Bullpen Report: September 6, 2019

On a day that was largely devoid of big bullpen developments on the field, an important move was made off of it. On Thursday, the Cubs placed Craig Kimbrel on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Monday, with right elbow inflammation. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein said that Kimbrel is targeting a return by “the end of next week,” or in other words, not much beyond his eligibility date for activation.

Joe Maddon plans on playing the matchups with save situations while Kimbrel is out. When the Cubs’ closer missed two weeks in August with right knee inflammation, David Phelps, Pedro Strop, Brandon Kintzler, Derek Holland and Rowan Wick all had ninth-inning save opportunities. Each of them could be in the mix this time around, as well as Steve Cishek and Kyle Ryan. Owners should keep tabs on this situation in case Kimbrel’s return is delayed and if someone emerges as a clear primary closing option, but there is no need to pursue one of the potential replacements now.

Taylor Rogers recorded his 24th save of the season against the Red Sox on Thursday night. Of the Twins’ last seven saves, Rogers recorded six of them, and the other one was a three-inning save for Randy Dobnak, yet Sergio Romo may not be entirely out of the saves picture. He began the bottom of the ninth inning with a 2-1 lead and got Mookie Betts to pop up for the first out. However, after allowing a Xander Bogaerts single, Romo gave way to Rogers for the lefty-on-lefty matchup against Rafael Devers. Rogers induced a ground ball force out, and he just needed to retire J.D. Martinez to get the save.

Back on Tuesday night, Rogers allowed an Andrew Benintendi home run that had the height to clear the Green Monster and just barely enough distance. Against Martinez on Thursday night, Rogers gave up another long flyball in the direction of the Monster. This one was low enough that it hit the wall, and Eddie Rosario played the carom perfectly and then threw the ball home to get Devers for the final out.

While the two long shots that Rogers allowed in this series may make his fantasy owners a little nervous, Rogers has actually been on a roll lately. Benintendi’s home run is the only run Rogers has allowed over his last 7.2 innings, and during this stretch, he has recorded 11 strikeouts and no walks. Going back roughly a month-and-a-half, the lefty has been one of the best relievers in the majors at inducing chases on pitches out of the strike zone. His 40.7 percent O-Swing% since July 23 is the ninth-lowest rate among 188 qualified relievers during this period.

With Sam Dyson out with a sore shoulder, Tyler Duffey figures to play a more prominent role in the Twins’ bullpen, and on Thursday night, he was credited with his 11th hold. In pitching a perfect eighth inning, Duffey has now made 18 straight scoreless appearances spanning 15.2 innings. During this streak, he has 27 strikeout and five walks.

Ty Buttrey has slumped through much of the 2019 season, but in his final appearances in August, he appeared to be on the cusp of a rebound. Hopes for a strong finish took a hit on Thursday night, as the Angels’ setup reliever had a disastrous outing, taking the loss in a 10-6 defeat at the hands of the Athletics. Buttrey relieved Jose Suarez with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning and a 6-3 lead. A Josh Phegley two-run homer off Suarez cleared the bases, but Buttrey loaded them up by allowing a single and two walks, and then he walked in a run. He was pulled at that point, but all three runners he left on base wound up scoring.

Of the 22 pitches thrown by Buttrey, 14 missed the strike zone, and not a single one of those out-of-zone pitches drew a swing. Over his last seven appearances covering six innings, Buttrey has thrown just 38.0 percent of his pitches in the zone. That has been problematic, as he has compiled a paltry 22.7 percent O-Swing%.

Buttrey is not the only reliever who has been not exactly been Rogers-like in his ability to induce chases. On Thursday night against the free-swinging Orioles, José Leclerc had 14 of 22 pitches that missed the zone, just like Buttrey did. He walked only one batter and got the save in a 3-1 win, but Leclerc got only one chase on an out-of-zone pitch. Over his last 11 innings, Leclerc has fared well, allowing three runs while racking up 16 strikeouts. However, his 37.1 percent Zone% and 23.9 percent O-Swing% over that stretch is a warning sign to fantasy owners who need to worry about ERA and WHIP as well as saves and strikeouts.

Josh James‘ 2019 season hasn’t panned out the way many of his owners would have liked, but since coming back from the IL when rosters expanded on Sunday, he has been nearly unhittable. Over two appearances totaling three innings, James has eight strikeouts, and 12 of his 51 pitches have resulted in swinging strikes. He pitched the final two innings of the Astros’ 11-9, 13-inning win over the Mariners, and Kyle Seager’s home run represented the only baserunner he allowed. Seager’s shot is actually the only hit James has allowed since his return, and according to Baseball Savant, the 340-foot fly had just a 23 percent chance of becoming a base hit.

Quick hits: Emilio Pagán (18) and Joe Jiménez (5) both recorded saves on Thursday…Mark Melancon gave up a Victor Robles two-run homer in the Braves’ 4-2 win over the Nationals, and it was the first home run he had allowed since July 12, when he yielded a Keston Hiura solo shot…Sam Tuivailala and Robert Stephenson both ended scoreless streaks on Thursday. Tuivailala was charged with a run in 0.2 innings of work against the Astros, snapping a string of 14 scoreless appearances dating back to his second outing of the season. In allowing a J.T. Realmuto solo homer, Stephenson ended a streak of 13 consecutive scoreless appearances covering 11 innings…Génesis Cabrera recorded his first career save, pitching the final three innings and driving the last spike into the Cardinals’ 10-0 win over the Giants…Yusmeiro Petit will be away from the Athletics through at least the weekend due to a personal matter…Brian Moran made baseball history by striking out his brother, Colin Moran, in the Marlins’ 10-7 win over the Pirates. It was the first time since 1900 that a pitcher-versus-hitter matchup featured a player making his major league debut against his brother…The Braves activated Darren O’Day off the 60-day IL on Thursday. His next appearance will be his first since June 26, 2018, when he pitched for the Orioles against the Mariners.

Not Very Stable
Hot Seat
Bullpen Report — 9/6/2019

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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