Closing Thoughts: Andrew Bailey, thumbs down

If you took "opening day" in the Andrew Bailey-hits-the-DL pool, then it looks like you're a winner. If instead you own Bailey in a fantasy league, then today you're scrambling for saves.

Bailey is reportedly seeking a second opinion on his right thumb injury, because the first opinion was, "That thing needs surgery." Brutal news. We don't yet have a clear rehab/recovery timeline, but, assuming surgery is needed, you're not going to like his ETA when you hear it.

In Bailey's absence, the prime candidates to handle the ninth are Mark Melancon, who saved 20 games for the Astros last season, and Alfredo Aceves, who had a pair of multi-inning saves for the Red Sox in 2011. Melancon's name was the first one I searched for across my fantasy portfolio, as he'd always seemed like the best Bailey handcuff. Yet according to the Boston Globe, "Aceves was told by [manager Bobby] Valentine to be prepared to pitch in the eighth or ninth inning."

Just in case you were wondering, Bailey has no idea how he suffered his latest injury. It presumably happened in a minor league appearance in late-March, but no one seems certain. He first noticed discomfort in the thumb — and this is not a joke — while squeezing a shampoo bottle. We fearfully await further details.

Update: Additional details are rolling in, and they aren't great. Bailey will have surgery on Wednesday to reconstruct the UCL in his right thumb, an injury that will cost him months, not merely a few weeks. So the bad news gets worse.

After the jump, you'll find a full sweep of every MLB team's current closing situation, with blurbs wherever blurbs are needed. I'm breaking the bullpens into tiers, sorting by relative danger/volatility. The closing situations that have the least clarity are at the top; the most reliable 'pens are at the end. If a player's name is italicized, that means he's dealing with an injury.

Got it? Great. Let's go ...


Kansas City — Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Aaron Crow

Broxton has the best spring numbers of the bunch, though Holland has the spring saves (3). Kelvin Herrera, 22, has been excellent as well, striking out a dozen hitters over as many innings, allowing two earned runs. Jon Heyman has speculated that KC is "leaning toward" Broxton as closer, although nothing is official as of this writing. And obviously lots of things lean toward Broxton, because he's huge. Very powerful gravitational field.

Boston — Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon, Alfredo Aceves

One additional note on this mess: Daniel Bard will open the year as Boston's fifth starter, so he's out of the bullpen picture at the moment.

Baltimore — Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom, Kevin Gregg

Just look at those names. Yikes. Pat Neshek has actually been the O's best reliever this spring (9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 8 K). Johnson has at least been tolerable (though not perfect) in three of his last four appearances.

New York Mets — Frank Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Jon Rauch

Perhaps the only major league bullpen that can rival Baltimore's for ick-factor. Parnell is pitching well right now, but Francisco is having velocity issues and Rauch is having serious earned run issues (11.1 IP, 10 ER).

Chicago White Sox — Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, Hector Santiago

We don't have an official announcement on this situation, and all the candidates have pitched well. Most managers would love to have Robin Ventura's problems. In mid-March ago, Ventura called Thornton and Crain his "best options" for the ninth. Addison Reed has had a nice spring (2.70 ERA, 10 Ks in 10.0 IP), but not as dominant as Santiago's (0.90 ERA, 5 H, 13 Ks in 10.0 IP). Hector has emerged as the darkhorse here.


Minnesota — Matt Capps, Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing

Capps and Perkins have posted the same spring ERAs over the same number of innings (4.50), but Perk has more than twice the Ks (12 to 5). It's not like we've never seen Matt Capps lose a closing gig. In most of my drafts, Capps has been the last closer on the board, available 2-3 rounds later than any other.

Cincinnati — Sean Marshall, Aroldis Chapman, Nick Massett

Chapman won't get a rotation spot just yet, as his services are needed in Cincinnati's depleted 'pen. Dusty Baker is giving Marshall the ninth inning role to open the season, and, with his ratios, the lefty has a shot to emerge as an upper-tier fantasy reliever.

Tampa Bay — Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, JP Howell

Unwelcome news here: On Tuesday, we learned that Farnsworth will likely open the season on the DL, due to an elbow issue of as-yet-unknown severity. You'll want to consider Peralta, JP Howell and Jake McGee, probably in that order. Let us not speak of Fernando Rodney.

Oakland — Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Fautino De Los Santos

Balfour seemed shakier when he claimed the job, but he tossed a pair of perfect innings in Tokyo. So far, so good.

Cleveland — Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Tony Sipp

Perez pitched a clean inning in his spring debut and, as of now, seems on track for opening day. The ongoing worry is that he was no better than the fourth or fifth best pitcher in the Tribe's 'pen last season.

Los Angeles Dodgers — Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier

Everyone loves Jansen's ratios, and with good reason. But Guerra is the incumbent and he's throwing well right now.


St. Louis — Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Mitchell Boggs

After last year's September-October performance, you can't say Motte isn't battle-tested. He's had a solid spring, too.

Toronto — Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero, Darren Oliver

Washington — Drew Storen, Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge

There's been loads of speculation about this situation, because Storen is currently sidelined with an elbow issue. Rodriguez has been lights-out this spring (11.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 11 Ks), and is expected to share closing duties with Lidge temporarily. Tyler Clippard will retain his usual setup responsibilities. But here's the key detail with the Washington 'pen: Storen has been throwing without pain, and an MRI revealed no serious issue. He's expected back in April. No clear reason to panic.

Colorado — Rafael Betancourt, Rex Brothers, Matt Belisle

Texas — Joe Nathan, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara

Houston — Brett Myers, Wilton Lopez, Brandon Lyon

I'll remind you again: Myers is a closer with SP-eligibility, which is always a plus.

Los Angeles Angels — Jordan Walden, Scott Downs, LaTroy Hawkins

San Diego — Huston Street, Andrew Cashner, Luke Gregerson


Milwaukee — John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe

Arizona — JJ Putz, David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler

Chicago Cubs — Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, Rafael Dolis

Seattle —Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen, Shawn Kelley

San Francisco — Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo

Wilson dealt with elbow soreness at the end of the 2011 season, and he's battled unspecified ailments this spring. But he's been throwing in minor league games, and seems on track for the opener. You'll recall that it was Casilla, not Romo, who was saving games for San Francisco last September.

Atlanta — Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty

Pittsburgh — Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop

Miami — Heath Bell, Edward Mujica, Randy Choate

Detroit — Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel

Philadelphia — Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras


New York Yankees — Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano

Just seems like he should get his own tier. Mo has posted a sub-2.00 ERA in 11 different seasons, including the last four. He's as good at his job as anyone has ever been, at anything. This is as close as it gets to a no-risk closer.

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