Since writing the initial 2019 Bullpen Report after the Mariners-Athletics series in Tokyo, three closer competitions have been decided. As expected by many owners, Will Smith and Alex Colome respectively nailed down the Giants’ and White Sox’s closer jobs. In a much more surprising move, Torey Lovullo chose Greg Holland as the Diamondbacks’ closer over Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano. Fantasy owners are starting to warm up to Holland, as he is now owned in 44 percent of CBS leagues and 20 percent of ESPN leagues. I recently made the case for adding him, so rather than present that argument here, I simply refer you to the piece I wrote on him.
We did not get to see Smith, Colome or Holland on opening day (North American version), but plenty of closers saw action in Thursday’s games. Only two of those games featured significant closer drama. David Bell had warned us that he wasn’t always going to use Raisel Iglesias in a traditional ninth-inning closer role, and he proved to be a man of his word in the Reds’ first game of the season. Bell brought Iglesias into a game with a 5-2 lead against the Pirates in the top of the eighth inning, and though he yielded a leadoff home run to Corey Dickerson, he came back out for the ninth inning for an apparent two-inning save attempt. However, after walking two of the first three batters, Bell lifted Iglesias and played the matchups, having lefty Amir Garrett face Adam Frazier and righty David Hernandez take on Pablo Reyes. Hernandez issued a two-out walk to Reyes, but he stayed in to retire the left-handed Dickerson to get the save.
The other dicey save situation came for the Royals, who started out the top of the ninth inning against the White Sox with a 5-0 lead. Wily Peralta kicked things off by allowing a Leury Garcia single and a walk to Yoan Moncada. After getting Jose Abreu to hit an infield fly, Ned Yost brought in Jake Diekman for a three-hitter stretch that would bring up two lefties. Diekman loaded the bases by walking Yonder Alonso and then brought in a run by hitting right-handed Eloy Jimenez on his right ankle, which put the rookie on base for the first time in his major league career. He finished off his Royals debut by getting Daniel Palka to hit into a force out.
Yost then turned to Kevin McCarthy for the one-out save, but after a Tim Anderson RBI single and a walk to pinch-hitter Welington Castillo, he was replaced by Brad Boxberger. The Diamondbacks’ former closer retired Yolmer Sanchez for his first save as a Royal.
Boxberger and Peralta were the only Royals relievers to get drafted with a FantasyPros ADP inside the top 400, but Yost’s willingness to turn to McCarthy in a save situation would suggest that his closer committee could cast a wide net.
Other save opportunities for closers went as their owners hoped they would. Josh Hader got the Brewers’ first save, and as was often the case in 2018, it was of the two-inning variety. Taylor Rogers took the first turn in the Twins’ closer committee, completing a perfect four-out save with three strikeouts. It was hardly surprising that Rocco Baldelli summoned Rogers, as the Twins were scheduled to face a run of four hitters that included two lefties and two switch-hitters. Edwin Diaz, Kirby Yates and Shane Greene all tossed perfect frames for their first saves of 2019. Ken Giles did not get a save chance, but he struck out the side in a scoreless tie with the Tigers in the top of the ninth inning.
Quick hits: Jalen Beeks threw three scoreless innings in relief for the Rays, striking out five Astros and allowing four hits and no walks. Of his 54 pitches, 21 (or 38.9 percent) were changeups, as compared to last season’s 18.3 percent usage rate. Beeks also averaged 93.3 mph on his fastball, which was 1.5 mph faster than he averaged all of last season…Junior Guerra recorded his first hold of the season and the second of his career, allowing one run in 1.2 innings as the bridge between Jhoulys Chacin and Hader…Possibly signaling a middle/long relief role, Jesse Chavez entered the Rangers’ 12-4 loss to the Cubs in the fifth inning, as he tried to bail out a struggling Mike Minor. Javier Baez drove Chavez’ first pitch into the stands beyond right center field for a three-run homer…David Robertson made his Phillies debut in a non-save situation, entering in the top of the eighth inning with a 10-3 lead over the Braves. In an inning of work, he gave up a run on two singles and a walk…Corey Knebel will decide on Friday whether to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow or to try to heal it through rehab…Knebel’s teammate, Jeremy Jeffress (shoulder), is still several weeks from returning. However, he threw to hitters on Wednesday and he will do it again this weekend…Dellin Betances (shoulder) played catch on Monday, but he still has no timetable for a return…Mariners’ righty Shawn Armstrong (oblique) has also been playing catch, but he, too, does not have a specific timetable for activation.
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.