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Stray Saves

Last Friday, Jason Adam earned a save with Andrew Kittredge pitching in the eighth inning. In that game, Kittredge was used in the higher leverage spot, and he also went on to pick up a save on Sunday. Adam figures to be one of many arms vying for high leverage work in the Rays’ bullpen.

Clay Holmes, Daniel Hudson, Tyler Duffey, Josh Staumont, and Jimmy Herget earned a save this week with their presumptive closers unavailable. While it looked like Staumont and Scott Barlow could be part of a committee early in the season for Kansas City, Barlow has pitched much better than Staumont while getting the highest leverage opportunities, so it appears Barlow is back to being the primary closer with Staumont as the second choice. Holmes is an interesting stash candidate given Aroldis Chapman’s drops in velocity, whiff rate, and strikeout rate. Chapman’s track record and salary will give him every opportunity to regain his old form, but Holmes has pitched his way into the backup closer role this season. 

Victor Arano and Alexis Diaz picked up extra innings saves this week after Tanner Rainey and Art Warren, respectively, blew their leads. Rainey has been quite good to start this season and should have some leash despite the blown save on Wednesday. Warren however has been brutal so far this season (7.11 ERA, 4.48 xFIP), and the Reds lack a concrete closer. Diaz’s performance has pushed him into the mix. 

Aaron Ashby was perfect in a four-inning save on Sunday, but he will likely continue to bounce between starting and long relief. 

Injury Update

Joe Barlow was unavailable on Wednesday with a blister-related issue popping up. Matt Bush received the save opportunity but gave up a two-run home run to blow the lead. Barlow likely will be down for a couple more days but should return as the surefire closer for Texas when he does. 

Mark Melancon’s return from the COVID injured list has gone about as poorly as one could imagine, including three meltdowns where he allowed three or more runs. Despite this, Melancon had the Diamondbacks’ two saves this past week and has gotten multiple affirmative statements about his job security. His splits between save and non-save situations are noticeable and it’s also difficult to ignore his 7.8% strikeout rate. Still, his contract, track record, and lack of legitimate competition make him a safe bet to continue as Arizona’s closer through his ups and downs. 

Jordan Romano has not pitched since last Saturday and is dealing with a gastrointestinal infection. In his absence, Adam Cimber picked up two saves on Monday and Tuesday. With Tim Mayza also on the injured list, Cimber appears to be the clear backup to Romano while Romano recovers from his illness. Toronto also believes Romano will be back soon and won’t require an injured list stint, so Cimber’s stint as closer could end any day now. 

Rowan Wick earned two saves last weekend with David Robertson on the COVID list. Now with Robertson back on the roster, he should be able to regain his role as the closer. Robertson struck out two batters in a clean inning Thursday in his first appearance since returning. 

Committee Update

Diego Castillo came in to back up Drew Steckenrider after he nearly blew the save on Sunday. A pair of strikeouts sandwiched a walk and Castillo came away with his second save. Then on Wednesday Castillo pitched the ninth inning of a 5-1 victory. It’s worth noting Paul Sewald pitched the eighth inning against the top of the Blue Jays lineup and Drew Steckenrider was placed on the restricted list ahead of their series in Toronto. It’s clear Sewald is their top choice for the highest leverage spots, but the struggles of Castillo and Steckenrider have made it hard to decipher who their next top option is. Sewald and Castillo are likely worth rostering in deeper leagues where saves are scarce. 

Hansel Robles picked up the save on Monday, continuing the maddening inconsistency of the Red Sox bullpen usage. Boston may not have other options preferable to Robles at the moment, but his 6.16 xERA and 6.9% K-BB% call for some serious regression soon. I’d continue to stay away unless desperate. 

Tony Santillan earned the save Thursday, grabbing the final five outs of the Reds’ victory over the Cleveland Guardians. Santillan looked like a possible closer option at the beginning of the season when Lucas Sims was injured but ran into some trouble and now owns a 5.84 ERA. Now with Lucas Sims injured again, Santillan could figure into the closer mix with Art Warren and Alexis Diaz, but with Diaz pitching the most consistently well of the group he would be my preference if you need to speculate on this bullpen. 

Performance Concerns

Daniel Bard ran into a rough patch that bloated his ERA from 1.64 to 4.05 while taking two losses and blowing one save. He rebounded on Wednesday to record three quick outs and lock down his tenth save. 

Michael Fulmer has given up at least one run in four of his past five appearances while seeing his velocity and strikeout rate drop from last year. His recent struggles likely make Gregory Soto an even safer bet to remain the Tigers’ primary closer and might help Will Vest find himself in more high leverage situations. 

Despite giving up a two-run home run on Monday and allowing another run on Tuesday, Kimbrel locked down two saves early in the week to bring his total up to seven. His 1.31 WHIP is far from ideal but Kimbrel has also gone long stretches without pitching and continues to show relatively normal velocity with good peripherals to back up his work (2.63 xFIP, 2.45 SIERA). His role as closer is safe. 

Giovanny Gallegos blew his second save of the season, both against the Mets, on Thursday. He allowed a walk-off home run to Pete Alonso an inning after Ryan Helsley delivered a scoreless inning against the top of the Mets’ lineup. Despite swinging strike rates and velocity around his career norms, his strikeout rate has plummeted to 22.2%. Helsley’s dominance puts pressure on Gallegos to right the ship soon or risks losing his job. 

Emerging Relievers

This past week was short on new relievers bursting onto the scene, but a group of dominant relievers continued their good work in high leverage spots this week. J.P. Feyerisien and Ryan Helsley each have yet to give up an earned run on the season, while Michael King turned in a spectacular three-inning relief appearance on Tuesday. These three should be rostered in any league where non-closing relievers are useful. 

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