They’re only three games into the season, but the Red Sox are already missing injured closer Andrew Bailey.
Like, really, really missing him.
The team’s top two options for the ninth inning, Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon, both blew save chances Sunday in spectacular fashion. Manager Bobby Valentine’s hand-picked closer, Aceves gave up three runs in the ninth without recording an out, capped off by a Miguel Cabrera bomb to tie the game. Not to be outdone, Melancon allowed a sac fly and then a two-run, walk-off bomb to Alex Avila in the 11th inning.
Collectively, Aceves and Melancon now sport a 63.00 ERA and 9.00 WHIP over four appearances. They’ve only been able to record three total outs.
So what now for the BoSox? Well, we don’t know yet, and neither does Valentine.
He downplayed the situation after Sunday’s game, telling reporters, "We're trying to figure out what to do. We'll keep it a work in progress. We're three games into this thing.'' Valentine did add that Daniel Bard “might be” an option to close, but we doubt they’ll make that move so soon after steadfastly committing to him as a starter. The best bet is that Aceves will get another shot, but we can’t rule out Franklin Morales or Vicente Padilla getting a chance.
White Sox, Rays Closing the Deal?
While the ninth inning in Boston is in flux, it appears that the White Sox and Rays might be closer to figuring out their closer situations.
Hector Santiago earned his first major league save in Saturday's victory over the Rangers. And, given that Matt Thornton, who most figured was the favorite for saves, was used ahead of him in a setup role, it appears that Santiago is the clear preference in the ninth inning right now. Of course, manager Robin Ventura has said that he expects the closer gig to change hands throughout the season, so don’t write Santiago’s name down in ink just yet.
The Rays placed Kyle Farnsworth on the DL before the season, and most figured it would be Joel Peralta that would handle the ninth inning in his absence. After all, Peralta more than held his own in the role last season when The Farns was on the shelf. But, it’s been Fernando Rodney that recorded two saves in the series sweep of the Yankees over the weekend.
Now, we’ve certainly learned over the years not to trust Rodney. But, he hasn’t allowed a baserunner over his first three appearances and looks to be the preferred option of manager Joe Maddon until Farnsworth returns in May.
Fister Lands on Disabled List
Doug Fister’s first outing of the season was off to a fine start, as he had held the Red Sox scoreless over 3 2/3 innings while striking out three. But, then he felt a grab in his left side on a pitch to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and had to leave the game.
It turns out that he suffered a left costochondral strain, which is when the rib separates too much from the sternum. Fister has been placed on the DL, and the Tigers will not provide a timetable for his return until he’s pain-free. But, if you’re gambler, bet on over the minimum 15 days.
So who will replace Fister in the rotation? Well, the Tigers don’t know that yet, either. The logical choice would be Duane Below, but they seem to like what he can bring as a long reliever. It could be Andrew Oliver or Casey Crosby, two pitchers that lost out to Drew Smyly in the competition to be the team’s No. 5 starter. Both Oliver and Crosby are intriguing because they’re lefties that can throw in the mid-90s. But, they’ve also both had control issues and it’s likely neither one of them are ready to get outs consistently. Top prospect Jacob Turner is still taking things slowly after dealing with shoulder tendinitis in spring training.
National League Quick Hits: Jon Niese made a run at becoming the first Mets pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter Sunday, getting through six innings unscathed. He actually wound up giving up four runs – two earned – before all was said and done, but it was still a nice first outing in what could be a breakthrough year for the lefty … Pirates GM Neal Huntington thinks A.J. Burnett (eye) is likely to rejoin the Pirates rotation "before the month is over." It would be a much quicker-than-expected return after Huntington originally expected to be without the righty until June … Drew Pomeranz will be held to an unspecified innings limit this season. He threw 119 1/3 frames last year, so we doubt the Rox take him past 160 innings this year … Justin Maxwell was claimed off waivers by the Astros. He’ll probably get a chance at some playing time, and he does have some pop and speed … Dustin Moseley was placed on the DL with a strained shoulder. We don’t know how long he’ll be out yet, but it will surely be more than 15 days. Anthony Bass, Micah Owings and Joe Wieland are options to take his spot ... Carlos Monasterios was released by the Dodgers following another elbow surgery… Nats prospect Anthony Rendon suffered a bad ankle sprain Saturday and is out indefinitely … Brian Tallet was traded by the Pirates to the Padres, as the Pads wanted some left-handed relief depth in the minors … Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez confirmed that Chipper Jones would be ready to return from the DL this week, possibly earlier than the original target date of April 13 … Corey Hart barely had any exhibition at-bats, but he hasn’t been rusty, banging out three homers in the opening series against the Cardinals … Though he wound up allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings, Adam Wainwright looked terrific in his first start since Tommy John surgery. His velocity isn’t all the way back yet, but it was an encouraging performance.
American League Quick Hits: Niese wasn’t the only one to carry a no-hitter for a while Sunday, as Jason Hammel bested him, getting through seven frames untouched before Justin Morneau led off the eighth with a double. Hammel allowed just one run on two hits in eight innings and will probably be a popular waiver wire add. You should stay away, though. … B.J. Upton (back) will begin a rehab assignment Monday with High-A Charlotte and is expected to return for the April 20-22 series against the Twins. He’s dealt with a back ailment since mid-March … Liam Hendriks (food poisoning) won’t be released from the hospital until Monday. He could be healthy enough to take his next turn in the rotation, but Anthony Swarzak pitched pretty well in his place, and it’s possible the Twins just stick with him … Humberto Quintero will start three of every five games behind the plate for the Royals, as he’s been assigned Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez and Danny Duffy, while Brayan Pena will be back there when it's Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza … Tsuyoshi Wada (elbow) could be ready to rejoin the Orioles around April 24, but it’s not clear whether it will be as a reliever or starter. It will depend on how he's throwing and how the rotation has fared to that point … Yoenis Cespedes has showed early on that his power is for real, homering for the third straight game Saturday. He’s struck out in over half his at-bats, so Cespedes could get exposed eventually, but he might also be a 30-homer bat … Felix Hernandez struggled in his second start of the season Saturday, and his velocity continues to be down. We’re not overly concerned yet, but keep an eye on the radar gun in his next few starts … Ubaldo Jimenez has dropped an appeal of his five-game suspension, but not before he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday. His next outing will come on April 14 … The Mark Trumbo experiment at third base isn’t going well, as he made his third error Sunday in two starts. He should play there enough to gain positional eligibility, but don’t count on him staying there over the long haul.