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Temporary Closer Committee

The Orioles placed closer Jorge Lopez on the bereavement list on Tuesday. His resurgence in the bullpen (1.13 ERA, 2.12 xERA, 54% ground ball rate) has led him to the closer role to begin the season. Still, during his absence, Felix Bautista had the opportunity to flash his upside in higher leverage situations. Dillon Tate received the first save opportunity on Tuesday but quickly faltered. Brendan Donovan hit his first career home run on Tate’s second pitch, followed up by a Tommy Edman single. After recording two outs, he would hit Juan Yepez with a pitch and be pulled for Bautista. Bautista would go on to strike out Tyler O’Neill and came back on Thursday to record a four-out save. Bautista combines elite velocity with great carry on his fastball and pairs it with a splitter that he gets swings and misses on. Lopez is set to return at some point over the weekend and should return to his closer role, but Bautista is an interesting long-term stash given his stuff and how shaky Lopez’s own track record is.

The Cubs lost their closer David Robertson to the COVID list on Monday, thrusting their bullpen into a bit of uncertainty. Rowan Wick got through two innings for the save on Wednesday after Mychal Givens gave up two home runs in his inning of work. Wick has a 0.77 ERA to this point in the season and was given a chance to close last season. Despite his results, Wick’s velocity, walk rate, and swstr% are all fairly similar to what he’s done in his career and there’s no telling whether he’s overcome the inconsistencies that have plagued him throughout the years. Robertson has been similarly effective in the closer role and should reclaim it when he returns from the COVID list. 

The Red Sox disaster of a bullpen found temporary reprieve on Tuesday after John Schreiber got through two innings for his first career save. The sidewinding right-hander has yet to be scored on in his seven innings of work this season, but he doesn’t sport the traditional velocity or high strikeout rate of a traditional closer. The Red Sox have attempted to play matchups with Hansel Robles, Jake Diekman, Ryan Brasier, and Matt Strahm while they wait for Matt Barnes to regain his stuff, but that strategy has not been working out. Boston is a candidate to make an early trade for relief help if they want to keep their season afloat, but in absence of that, I would not be excited about any of the current options on their roster for fantasy. 

Stray Save

Bennett Sousa earned a one-out save last Sunday with Liam Hendriks unavailable and the White Sox playing matchups at the end of the game. Brooks Raley and Trevor Stephan picked up saves in extra innings after the closer in their bullpen already pitched. Steven Wilson picked up the save last Friday with Taylor Rogers unavailable. Among these names, Raley is the most likely to find himself in future save chances given the Rays’ preference of using matchups late in games rather than committing to a full-time closer. 

Closer Clarity

Chris Stratton has stumbled to a 6.17 ERA out of the gates this season, albeit with better supporting numbers. This has opened the door for David Bednar to pick up the Pirates’ last four saves, including two multi-inning saves. The two entered the season as an assumed split, but Bednar has predictably pitched better with much better stuff and appears to be running away with the full-time role

Lou Trivino’s struggles have continued even after returning from the COVID list. After struggling mightily towards the end of 2021 as well, Trivino has clearly lost his grip on the closer role and ceded it to Dany Jimenez. Jimenez has still been unscored upon through thirteen innings this season, striking out just over 28% of the batters he’s faced. 

Emerging Relievers

Will Vest was an interesting Rule five Draft pick by the Mariners last season but battled inconsistent command before being returned to the Tigers in July. Back in the organization that drafted him, Vest has shown why he was interesting enough to go in the Rule five Draft a year ago. He’s picked up a little over one mile per hour on his fastball from last year while running a 34% strikeout rate, 6.4% walk rate, 14.1% swstr%, and 1.32 ERA. Vest has yet to be given high leverage duties in Detroit but should work his way there if he continues anywhere the type of performance he’s put up to this point in the season.

Oakland’s gutted roster has given some young and interesting players opportunities to showcase what they can do, and a couple of Oakland’s relievers appear to be taking advantage. Zach Jackson’s funky delivery and solid breaking pitch have pushed him into a setup role for Oakland, already garnering six holds this season. Puk has been deployed mostly in two-inning stints and thus only has two holds so far this season. The dominant stuff that made him a highly coveted prospect has been on full display, however, and there should be more high leverage chances in the near future with how well he has pitched. Puk has a 0.69 ERA, 22.4% K-BB% and 1.86 xERA. 

The Reds somewhat rebounded from their disastrous start to the season, going 5-2 in their last seven games. Alex Diaz has been a part of their turnaround, turning in six consecutive scoreless appearances. He’s sporting a 0.59 ERA and 29% strikeout rate so far this season and has worked his way into the high leverage conversation. Lucas Sims is returning to the injured list with a bulging disc in his back and no one else in the Reds’ bullpen has separated themselves from the pack. If Diaz can continue to pitch well, he could find himself in some save opportunities. 

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