If you took the weekend off from baseball to enjoy the beautiful spring weather (or for any other reason), you can rest assured that the Angels’ closer situation remains as confusing as ever.
Based on recent usage patterns, it looks like Jim Johnson may be the Angels’ closer, or at the very least, at the head of their closer committee. When the Angels grabbed a 7-6 lead in the top of the 10th inning in Saturday’s game against the Mariners, Johnson was brought in for the save. Perhaps even more to the point, Mike Scioscia had already used Cam Bedrosian in the sixth inning and Justin Anderson in the eighth inning — both in situations where the Angels held a two-run lead — so it appeared the manager was saving Johnson for the save. The night before, Scioscia had Anderson set up for an apparent save, having him get the final out of the seventh inning and all three outs in the eighth inning. Even though the Angels expanded their lead to five runs in the ninth inning, Johnson came in to pitch a scoreless bottom of the frame.
We would have the makings for a clear-cut late-inning pecking order, if not for the fact that both Johnson and Anderson blew their save opportunities on Saturday. Anderson did not retire any of the three batters he faced, and in yielding a three-run homer to Mike Zunino, he left the game with a 5-4 deficit. The Angels rallied, giving Johnson his chance at a save in the 10th inning, but he gave away a one-run lead (albeit on an unearned run), and then in the 11th inning, he gave away another one-run lead. Kyle Seager, who knocked in the tying run, ultimately scored after Johnson was pulled from the game, saddling him with the loss.
Will Scioscia go to Johnson again when there is a save situation? Johnson’s performance on Saturday may give him pause to do so, but then again, Anderson didn’t do the job either. Was Scioscia’s use of Bedrosian in the ninth inning of Sunday’s series finale a sign that it’s his turn? Not only did Bedrosian have a six-run lead to work with, but he walked three batters and was pulled after one-third of an inning. We will simply have to wait and see what Scioscia does the next time the Angels have a modest lead to protect in the late innings.
With Bud Norris developing a sore right triceps, the Cardinals’ situation is in disarray again, at least for now. As Greg Jewett noted in Sunday’s Bullpen Report, Norris is expected to miss only a few days, so I have left the Cardinals’ portion of the closer grid as is, with Norris at the helm. For what it’s worth, the Cardinals were locked in a 2-2 tie for the final three innings of regulation in Sunday night’s game against the Cubs, and Mike Matheny called on Tyler Lyons, Jordan Hicks and Greg Holland — in that order — to keep the visitors off the scoreboard.
Hector Neris‘ lack of control cost him a save on Sunday against the Nationals, as he followed up Matt Wieters‘ leadoff single by hitting Howie Kendrick and then issuing back-to-back walks. Then Wilmer Difo finished him off with a walk-off single. On the surface, this performance looks like an aberration. In his previous 12 appearances, Neris allowed one run over 12.1 innings and converted six of seven save opportunities. The glass-half-empty crowd will love these tidbits, though. Over that same stretch, Neris walked six batters, got strikes on only 59.9 percent of his pitches and, over the course of the season, he has located his pitches in the strike zone at a meager 37.6 percent rate.
Despite Neris’ control issues, it’s not as if Tommy Hunter or Luis Garcia is knocking on the door to become the Phillies’ new closer. Both were credited with an earned run in the eighth inning, helping Neris to fritter away a 4-1 lead.
Cody Allen blew his first save of the season on Sunday, allowing the Yankees to rally for a 7-4 win. It’s understandable that Terry Francona skipped the bridge between Mike Clevinger and his closer, handing Allen the ball for the last five outs, given the bullpen’s recent struggles. However, Allen floundered in the eighth inning and had to be pulled after allowing consecutive doubles to start the ninth. Over his last five appearances, Allen has allowed six runs on nine hits and six walks with only two strikeouts over four innings, while throwing 59.0 percent of his pitches for strikes. The Indians’ bullpen as a whole has been among the least effective in the majors since Andrew Miller went on the 10-day disabled list on April 26 with a left hamstring strain. Miller could return this Friday, but until then, it’s hard to conceive that Terry Francona would go with anyone other than Allen in a save situation, as long as his incumbent closer is available.
Quick hits: After a miserable start to the season, Alex Colome has been largely reliable over the past two-and-a-half weeks, but he took the loss on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Kevin Pillar scored what proved to be the winning run on a Colome wild pitch…After having pitched on Friday and Saturday, Wade Davis got a rest on Sunday against the Mets, and Adam Ottavino picked up his first save…For the second appearance in a row, Hunter Strickland allowed the opposition to score. On Sunday, he allowed the Braves to cut two runs off a 4-1 lead, but with the tying run on third base, Strickland got Ozzie Albies to pop up for the final out…Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed threw back-t0-back 1-2-3 innings in Sunday’s 5-3 win against the White Sox. That’s been a rare feat for the duo lately, so don’t sleep on Ryan Pressly (1.02 ERA, 24 strikeouts in 17.2 innings), who has been one of the most effective non-closers so far 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.