With the season about to get underway on American soil, it seemed like a good time to make a few late-spring tweaks to the closer grid so that you have a legitimate tool for potential save-chasing here in the early part of the season. If you’re in a league with a deep bench and you aren’t dealing with a bunch of position players moving to the 15-day DL, then it may be wise to invest in a few of the “next-in-line” guys and hope they see some early opportunities. Managers always err on the side of caution in April so if they throw a closer twice early on, they may just opt to hand the ball off if their set-up corps hasn’t been run ragged. Here are a few names I have on my own watch-list and then we’ll hit the grid.
Brian Matusz, BAL – As a starter he’s been nothing short of disappointing, but he’s served the Orioles well as a lefty out of the pen recently. With Tommy Hunter’s struggles against left-handed hitters, there’s a good chance that Buck Showalter plays some early match-ups and gives Matusz a save chance or two depending on the opposing lineup. We’d like to see Hunter get the full opportunity early on, but I’m sure Buck wants to lock down a few ins early if given the opportunity.
Matt Lindstrom, CHW – This one pains me as you all know. Nate Jones is more than deserving of the full-time opportunity but Robin Ventura is hedging his bets here and will probably throw an early chance or two Lindstrom’s way. He’s not a long-term option though as we’ve seen him fail as a closer before. If you wisely drafted Jones, this is the handcuff for the time being.
Josh Fields, HOU – Sure, Chad Qualls is supposed to open the year as the Astros ninth-inning man, but we’ve been down this road before, haven’t we? Manager Bo Porter may allude to a long leash, but he’ll shorten it up immediately if the team starts blowing games late.
Sam LeCure, CIN – We all know that J.J. Hoover is supposed to see most chances, but manager Bryan Price also said he would go with a committee approach and LeCure is in that mix. Should Hoover fail early on, Price will look for someone to solidify the role and with Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall still out, LeCure seems to be the strongest candidate…sort of.
Mark Melancon, PIT – There’s a lot of money changing hands in the fantasy community that Jason Grilli is the first closer to lose his job this season despite the fact that he’s looked great this spring. Melancon has looked just as strong, so he’ll be ready if/when his number gets called.
Carlos Martinez, STL – I have full confidence in Trevor Rosenthal this season but Martinez is too good a talent to overlook just because he doesn’t have a role outside of the eighth inning. If you’re in a holds league, he’s a must. If you own Rosenthal, he’s a phenomenal insurance policy. There’s always the chance that he also ends up finding a spot as the fifth starter if Joe Kelly stinks it up early. Or, if you just want to supplement your ratios and strikeouts with a kick-ass reliever, he’s definitely one to own.