It’s closing time, who you gonna call?
After the news broke earlier this week that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be without their All-Star closer Kenley Jansen during their pivotal weekend series with the NL West-leading Colorado Rockies in Denver, fans and the media alike wanted to know who would be the interim closer in Jansen’s absence.
Jansen missed nearly two weeks last month when he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat the last time the team arrived at the high-altitude city of Denver, Colorado.
Jansen was rushed to the hospital and immediately flew back to Los Angeles where he met with a cardiologist. Jansen’s doctor placed him on blood thinners, and the Dodgers placed him on the disabled list.
Jansen will most likely need another heart ablation surgery in the offseason, but he returned to the clubhouse, and after a couple uncomfortable outings where he tried to work off the rust, he has finally returned to form.
Just when Jansen appeared to be back to his old dominant self, the Dodgers had to travel back to Colorado for a weekend series with the Rockies.
After a couple days of speculation, Jansen again met with the cardiologist who recommended he not make the trip to Denver, and instead join the team in Cincinnati on Monday.
So with Jansen out, the question pressing Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and the front office is: who should replace Jansen in the closer role during the three games with Colorado?
Ideally, the Dodgers could be leading by more than three runs in the later innings of most of those games, and a closer might not be needed, but realistically, playing in Coors Field means a lot of offense and no lead is ever safe, so having a shutdown reliever at the back end is imperative.
On Wednesday, Roberts said he would once again use a “closer by committee” approach. The same plan of action they unveiled unsuccessfully during the two weeks Jansen spent on the disabled list.
That strategy didn’t work that well as the Dodgers surrendered leads, or runs in a tie game in seven consecutive appearances.
Since that disastrous stint, the Dodgers have made multiple moves to help bolster their bullpen, with plenty of qualified options to pitch in high-leverage situations.
Without further ado, we take a look at who those options could be should take over the closer role should the team find themselves in a close game in the ninth inning.
Roberts called Maeda “The Chairman of the Closer Committee,” after he was moved to the bullpen following Jansen’s stint on the disabled list. After his success in the bullpen during the playoffs last season, Maeda appears to be the most logical choice to take over the role over the weekend.
However, in his last high-leverage appearance, Maeda surrendered the game-winning three-run homer to Brandon Nimmo in the ninth inning of a loss to the New York Mets on Monday.
Stripling is a 2018 All-Star, and was activated off the disabled list before the series in Colorado on Friday. Stripling has experience pitching in the bullpen, and also has one of the better single pitches of anybody in the pen: his curveball.
However, Stripling is coming off a lengthy disabled list stint and has not pitched out of the pen since May 3rd.
Alexander appeared to be the interim closer after Jansen first went down in August, recording a save in his absence during the first game of that series with the Rockies.
However, Alexander struggled in the role, blowing two saves, including surrendering four runs in a save situation against the San Francisco Giants.
However, Alexander has been one of the more reliable relievers this season, and is known as groundball pitcher that can get outs and double plays if need be. Alexander recorded four saves with the Kansas City Royals last year, and has two saves this year.
Like Alexander, Floro is primarily a groundball pitcher and has been solid out of the bullpen this season. However, similar to Alexander, Floro struggled in his two save situations during Jansen’s absence, walking in the winning run in Colorado on Aug. 12 and balking in the winning run in a 5-4 loss to the Mariners on Aug. 18
For most people, Madson would be the obvious choice to take over the closer role in Colorado. The 38-year-old veteran is a former closer with 91 career saves to his name.
When he’s on, he’s one of the best late-inning relievers in the game, and has four saves with the Washington Nationals this season. However, since he was acquired from the Nationals at the waiver trade deadline, Madson as an ERA of 7.71 with the Dodgers, including allowing two runs in his last outing on Wednesday.
Yes, we know what you’re thinking: “We don’t trust Pedro Baez as the closer.” Baez has a long history of wilting in the most high-pressure situations, but the fact of the matter is he has not allowed a run since Aug. 9th, and has recently pitched in a lot of close games.
He’s not the most ideal option giving his situation, especially his past history at Coors Field, but if the team runs out of options, “La Mula,” could be the guy.
At 22-years-old, Ferguson might be the youngest player in the Dodgers’ bullpen, but statistically speaking, he might be the best reliever they have. Ferguson was promoted to the big leagues on June 6 and made his Major League debut as a starter against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After struggling in three consecutive starts, Ferguson was moved to the bullpen and has been lights out ever since. Since June 23, Ferguson has a 1.96 ERA out of the bullpen, and half of those runs game on a three-run home run to Andrew McCutchen on Aug. 15 that turned into a blown save.
Ferguson has 53 strikeouts and could be just the pitcher the Dodgers need to close a couple games in Colorado.
If this was still May or June, Fields might be the honorary closer in Jansen’s absence. Fields recorded two saves during the season when Jansen was “down” because of over usage, and each time pitched scoreless innings of relief.
However, Fields hasn’t pitched since July and struggled with his command in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list on Wednesday.
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
Source: NBC Los Angeles