Buck’s Bullpen Briefs

By on August 25, 2015


Brad Boxberger (photo Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

Brad Boxberger (photo Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

It was a busy week in major league bullpens, as we had a couple of closer changes and a few more shifts in bullpen hierarchies. At least one of the closer changes could be temporary in nature, but that doesn’t mean that an astute Fantasy manager can’t take advantage of the situation with some savvy work on the waiver wire.


There’s a new ninth-inning man in Colorado, and his name should be familiar to most Fantasy managers; will he be more successful in his second turn in the closer’s chair? There’s another familiar name climbing into the embattled closer’s chair in Seattle; can he serve up some fantasy baseball success to those owners willing to take a chance on him?

Things are still muddled in Boston, but a returning reliever could be just what the doctor ordered for Oakland’s ailing bullpen.

Injuries have scrambled the bullpen hierarchy in St. Petersburg, as one of the game’s top relievers could be done for the season. Meanwhile, the team’s closer looks to be leaking a bit of oil; will one of his understudies seize their opportunity and prove to be fantasy relevant as the season winds down?

We’ll take a look at these situations and much, much more in this week’s edition of Bullpen Briefs.

Note: Stats are current as of close of play on August 24, 2015.

Who’s Out?

Carson Smith finally relinquished the closer’s job last week, but he had been on a downward slide for quite a while. Smith owns an ugly 6.06 ERA and 1.65 WHIP since the All Star break, and he has not looked like the same hurler who forged a 1.77 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in the first half.

Speaking of downward slides, the M’s cut ties with former closer Fernando Rodney last week, designating him for assignment following their game on August 22. Rodney led the league with 48 saves last season, but he had blown seven of his 23 chances in 2015, while scuffling to a 5.68 ERA.

Tommy Kahnle has allowed 10 earned runs over his last five appearances, and he lost the closer’s job August 18. Kahnle did manage to rack up a pair of saves during his time as the ninth-inning man, and he has a big strikeout pitch – but his 24 walks in 32.2 innings should signal that he probably has a ways to go before he can handle closing games on a long-term basis.

Tampa Bay Rays setup man / sometime closer Jake McGee will undergo surgery August 21 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, and he may be out for the remainder of the season. McGee has a 2.57 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and six saves through 36 appearances this season, and the Rays will sorely miss him at the back end of their bullpen.

Who’s In?

Rockies manager Walt Weiss reinstated John Axford as the Colorado closer August 18, and the veteran reliever responded by notching his 17th save two days later. Axford owns an ugly 5.79 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in nine August appearances, but he has surrendered earned runs in only two of his last seven outings. Don’t look for Axford to return to his fine first-half form, but he is worth adding in most mixed Fantasy leagues if you’re searching for saves.

Seattle’s Tom Wilhelmsen picked up his third save of the season August 23, and it looks like he’ll be the next reliever to have a go at the ninth inning for the Mariners. Wilhelmsen has struggled this season, but he saved 53 games for the Mariners between 2012 and 2013. He has a 3.05 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 17 appearances since the break, so perhaps the former bartender can provide some stability to what has been one of baseball’s shakiest bullpens in 2015.

When Koji Uehara was lost for the year, the Boston Red Sox found themselves in need of a closer, and for a short time it appeared as though Junichi Tazawa was stepping up to fill that role. Tazawa blew his first save chance following Uehara’s injury, but he notched saves August 19 and 20. He then imploded for four earned runs August 22, suffering his second loss and sixth blown save in the process. Set-up man Jean Machi allowed two earned runs before finally notching his second save August 24, so this bullpen situation remains a rather muddled mess. Tazawa still looks to be the top option for saves, but he probably won’t be in the mix for long if he can’t find some consistency.

Former Oakland closer Sean Doolittle was activated from the disabled list August 22, and despite struggling in his first appearance, he may be back in his old ninth-inning digs before long. Doolittle allowed only a solo homer in five rehab outings, while striking out 10 batters and walking none in five innings of work. Doolittle is worth adding in most mixed leagues if you’re chasing saves.

Reliever on the Rocks

The injury to Jake McGee solidified Brad Boxberger’s place at the back of the Tampa Bay bullpen, but Boxberger has had a rather rough go of things lately. The Rays’ closer has surrendered runs in five of his last seven outings, and he owns a rather dismal 4.91 ERA and 2.32 WHIP in nine appearances this month. Opposing batters are hitting .364 against him in August, and he has suffered three losses and blown two of his six save chances this month. Steve Geltz, Xavier Cedeno or possibly Alex Colome could be next in line if Boxberger can’t right the ship, but neither looks like a long-term solution.

Minnesota closer Glen Perkins received an injection August 19 for his neck injury, and he was back in action August 23. Perkins has been going through a very rough stretch lately, and he owns a 7.36 ERA and 2.09 WHIP in 12 appearances after the All-Star break. Keep a very close eye on Perkins as he resumes the closer’s role; Kevin Jepsen would likely be the next in line for saves.

Relievers on the Rise

Xavier Cedeno has emerged from relative obscurity to claim a key place in the Tampa Bay bullpen, and his role figures to be even more prominent now that McGee is on the shelf. Cedeno has allowed no earned runs and only five hits in 12.2 innings after the break, while fanning 19 batters and walking none. The veteran southpaw logged his first career save August 11, and more opportunities could be coming when the match-ups are right.

Keep an eye on…

Cincinnati Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman was unavailable for a few days due to some shoulder stiffness, but he was back in action August 24. While it doesn’t look like the fireballing lefty will require a trip to the disabled list, this situation absolutely bears watching. Set-up man J.J. Hoover would be the most likely candidate to close if Chapman were to miss extended time.

Kansas City closer Greg Holland is dealing with what manager Ned Yost described as a “cranky” pitching arm, and it was reported that he might not have been available for the team game on August 24. Holland has had a rather disappointing season, but his fantasy owners are certainly hoping that their man is available for the stretch run.

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