazos Nick Vincent
TB Alex Colome Danny Farquhar Tommy Hunter Brad Boxberger
TEX Matt Bush Keone Kela Jose Leclerc
TOR Roberto Osuna Joe Smith Ryan Tepera
WSH Matt Albers Shawn Kelley Oliver Perez Koda Glover

[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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Francis C.
Francis C.

Not breaking news, but man, is Kenley Jansen good. Most impressive for me last night was a 3 pitch strikeout of Joey Votto. Just filthy.