After a few weeks in which it felt like just about every bullpen in the league was being flipped upside-down, things have stabilized a bit recently, with far less movement on our closer depth chart than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. This past week still saw some notable shake-ups — Liam Hendriks appears to be nearing a return to the closer’s role with the Chicago White Sox after picking up an emotional win on Sunday, while the Colorado Rockies have a new man in the ninth — but more often than not, committees that needed clarity didn’t find any, with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals and more continuing to toggle between options seemingly at random.
It’s a tough time to speculate for saves on the waiver wire, but we’re here to help with our full bullpen depth chart as well as news and notes from the week that was.
Relief pitcher notes: Week 10
- The writing had been on the wall for a while for Colorado Rockies closer Pierce Johnson, and sure enough, there appears to have been a changing of the guard last week. A day after Johnson blew yet another save in a walk-off loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks — his sixth time being scored upon in his last 12 appearances, raising his season-long ERA to 6.85 — it was righty Justin Lawrence who got the nod in the ninth inning. The righty made the most of it, shutting the door on the Kansas City Royals and then picking up another save the next night. We’d still put money on Daniel Bard taking this job long-term, for now, this seems like Lawrence’s job to lose.
- Liam Hendriks took another big step toward returning to the closer’s role in Chicago, coming into a tie game in the top of the ninth and striking out two in a scoreless inning. It was his first time making back-to-back appearances since returning to the Majors, and he was rewarded with the win (on National Cancer Survivors Day, no less) when Jake Burger sent everyone home with a grand slam in the bottom half. It’s worth noting that Kendall Graveman had pitched in three of the last four days and was likely unavailable — and the righty still has yet to be scored upon since the calendar flipped to May — but still, outings like this will go a long way to Hendriks earning manager Pedro Grifol’s trust. Call this a committee right now, with Graveman the slight favorite in the short-term but Hendriks the slight favorite moving forward.
- Dylan Floro nailed down a save on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics, but it’s still been a rough go for the Miami Marlins righty with usual closer AJ Puk sidelined with an elbow injury. Floro’s allowed 11 runs (nine earned) since May 12, and with Puk returning to the Majors as soon as Monday — he made back-to-back rehab appearances over the weekend without any setbacks — the lefty will likely return to the closer’s chair in short order.
- Speaking of closers nearing a return from injury: Philadelphia Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado made his first rehab appearance over the weekend, firing a scoreless inning at Triple-A, and is set to pitch again on Tuesday. The electric lefty’s elbow appears to be feeling just fine, and if that remains the case after this next outing, he could be back in the Philly bullpen as soon as this weekend. Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto have been fine in his stead, but Alvarado was among the most dominant pitchers in the game before he got hurt, and he should reestablish himself as the closer without much trouble — he’s a recommended add everywhere if he happened to be dropped while he was out.
- The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t producing many save opportunities lately, but with Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos both coughing up runs in their most recent appearances, a new contender for the closer’s role has entered the chat: fireballer Jordan Hicks, now back from injury and unscored upon in his last nine appearances (with 17 strikeouts in 11.1 innings over that span). Hicks’ pure stuff has never been in question, but his command and health is, and as long as he’s checking those last two boxes he could work his way into ninth-inning work very shortly — he pitched a clean final frame in the Cardinals’ 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
As of Monday 6/5