Another week means another round of changes at the closer position. The most volatile position in baseball has lived up the reputation this season. Even though we are still in the early stages of May, 39 different relievers have registered multiple saves in 2011. With the injuries to Jonathan Broxton and Brandon Lyon, that number will soon go over 40.
Broxton has been up and down as the Dodgers’ closer for quite some time. After temporarily losing the position last season, he has struggled to keep a firm grip on in thus far. An MRI showed no structural damage to his right elbow; however, revealed bone spurs and some bruising. Broxton will take a few weeks before throwing again which means his return will be longer than the 15 days he is required to miss.
With Hong-Chih Kuo returning from injury and Kenley Jansen continuing to struggle with wildness, the Dodgers will turn to former starter Vicente Padilla in the ninth. Padilla, 33, has started 237 career games and just three saves (2 came back in 2000 season). After starting 23 times for the Dodgers over the past two seasons, he has converted in to a full-time reliever in 2011.
In six appearances, he has allowed just one run and two hits in six innings of work. As a reliever, Padilla is throwing a bit harder, but we’ll see how he handles the conversion with more time. Don Mattingly did not hesitate to give the ball to Padilla, so his job seems safe for the foreseeable future.
The MRI results were not so kind to Houston Astros closer Brandon Lyon. After experiencing some weakness in his arm, an MRI showed Lyon had a partially torn rotator cuff, however, it will not require surgery at this time. Lyon had allowed nine run on 21 hits in just 11.1 innings of work.
In his place, Mark Melancon will handle the closing duties. The former New York Yankee came into 2011 with just 37.2 innings of major league experience. He already has 19 appearances with the Astros and earned his first career save this week.
Melancon throws a fastball in the mid-90s and racks up a lot of groundballs. This is a nice trait to have when you pitch in a home run friendly ballpark. The role is a temporary one right now, but considering Lyon’s struggles and the severity of the injury, Melancon could see an expanded look at the back end of the bullpen.
Both Padilla and Melancon are solid options if your team needs some bullpen help. Padilla pitches for the better team which means more save opportunities. Meanwhile, Melancon has the chance to get a longer look. If you need a quick boost in saves, Padilla is the choice. If you went cheap on closers in your draft and are looking for a long-term option, Melancon has more potential for that.
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