Bullpen Report: September 5, 2017

Kelvin Herrera’s latest hiatus due to forearm issues was a brief one. The Royals’ closer was lifted early last Friday against the Twins with tightness in his lower forearm, but according to the Kansas City Star, he was available again for Tuesday night’s game in Detroit. The Tigers won handily, 13-2, so Herrera wasn’t needed.

Given that Herrera has been lifted twice in the last two weeks with forearm tightness, it is hard to trust that he will be healthy and effective from here on out. In both cases where Herrera had to leave early in the middle of a save opportunity, it was Scott Alexander who was called in to finish the job. On Monday, with Herrera resting, Brandon Maurer started off the ninth inning to protect a four-run lead against the Tigers, but after allowing a Nicholas Castellanos three-run homer with one out and a pair of two-out singles, Alexander had to come to the rescue again. With a Mikie Mahtook force out, Alexander got his third career save, and each one required just a single out.

Since coming to the Royals in July as part of the Trevor Cahill deal, Maurer has had less success in getting hitters to chase pitches out of the zone, which has contributed to a 10.8 percent walk rate and a 7.16 ERA. For now, I’ll keep Maurer in the second spot and Alexander in the third spot in the closer grid, but it wouldn’t take much to flip them. That could wind up being important if Herrera’s forearm issues resurface.

We may not need to fret about Roberto Osuna’s velocity anymore. On Sunday, he averaged 95.1 mph on his four-seam fastball, and on Tuesday, he averaged 94.9 mph. That nudges Osuna closer to his first-half form. He also happened to blow saves in both of these appearances. With Tuesday’s performance during the 19-inning marathon against the Red Sox, in which he allowed two runs on two hits and a walk, Osuna now has a 6.00 ERA over 24 innings since the All-Star break.

His ERA has held steady since the first month of the second half, but during those first 15 post-break innings, there were some hopeful signs. Osuna struck out 21 batters, walked only four and got swinging strikes at an 18 percent rate. Since then, he has struck out eight batters in nine innings (though with only two walks) and compiled a 10 percent swinging strike rate.

If Osuna’s struggles persist, perhaps John Gibbons could make a switch over the final weeks of the season. Ryan Tepera has been Gibbons’ go-to option in setting up for Osuna, but on Tuesday, Dominic Leone handled the eighth-inning duties. Leone has been brilliant in the second half, posting a 2.19 ERA with 31 strikeouts, 5 walks and one home run allowed over 24 2/3 innings. Both he and Tepera are relievers to watch over the coming days, especially if Osuna adds to his major league-leading total of 10 blown saves.

Greg Holland is strengthening his grip on the Rockies’ closer role. On Monday, he pitched a perfect top of the ninth against the Giants, preserving a 3-3 tie and ultimately getting credited with the win. Then on Tuesday, he tossed another perfect frame versus the Giants, this time earning his 37th save. Holland has now thrown four straight perfect innings.

As ineffective as Aroldis Chapman had been in the middle of August, his chances of regaining the Yankees’ closer role seemed remote. They may very well still be, but on Tuesday night, he may have helped his case for a promotion. Pitching the eighth inning with a one-run lead, Chapman set Trey Mancini, Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis down in order. Over his last five appearances, Chapman has allowed only one run over 4 2/3 innings. In his last two outings, he has induced eight swinging strikes out of a total of 29 pitches.

Dellin Betances came in for the save and had trouble finding the strike zone. He managed to retire Welington Castillo and Pedro Alvarez, but then he walked Tim Beckham — he of the 34.1 percent O-Swing rate — on five pitches. Two pitches later, Manny Machado crushed a knuckle curve with an exit velocity of 108 mph (per Statcast) for a game-winning home run. Betances has allowed four runs over his last 3 2/3 innings.

The Cardinals did not have a save opportunity against the Padres on Tuesday night, but when they had a four-run lead to protect in the bottom of the ninth, Mike Matheny entrusted Tyler Lyons with the assignment. Lyons did his job, allowing only a Cory Spangenberg leadoff single. The Cardinals had a similar situation on Sunday against the Giants, and while Matheny went with John Brebbia, Lyons was likely unavailable, having pitched on each of the three previous days. Lyons began the ninth inning for the Cardinals’ last save situation, which was ¬†on Saturday, so it seems safe to promote him to the closer’s column in the grid. This still appears to be a closer committee, but most recently, Lyons appears to be Matheny’s primary option in high-leverage situations.

Blake Treinen had been charged with losses in his last two appearances entering Tuesday’s game against the Angels. When Santiago Casilla was called upon to pitch the top of the ninth inning in a tie game on Tuesday night, it seemed as if Treinen might just be getting some rest after making 34 pitches on Monday. That explanation seemed less plausible when Treinen came out to pitch the 10th inning. When Ben Revere lined the go-ahead RBI single with two outs, that set Treinen up for his third straight loss.

He was nearly bailed out by Eduardo Paredes in the bottom of the 10th, as the A’s loaded up the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. However, Paredes escaped with his first career save, getting Jed Lowrie to fly out to end the game.

If Treinen is in danger of getting demoted from the closer’s role, it is not safe to assume Casilla will reclaim it, as he had been pitching in lower leverage situations. While he could be a possible replacement, if needed, Chris Hatcher could be in the running as well, if his recent usage patterns mean anything. Then again, neither Casilla nor Hatcher has been all that effective, so it is probably best to just avoid this situation.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Fernando Rodney Archie Bradley David Hernandez
ATL Arodys Vizcaino Jim Johnson Jose Ramirez
BAL Zach Britton Brad Brach Mychal Givens
BOS Craig Kimbrel Addison Reed Matt Barnes Carson Smith
CHC Wade Davis Pedro Strop Carl Edwards Jr.
CWS Juan Minaya Danny Farquhar Gregory Infante Nate Jones
CIN Raisel Iglesias Michael Lorenzen Drew Storen
CLE Cody Allen Joe Smith Bryan Shaw Andrew Miller
COL Greg Holland Jake McGee Pat Neshek
DET Shane Greene Alex Wilson Joe Jimenez
HOU Ken Giles Chris Devenski Luke Gregerson
KC Kelvin Herrera Brandon Maurer Scott Alexander Joakim Soria
LAA Blake Parker Yusmeiro Petit Cam Bedrosian Bud Norris
LAD Kenley Jansen Brandon Morrow Pedro Baez
MIA Brad Ziegler Kyle Barraclough Drew Steckenrider
MIL Corey Knebel Anthony Swarzak Josh Hader
MIN Matt Belisle Trevor Hildenberger Alan Busenitz
NYM A.J. Ramos Jeurys Familia Paul Sewald
NYY Dellin Betances David Robertson Aroldis Chapman
OAK Blake Treinen Chris Hatcher Liam Hendriks
PHI Hector Neris Juan Nicasio Luis Garcia
PIT Felipe Rivero Daniel Hudson A.J. Schugel Joaquin Benoit
STL Tyler Lyons Seung Hwan Oh John Brebbia Trevor Rosenthal
SD Brad Hand Kirby Yates Phil Maton
SF Sam Dyson Hunter Strickland Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz Nick Vincent Marc Rzepczynski Tony Zych
TB Alex Colome Tommy Hunter Steve Cishek
TEX Alex Claudio Tony Barnette Jake Diekman Keone Kela
TOR Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Dominic Leone
WSH Sean Doolittle Brandon Kintzler Ryan Madson

[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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Hey Al, love these daily Bullpen Reports. Just want to let you know that Carson Smith is back from the DL now