The beginning of the 2012 season has been a very interesting one. Many top closers are either getting injured, were injured and then got hurt again, or just getting dominated every time they try to close out a game. A few of these cases include Drew Storen, Ryan Madson, Brian Wilson, and Heath Bell. In this article, I will be going over some of the interesting closer situations at the start of the 2012 season.
Washington Nationals relief pitcher Drew Storen started the season on the disabled list with soreness in his throwing elbow. There may be bone chips in his elbow, which rules out Tommy John surgery, but still requires surgery.
Now that Storen will be out for good, the Nationals are putting much of their faith into their offseason pickup of Brad Lidge. Lidge has registered two of three saves so far with a 3.00 ERA to start the season.
As we all know, soreness in the elbow is never a good sign, but then again, it can only be a minor injury. We saw last year where soreness and inflammation took its toll on Miami Marlins starting pitcher Josh Johnson. Johnson had started just nine games at the beginning of the season, and then noticed pain in his throwing arm. He then was put on the disabled list for a short while, but kept feeling the pain as he tried to progress in his rehab. The Marlins then decided to sit him the rest of the 2011 season.
The Marlins hot offseason pickup has been Heath Bell. Signing Bell to a three-year/$27 million contract, the Marlins put a lot of faith into this man. With Bell registering 40 or more saves the past three years, they had every right to think he was the answer to the bullpen.
So far in 2012, Bell has struggled, registering only two of his four save chances (blew two saves to begin the season, and since then has registered his only two). He now has a 7.20 ERA, with only five strikeouts.
Miami needs to stick with Bell though. They put so much money into this man, and he is the closer of this bullpen. I imagine Bell will eventually get everything all together, and get 40 saves just like any other year. He’s a dominant closer, and he will stay there (hopefully).
The Cincinnati Reds certainly did not have the best start to their season, as newly signed closer Ryan Madson injured his arm and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Thankfully, the Reds traded Travis Wood and two other minor-leaguers to add long time setup man Sean Marshall to the bullpen. Marshall leads the Red’s bullpen with two saves on the year and seven strikeouts in five appearances.
The Reds need to get their hitting in line, but other than that, I’m really liking this bullpen. As much as people want to call Marshall a setup man, I really think it’s his time to shine in the closer role now.
The San Francisco Giants were devastated when Brian Wilson got injured this year. His arm was previously injured from last year, but went through rehab quickly. He then re-injured his arm and kept playing through the pain in his two appearances this season. Wilson hurt it to the point where he saw a specialist about it, and now will undergo Tommy John surgery.
With “The Beard” absent from the Giants bullpen, I expect this to hurt them a good amount. Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla are supposed to replace a closer as dominate as Brian Wilson? Forget about it. Santiago Casilla should have first shot at the closer role, and I expect him to keep it, as he has a very high ground ball rate compared to Romo.
Finally, we have arrived in Boston. The Red Sox have something to prove this year; to show the world that last year’s collapse was a fluke. This past offseason, the Red Sox acquired two new relievers in separate trades (Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey). Boston needed a solid bullpen.
The bullpen itself has been anything but solid. Near the start of the season, Bailey suffered a thumb injury which put him on the 15-Day disabled list. Mark Melancon had one of the worst outings in his whole career against the Texas Rangers about two weeks into the season, giving up five hits, three home runs, six earned runs, and two walks. He recorded no outs in the outing, and soon after was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket.
So who leaves that at closer? Why none other than Alfredo Aceves, who has posted two saves in three attempts, and has only one blown save. My suggestion for the Red Sox, and call me crazy, is bring Melancon back up. You gave so much for this man, and three bad outings in a row can take a toll on a pitcher, but you need to show him you still believe in him. Melancon has closer experience, earning 20 saves for the Houston Astros last year. He needs to be in Boston, and he needs to be pitching and making amends with the people of Boston.
Here are your 2012 saves leaders so far:
Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers- Six saves
Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles- Six saves
Brandon League, Seattle Mariners- Five saves
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians- Four saves
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays- Four saves
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics- Four saves
Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies- Four saves
J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks- Four saves
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves- Four saves