-Over the past week here at the Bullpen Report, we’ve suggested that Jason Grilli would regain the closer role in Pittsburgh sometime in the near future. Well, that sometime in the near future turned into today, when Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle officially named Grilli the team’s ninth-inning man prior to their contest at Chavez Ravine against the Dodgers. Grilli needed just two appearances to be eased back into his former role. In two innings since returning from the disabled list, Grilli faced eight batters, surrendered one hit, one walk and struck out four. Mark Melancon will fall back into the set-up role for the Bucs, and although it appears he won’t be saving many games going forward, I’d hold onto him until we see Grilli back in the swing of things. If by chance you have room to keep Melancon rostered, do it. He’ll potentially contribute to four of the five traditional categories and is one of the better insurance policies in the business. Late edit: Grilli did in fact get the save chance tonight in Los Angeles. He surrendered a hit, but came away with his sixth save of the year on 15 pitches.
-For the second consecutive day, Joe Nathan surrendered two earned runs in an inning of work. In fact, Nathan has allowed two earned runs in three of his last five trips to the bump. Unlike yesterday, however, Nathan still managed to pick up a save in tonight’s outing. Nathan surrendered three hits and a walk and fanned one en route to his 13th save in 16 chances. Looking further, we know that Nathan’s velocity has been on steady decline since 2007, but there doesn’t seem to be a ton of difference between what we’ve seen this year from his numbers last season to blame for some his recent struggles. We can also see that Nathan is failing to induce the swings-and-misses like he has in the past, likely resulting in the dip in strikeouts. He currently owns a 13.6% K-BB%, the lowest it has been since 2003. It’s the long ball, isn’t it? Nathan has already allowed four homers in just over 20 frames of work, thanks to a 16.7% HR/FB% (7.4% is his career average). He gave up just two homers in over 64 innings of work last season. That number “should” settle down as the season wears on, but worth keeping an eye on, nonetheless.
–Greg Holland sandwiched an infield single by Anthony Gose with strikeouts of Dioner Navarro and Jose Reyes to lock down his 15th save of the year. The right-hander is now 15-of-16 in save situations with a 1.74 ERA (1.64 FIP) and a 36.5% K%. Entering tonight, the velocity on Holland’s primary offerings — the fourseam fastball and slider — are up a tick, while the velocity on his splitter, which he uses infrequently, appears to remain steady. It’s also fun to note that, entering tonight, Holland has offered his slide piece to opposing batters 57 times in the month of May and they have failed to record a single hit off of it. Nasty stuff. Holland continues to be a top five-ish closing option.
Quick Hitters: Chad Qualls notched his fourth save of the season tonight for the Astros. Qualls needed just eight pitches to seal the deal in a clean ninth-inning of work, fanning one (J.J. Hardy) along the way. Despite surrendering an earned run in his third consecutive outing, Sergio Romo picked up his 17th save of the year. Joakim Soria dished two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit and striking out one, en route to his tenth save. Craig Kimbrel took the loss tonight in Boston. He issued two walks and gave up a hit while getting through just one-third of an inning. Jenrry Mejia struck out Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in order for his fifth save. Impressive.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]