The notion of a closer’s role has evolved over the years, but there’s never been any doubt of the importance of a reliable late-inning relief strategy. While some organizations prefer more flexible arrangements, quite a few still utilize dedicated ninth-inning men. Settling on a closer isn’t just important to a team and to fantasy baseball gurus. It’s also a factor in a player’s trade and free agent status and — especially — to his potential arbitration earnings.
Here are some early notes on spring closer situations from around the game …
- Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke made rather clear that he views Brandon Workman as the top closing option entering camp, as Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com tweets. The club isn’t making anything official just yet, but the comments from the just-minted skipper give him a strong presumption. That’s not too surprising: the 31-year-old Workman emerged as a premium pen arm last year, when he racked up 71 2/3 innings of 1.88 ERA ball with 13.1 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9. He does have some experience closing out games, having finished 16 Boston wins as part of a committee approach last year.
- For the Pirates, there’ll be no waiting: new skipper Derek Shelton says Keone Kela will handle the ninth, as Adam Berry of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Kela’s time in Pittsburgh hasn’t exactly been smooth, but he’s undeniably talented enough to do the job and will now be challenged with added responsibility as the organization seeks to turn the page on a brutal 2019 season. There were numerous problems on and off the field for the Bucs. By far the most important was the arrest of closer Felipe Vazquez on charges so awful that it’s hard even to think of the matter from a baseball perspective. But the organization has obviously had to make decisions to account for that departure. There is plenty of incentive for Kela, who will be a free agent at season’s end. If things go better for the 26-year-old than for the remainder of the Pirates team, he could also feature as a significant mid-season trade piece.
- The Marlins have set about compiling a new-look bullpen this winter. It seems it’ll be anchored by one of the club’s recent veteran additions. Manager Don Mattingly strongly suggested that Brandon Kintzler is the top choice to function as closer, Craig Mish of FNTSY Sports Radio tweets. The 35-year-old isn’t exactly a prototypical swing-and-miss, capital-C closer type. But he did turn in 57 frames of 2.68 ERA ball last year with a typically strong 54.7% groundball rate. And Kintzler has saved 49 games in his career.