A lot of the up-for-grabs closer spots are getting closer to reaching, well, an actual closer. Some guys weâ€™ve been waiting on have actually made their Spring Training debuts, while others are still stuck in the hell that is simulated games, bullpen sessions and tossing batting practice. All the while the Opening Game is looming in Japan. It really canâ€™t come fast enough. Actual baseball needs to actually happen.
In the race to be the random dude that winds up leading all of Spring Training in batting, Lorenzo Cain is making a strong, strong showing. Cain currently has a 1.462 OPS in 32 at bats. We need a name for these guys. Letâ€™s go with the S-Rod All-Stars for Tampa Bay Rays utility guy/potential starting shortstop Sean Rodriguez.Â Â Rodriguez randomly lead Spring Training in OPS a few years ago and proceeded to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the year. The bar has been set, Lorenzo.Â
The biggest news this week was the announcement that Joakim Soria would be shut down and will be making a visit to Dr. Yocumâ€™s office. Soria underwent an MRI and it did, in fact, show damage. Itâ€™s probably a good idea to take Soria completely off of draft boards.
Jonathan Broxton would be the heir apparent, but heâ€™s not completely healthy either. Broxton had been out of action since September due to elbow surgery. He made his spring debut last week and heâ€™s thrown three innings to date. Heâ€™s given up two runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk with three Kâ€™s.
On the other hand, Greg Holland has been lights out. Holland has given up one run in 5 â…“ innings. Holland has struck out seven while walking zero. It sounds like Broxton is going to get the first crack at saves, but itâ€™s almost a certainty that heâ€™ll lose the job in fairly short order.
Also looming is 2011 All-star Aaron Crow, but the Royals don’t seem to know what to do with Crow. They’ve tried to convert him to the rotation, but they don’t really have room for him. A shot at closing could be in his future. The fact that there are three names that have a shot at this job should tell you all you need to know about who the favorite is.Â
The Baltimore Orioles seem desperate to give the closing job to anyone other than Kevin Gregg. Gregg has looked like Kevin Gregg while Jim Johnson only has one clean outing in three tries. Itâ€™s important to note that Johnson isnâ€™t walking guys. It would be a lot easier to look to Matt Lindstrom or Gregg if Johnson was allowing free passes in bunches. Heâ€™s not. He should be fine.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura announced that Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain are the two most logical options for ninth inning duties. With Crain nursing an oblique injury and Thornton having a handful of clean appearances, Thornton has to be the favorite, right?
Clevelandâ€™s Chris Perez threw a bullpen session last Sunday and should face live hitters any day this week. Perez could get into a game next week if he remains on schedule. It’s time to print up some “Free Vinnie” t-shirts.Â
Grant Balfour has officially beaten Brian Fuentes for the closer job in Oakland. Fantasy GMs can breathe a sigh of relief that Fuentes as a closer wonâ€™t be inflicted on them. Joey Devine hit the DL with a biceps strain. So, Devine is the Anakin Skywalker of injured relievers to Joel Zumayaâ€™s Obi-wan Kenobi? Does this make Jeff Brantley the Emporer?
Cubsâ€™ closer Carlos Marmol was doing so well. Marmol had put together a string of three scoreless outings and appeared to put his early camp struggles behind him. Then he felt a cramp in his hand and will go in for a MRI on Thursday. Fantasy GMs never want to hear the word â€œMRIâ€ when discussing a closer, but it sounds like itâ€™s only precautionary. It might be a good idea to look at another mediocre closer instead of Marmol.
Cincinnati closer Ryan Madson threw about Â 20 pitches during a simulated game on Tuesday. He reported no discomfort and should get the green light soon for his Spring Training debut. Draft with confidence.
Giantsâ€™ closer Brian Wilson made a couple appearances this week and seems like heâ€™s good to go to start the year. Meanwhile, set-up man Sergio Romo was shut down with what was described as a â€œcrankyâ€ elbow. He threw 20-25 pitches during a bullpen session on Tuesday and should make his return to Cactus League action soon.
Not only does Washington Nationalsâ€™ closer Drew Storen have â€œtypical pitching sorenessâ€ (GM Mike Rizzoâ€™s words, not mine) to deal with, but he also has strep throat. Storen hasnâ€™t pitched in the Grapefruit League since March 7th. Heâ€™s going to begin a throwing program that will start with throwing on flat ground as soon as he can get his throat back in proper working order. It sounds like he should be fine to start the year, but it might be a good idea to handcuff Storen with Tyler Clippard until heâ€™s given the all-clear.