As we get closer and closer to July, it feels like bullpen hierarchies are finally settling in. The clubs who believe in closers have settled on them, and barring some sort of injury or other disaster, there aren’t a ton of loose saves to be found on the waiver wire.
Of course, this is 2023 we’re talking about, so there’s always one injury or another — and this past week was no exception. A former All-Star is now on the shelf with arm trouble, a potential 2023 All-Star was mysteriously unavailable this weekend and we may have seen multiple changings of the guard in the ninth inning. We’ll go through all that and more along with a full depth chart of every bullpen in the league.
Relief pitcher notes: Week 12
- Giovanny Gallegos was thought to assume the closer’s mantle for the St. Louis Cardinals after Ryan Helsley landed on the IL, but after blowing a save chance against the San Francisco Giants, it was Jordan Hicks who got the call in the ninth on both Saturday and Sunday against the New York Mets. The hard-throwing but oft-injured righty answered the bell, pitching two clean innings with three Ks and just one hit allowed to notch his first two saves of the year. It’s too early to say that this job is Hicks’ moving forward — his ERA is still 4.15, and his injury history could fill a book — but he appears to have Oli Marmol’s trust right now.
- Alexis Diaz has been utterly dominant for the Cincinnati Reds this year, with a 1.86 ERA and a whopping 50 strikeouts in just 29 innings of work. So it was a surprise to see him get the call with Cincy facing a save opportunity in both the ninth and 10th innings on Sunday against the Houston Astros — especially considering that Diaz hadn’t pitched since Friday. There’s been no word from the team about any sort of health concern, so this could just be a move to try and keep the righty fresh and avoid overuse during a long season. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward; Alex Young slammed the door for the Reds in extras.
- After a dominant April and May, Alex Lange has fallen apart of late. Lange was called on in the eighth inning of a 6-1 game on Sunday, as the Detroit Tigers look to rebuild his confidence following three straight outings in which he gave up at least one run, but the righty imploded again — coughing up three runs on a hit and two walks without recording a single out. Jason Foley was called on to put out the fire, and he did so convincingly, striking out four without allowing another run over the final two innings. This would seem to be Foley’s job for now, as he’s put up a 2.30 ERA so far this year, but he’s not so dominant that he can be expected to hold onto it for the next three months.
- Adbert Alzolay had been trending toward becoming David Ross’ closer of choice, and things may have become official during the Chicago Cubs’ win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. Alzolay pitched a ho-hum ninth to preserve a 3-2 win, his eighth straight scoreless appearance and his second save of the week. Mark Leiter Jr., meanwhile, pitched the seventh and eighth, and hasn’t seen a save chance since June 2. Alzolay has the electric stuff you want in a closer (1.97 ERA, 33 Ks in 32 innings) and Ross appears to trust him, making him a must-add in every league.
- Last week in this space, we noted that Scott McGough looked like he could be on his way to becoming the Diamondbacks’ closer — and sure enough, we may have seen a changing of the guard this weekend. The righty would have gotten the ninth in a save situation on Friday until Arizona’s offense tacked on some insurance runs, then he was called on for the final two outs of a 6-3 win on Saturday. Andrew Chafin is getting used in other high-leverage spots that call for a lefty, while Miguel Castro has struggled recently, opening the door for McGough to make this job his.
As of 6/19