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Don Mattingly is feeling the frustration, the pressure or both that are mounting at the same rate at which his Los Angeles Dodgers lose. His Wednesday benching of Andre Ethier and related comments could easily have been (and were) interpreted in a number of ways.
It may be a positive sign (for the sake of predictability) that the organization backed the skipper, publicly, following that display. Mattingly could've handled that scenario differently to improve the move's possible benefits, especially those to Ethier, along with the player's likelihood of realizing them, but what's done is done.
Jansen up next?
It's clear that the manager has received support to shake up things a bit, to set egos aside and to make decisions that he believes are best for the team. It endorses the notion that Mattingly isn't cracking (we'll never know until this all plays out), but it seems less likely that he's acting on impulse.
Mattingly's last words regarding his closer, in response to an inquiry on Tuesday about who that is, were, "I don't know." He clarified: "We'll see."
Considering the performances of League and Jansen, it's clear that whoever inspires confidence from his manager in the short term will be increasing his chances of appearing in late-game save situations in the long term. This is assuming that Mattingly foresees that late-game save situation being, possibly, the hairiest situation his bullpen will face that evening.
The titles don't matter much right now, but the skipper eventually wants his relievers assigned to specific roles. Fantasy owners already know that both League and Jansen should be owned. Rodriguez could be too, in NL-only leagues at least. Either of the top two options could turn it around right away. If one of them doesn't, he'll lose ground, perhaps quickly, and it'll probably take some time to gain it back.
Rodney pitched 1 2/3 innings on Tuesday night, giving up one run, to pick up his second save in a row and bailing out the Tampa Bay Rays from a pretty tense one, egged on by a defensive mistake or two, against the Toronto Blue Jays. The closer gained cred in the wake of his recent struggles.
Then, in the ninth on Wednesday afternoon against the Jays, the right-hander blew a one-run lead by serving up a one-out solo jack. What disturbed Joe Maddon more, perhaps, was the walk Rodney issued immediately afterward, because the skipper pulled his closer and put in Peralta, who ended the frame. Alas, the Rays lost in 10.
Ordinarily, when a manager pulls his backend man for a sub and it's not mostly because of the number of pitches the reliever has thrown until that point, it's not a good sign for his job security. Rodney needed only 22 pitches to record five outs on Tuesday. On Friday, Maddon reiterated that the righty is still his closer, and there wasn't even a discussion about it.
Maddon isn't like most other managers, and he's adamantly supported Rodney so far. Perhaps he second-guesses his decision to use Rodney in the day game following an evening tilt. Perhaps he did so following that fateful free pass and wanted to preserve a fighting chance at victory.
Perhaps he's just wrong about Rodney. Tampa Bay can attempt to address only so many things for the righty before they lose faith in a turnaround and can't justify the hopeful benefits of it because of the harmful results.
Rodney's performances in previous years are similar on the surface, but he arrived at some of them in different manners. Still, crappy is crappy. In the end, if the Rays don't rediscover that magic formula (how much video have they examined, anyway?) and say so -- with prolonged competence from Rodney backing it up -- it's hard to see this turning out in the 2012 record-setter's favor. Peralta ownership should be very high until then.
Rafael Betancourt tweaked his groin on Tuesday and had to exit the Colorado Rockies' affair with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Alarm bells sounded, but the club doesn't appear to be concerned. The closer received anti-inflammatory medicine and is expected to be available this weekend.
Walt Weiss stated that he wasn't sure what he'd do on Wednesday, with Betancourt unavailable, and thus it's fair to wonder what he'd do if Betancourt were to need a DL stint. A pretty good indication: Rex Brothers closed door on Wednesday without incident. Weiss could ponder other options, but his previous comments suggest a preference for simplicity and reduced ambiguity. The way Brothers has pitched, he'd likely accomplish that.
Rafael Soriano registered his third blown save, his second consecutive one, on Tuesday night at the San Francisco Giants. As you probably heard, the Washington Nationals' closer wasn't pleased with ... something. Bryce Harper's effort (following his recent face-plant into an outfield wall)? His positioning (determined by the staff)? Soriano explained himself by explaining that his comments were supposed to be off the record and in jest.
Davey Johnson reportedly chatted with his closer, who later pulled the organization's face aside. Problem solved. This isn't a big deal, by any means -- as long as that's the end of it. There's a line in the sand, and the way to cross it is to displace accountability and question teammates. Soriano, after all, grooved one that was ripped into the gap.
The closer bounced back on Wednesday with a clean inning and a save. If Soriano were to let selfishness get the better of him, Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard would jump in value, but that seems extremely unlikely.
Ryan Madson (recovery from Tommy John surgery) isn't timing his setbacks very well. He had another, the latest one coming without much of a timetable. Will he factor into the saves race before the All-Star break, at this point?
Ernesto Frieri struggled in a save situation on Thursday. He recorded two outs but yielded three hits, two runs and a walk with his 35 pitches. Mike Scioscia pulled him for recent call-up Robert Coello, who coaxed a fly-out and preserved a one-run win for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Frieri's job is pretty safe, in part because Madson is taking his sweet time. The Halos don't have an alternative, really, unless they mix and match. Coello may eventually emerge as a fallback plan, an occasional fill-in, if he keeps pitching as he has. He's bringing the forkball back, apparently.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.