Bullpen Report: June 15, 2014

Hector Rondon owners slept much better last night after hearing that the Cubby closer made it through an 11-pitch bullpen session healthy. Everything sounded so good, it appeared likely Rondon would be available on Sunday. However, with a 3-0 lead, it was Neil Ramirez, not Rondon, who notched another save for the North Siders.

So, what, do we have a changing of the guard in Chicago? Well, before the game manager Rick Renteria said that Rondon was available, but he hoped to squeeze an extra off-day out of him, likely to make sure his elbow bounced back fine after throwing from a mound Saturday. One could arguably read into that and figure that with a 3-0 lead (an easy save opportunity), Renteria decided to hold true to his word in a marginal save situation. However, even with the public positivity around Rondon, there is a degree of intrigue with Ramirez’s performances over the last week. If anything, the former Rangers farmhand’s peripherals (43% K%, 1.83 xFIP) have been slightly better than Rondon’s already-stellar marks (28% K%, 2.76 xFIP). It remains to be seen whether Ramirez can keep up these elite rates (especially since his minor league track record as a starter points to a higher BB%), but this certainly wouldn’t be the first time a closer with a tenuous grip on the stopper gig was “Pipped.” We’ll flip this back to red for the time being; Rondon owners need to handcuff with Ramirez if they haven’t already done so and all others looking for saves should take a flier, at least until we see Rondon back and healthy in the ninth.

Jenrry Mejia scared some last week after having to leave a game with back stiffness, but he made a triumphant return this afternoon. In what amounted to essentially a bullpen game thanks to an early Daisuke Matsuzaka injury, Mejia picked up the old-fashioned two-inning save, retiring all six batters he faced. Mejia only garnered one swing-and-miss on 18 pitches this afternoon (and no punchouts), but his velocity looked fine (fastball around 93-94 mph which lines up with his yearly mark) so he looks good to go heading forward. Of note, Terry Collins did say that the two-inning save was a result of him wanting to make sure Meija’s back didn’t act up. If it did, he had Jeurys Familia waiting in the wings. Sounds like Mejia owners know who their handcuff is.

• Committee member Jake McGee was called upon to get the save in Tampa today and he breezed through an easy ninth inning, striking out one while pitching around a rogue single. Joe Maddon’s decision might have had a little something to do with the fact that Jon Singleton (a lefty) was hanging out waiting to pinch hit (the pitcher’s slot was up third), although as we’ve covered before, McGee is much more than just a LOOGY. Singleton did make it up to hit (after a Matt Dominguez hit) but struck out swinging to end the game. There’s nothing earth-shattering that hasn’t been covered in this space before; Joel Peralta and McGee are the better pitchers, but Grant Balfour appears to be the guy the Rays want right and in the ninth. If you are desperate, all three should be owned, but it promises to be tough to prognosticate who gets the next save chance, at least until someone separates themselves (one way or the other) here.

• Quick hits: Mike Scioscia said both Ernesto Frieri and Joe Smith may see save chances going forward, implying he’s not 100% in Frieri’s camp yet. This is probably the result of yesterday’s non-save blowup, but underscores that Smith should be owned in all leagues, even if Frieri is the guy looking at the majority of opportunities. Casey Janssen got a rare four-out save today. Sergio Santos was activated a few nights ago, but Janssen has this job under lock and key right now, so don’t blow FAAB dollars — it isn’t April anymore.

• The infirmary: Josh Fields has hit the disabled list with forearm soreness. While forearm issues are always scary, it’s worth noting Fields dealt with a similar ailment last year. Unfortunately, it comes at an inopportune time for the Houston righty, as he had posted a 25/4 K/BB since the end of April. Fernando Salas also landed on the DL. The Angels promoted Dane de la Rosa to replace him. de la Rosa has had some arm/velocity issues this year, but could work his way up the ladder if he’s healthy and effective.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Addison Reed Brad Ziegler J.J. Putz
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Shae Simmons Jordan Walden
Baltimore Zach Britton Tommy Hunter Darren O’Day
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Andrew Miller
CHI (NL) Hector Rondon Neil Ramirez Pedro Strop
CHI (AL) Ronald Belisario Zach Putnam Jacob Petricka Matt Lindstrom
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton Sam LeCure Sean Marshall
Cleveland Cody Allen Bryan Shaw John Axford
Colorado LaTroy Hawkins Rex Brothers Adam Ottavino
Detroit Joe Nathan Joba Chamberlain Al Alburquerque Joel Hanrahan
Houston Chad Qualls Kyle Farnsworth Tony Sipp Josh Fields
KC Greg Holland Wade Davis Aaron Crow
LAA Ernesto Frieri Joe Smith Michael Kohn
LAD Kenley Jansen Chris Perez Brian Wilson
Miami Steve Cishek A.J. Ramos Mike Dunn
Milwaukee Francisco Rodriguez Will Smith Brandon Kintzler Jim Henderson
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Jenrry Mejia Jeurys Familia Vic Black Bobby Parnell
NY (AL) David Robertson Dellin Betances Shawn Kelley
Oakland Sean Doolittle Luke Gregerson Jim Johnson
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Jake Diekman Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Jason Grilli Mark Melancon Tony Watson
St. Louis Trevor Rosenthal Carlos Martinez Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Joaquin Benoit Alex Torres
SF Sergio Romo Jeremy Affeldt Jean Machi Santiago Casilla
Seattle Fernando Rodney Danny Farquhar Dominic Leone
TB Grant Balfour Jake McGee Joel Peralta
Texas Joakim Soria Jason Frasor Neal Cotts Neftali Feliz
Toronto Casey Janssen Brett Cecil Sergio Santos
Wash. Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Drew Storen

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]

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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

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Satoshi Nakamoto
Satoshi Nakamoto

McGee or Neil Ramirez ROS?

Cubs are winning more games the past 2 weeks and face easier hitters and ballparks.

Mike Wimmer
Mike Wimmer

Ramirez probably has the easier path to getting the job, but McGee has more upside IMO. If McGee somehow was able to secure the job, with full backing from Maddon, he would easily be a top 15 closer the ROS.

As it is, I suspect outings like today are probably going to be hit and miss with Balfour, Peralta and possibly Boxberger or Oviedo getting chances as well.

Ramirez just has to pass over Rondon and the job is his as he seems ahead of Strop in the pecking order.