Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has named lefty Brett Cecil the team’s official closer, per a report from MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm. Though the announcement isn’t at all surprising, there was some thought that the Jays could utilize a closer-by-committee during the season, utilizing Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar as needed.
It goes without saying, but Cecil’s fantasy stock obviously goes up quite a bit expecting to get a full slate of save opportunities. He has been terrific since becoming a full-time reliever in 2013, compiling an aggregate 2.76 ERA with a 146/50 K/BB ratio in 114 innings. It also goes without saying that what little value Loup and Delabar had has diminished as both will only scavenge saves behind Cecil. Aaron Sanchez was also expected to be in the mix for late innings until moving into the rotation following Marcus Stroman’s unfortunate knee injury.
Cecil posted a reverse platoon split last season, surprisingly enough, allowing a .244/.319/.395 slash line to left-handed hitters and .210/.315/.254 to right-handers. That likely has to do mostly with the small sample sizes as he faced 91 lefties and 143 righties, about the equivalent of three and six starts, respectively. Over his career, right-handers have hit him much better.
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Graveman Making An Impact
Kendall Graveman made another superb start on Sunday, tossing 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Reds, recording 11 outs on the ground and five via strikeout while allowing just one hit and one walk. The young right-hander, acquired from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade, is sporting a 0.60 ERA with an 8/4 K/BB ratio in 15 innings over four outings so far this spring.
The A’s have a handful of competitors vying for a spot in the starting rotation. Graveman is joined by Jesse Hahn, Jesse Chavez, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin, and Drew Pomeranz. Graveman should be considered a favorite to win one of the three open rotation spots.
Via MLB.com’s Jane Lee, manager Bob Melvin said, “We haven’t seen him struggle. He’s been great. He knows how to pitch.” That is certainly a ringing endorsement for the 24-year-old.
Graveman debuted last season with the Blue Jays, appearing in five games. He allowed two runs on four hits while issuing no walks and striking out four. In the minors, Graveman wasn’t much of a swing-and-miss type of pitcher, but he limited damage by being stingy with walks and inducing ground balls. That is what to expect of Graveman over a full season in the Athletics’ rotation. The spacious confines of the O.co Coliseum, plus a new-and-improved infield defense that now includes Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Ben Zobrist, and Ike Davis, should benefit him as well.
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Hyun-Jin Ryu Sent Back to L.A.
Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu has been sent back to Los Angeles to undergo a medical evaluation, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday evening. Manager Don Mattingly said Ryu still felt soreness in his left shoulder after playing catch on Sunday and isn’t expected to be ready by Opening Day. Whether he’ll begin the season on the disabled list or not remains up in the air, as the Dodgers could simply push his first start back. The Dodgers have three off-days in the first three weeks, which gives them a bit of flexibility.
Ryu, 27, went on the disabled list twice last season. The first stint was due to inflammation in his left shoulder, forcing him out of just over three weeks of action. The second was due to a strained right glute in mid-August. Following a September 12 start against the Giants – in which he allowed four runs in one inning – he complained of fatigue in his left shoulder and was shut down for the rest of the season. Ryu finished with a 3.38 ERA and a 139/29 K/BB ratio over 152 innings. When he’s healthy, Ryu ranks among the game’s better starters – perhaps just a bit shy of being referred to as “elite”.
Mattingly has said the club will be careful with Ryu. Shoulder injuries are always scary, so it’s tough to blame them. If Ryu needs to go on the disabled list, Joe Wieland, Juan Nicasio, and Erik Bedard are candidates to join the starting rotation, with Wieland being the favorite as he has allowed just one run on seven hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in nine innings this spring. Nicasio and Bedard’s results pale in comparison. Wieland has had poor results in 39 career major league innings, but the Dodgers would hope they would only need him for one or two April starts before getting Ryu back.
Brandon Finnegan Sent Down to Double-A
Lefty Brandon Finnegan played an important role in the bullpen for the Royals down the stretch and in the playoffs last season despite being only 21 years old and freshly taken in the first round (17th overall) in the 2014 draft. A tough spring, recently made worse when he served up a walk-off home run to Courtney Hawkins, has resulted in a demotion to Double-A where he’ll be stretched out as a starter, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports. All told this spring, Finnegan allowed seven runs (six earned) on nine hits and four walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Finnegan will be held to a strict pitch count at the start of the season. He racked up a lot of playing time, playing in the College World Series before joining the Royals, logging 27 innings in the minors, seven in the majors, and six in the playoffs.
The move, if it goes as expected, will help Finnegan’s value. His fastball-slider-change repertoire should serve well in a starter’s role. He showed a decent ability to miss bats along with good control, his five postseason walks aside. If Finnegan transitions well, the Royals likely won’t hesitate in moving him along to Triple-A and then the major leagues as needed.
Rockies Release Jhoulys Chacin
The Rockies made a surprising move on Sunday, releasing starter Jhoulys Chacin. As Chacin and the Rockies agreed to a $5.5 million salary to avoid an arbitration hearing, and arbitration contracts are not guaranteed, the club is only on the hook for 45 days’ pay, or $1,359,890 as Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out. Chacin would have slotted behind Jorge De La Rosa and Opening Day starter Kyle Kendrick in the starting rotation.
Chacin, however, missed a large chunk of the 2014 season due to inflammation in his right shoulder. He made only 11 starts, posting a 5.40 ERA with a 42/28 K/BB ratio in 63 1/3 innings. The 27-year-old continued to struggle this spring, allowing seven runs on 16 hits and four walks while striking out five in 9 2/3 innings. Reports indicated that he showed diminished velocity.
Chacin was quite productive in 2013, finishing with a 3.47 ERA and a 126/61 K/BB ratio in 197 1/3 innings. He posted similar results in 2011 before battling shoulder problems in 2012 as well. Because of his age and potential when healthy, he’ll likely draw interest from a handful of teams. The Dodgers, Rangers, and Phillies are among the teams that might show interest.
Mets to Start Bartolo Colon on Opening Day
Bartolo Colon, not Matt Harvey or Jacob DeGrom, will have the honor of starting on Opening Day, according to ESPN’s Adam Rubin. Colon will toe the rubber on April 6 to kick off the season against the Washington Nationals, likely against Max Scherzer. Rubin adds that DeGrom will start the Mets’ home opener on April 13 against the Phillies.
Colon, who turns 42 in May, posted a 4.09 ERA with a 151/30 K/BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings for the Mets last season, the first year of a two-year, $20 million contract. He set a career-best, averaging more than five strikeouts for every one walk. In fact, his last three seasons have seen his best strikeout-to-walk ratios.
It is a bit surprising that Matt Harvey, returning from Tommy John surgery, didn’t get either honor. Harvey broke out with a 2.27 ERA and a 191/31 K/BB ratio in 178 1/3 innings in 2013, resulting in a fourth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting. He is easily the Mets’ most popular player now and their most talented pitcher.
The decision does make some business sense, though. The Mets will likely sell out their home opener just on the novelty, so Harvey would help bring fans to the gate for home game number two.