As if closers weren't having a tough enough go of it in the early going this year, two more bombshells dropped on Friday. We'll start with the first one, which probably wasn't all that surprising if you've been following closely.
Melancon to the rescue
Angels skipper Mike Scioscia demoted Ernesto Frieri from the ninth-inning role in favor of Joe Smith. For now, Frieri will pitch in low-leverage situations with the idea of him getting the job back when he's earned it.
“We want to get Ernie off of that treadmill and let him get an inning or two where he can try to make some adjustments,” Scioscia said. “Historically, Ernie has responded well to this. We need him, and I think this is the best route to take to get to the final solution we want.”
First of all, run out and add Smith immediately everywhere, if you need closer help. Frieri owners shouldn't be too discouraged, though, since he responded well to a similar demotion last season. Definitely don't drop him. Scioscia fully intends to restore him when he's right.
What's wrong? Well, the numbers aren't pretty; he's 0-2 with a 9.35 ERA with two blown saves and has allowed five long balls in 10 outings. He's always been prone to the long ball in his career, and that problem has been magnified by the fact that he's not hitting his spots with his fastball.
Scioscia thinks it's a release-point issue. The silver lining is that Frieri is throwing his slider - a pitch he's started using more since this spring - for quality strikes. He doesn't appear to be having any mechanical issues, either, because he hasn't lost any velocity. It might be a good time to buy low.
In Pittsburgh, 37-year-old closer Jason Grilli finds himself on the DL due to a strained left oblique. The club hasn't disclosed their plans to fill the ninth inning in his absence, but all signs point to Mark Melancon being that guy.
Melancon admirably filled in for Grilli last year when he was sidelined, posting 16 saves. He has prior closing experience, too, making him the obvious candidate. Melancon is a must-own in all formats.
Grilli's DL stint will be backdated to Monday. There should be no question that he'll get the gig back when he's healthy, but that could easily be longer than the two-week DL window. Oblique injuries can't be taken lightly for a hurler, especially one near the end of his career.
April has been rough on closers all around the league. If you've been frantically chasing saves in the season's first month, you aren't alone. But it should open your eyes to the fact that you shouldn't overspend on saves as the season progresses. There will continue to be cheap avenues to the category, whether it be on the waiver wire or through trades.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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