Baltimore Orioles closer Chris Ray (elbow) was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, July 25, with inflammation in his right elbow. The team has recalled relief pitcher Cory Doyne from Triple-A Norfolk to replace him on the roster.
Ray underwent an MRI Monday, July 23, that revealed a bone spur in his elbow that had been causing the inflammation. He made 25 throws in the outfield early Wednesday and reported feeling better; however, the team decided not to take any chances with their 25-year-old closer. Ray will begin a three-week rehab program, and although surgery remains an option, the team is hoping to avoid it.
In 43 games this year, Ray had gone 5-6 with a 4.43 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, 16 saves and 44 strikeouts. He last pitched for the Orioles Friday, July 20, giving up one hit and one walk in one inning. With the team seemingly out of contention this year, it was a no-brainer for the team to be cautious with the future of their bullpen. It is likely the team will take time in getting Ray back to health, as they do not want to jeopardize his future.
Doyne was called up to replace him on the roster, but he will not likely get a chance right off the bat to close. While with Norfolk this year, Doyne has gone 0-1 while posting a 2.23 ERA. He leads the International League with 29 saves and is holding opponents to a .152 batting average. He also has one appearance with the Orioles this year; he walked one batter in just one-third of an inning.
Instead, Orioles manager Dave Trembley reportedly will take the dreaded closer-by-committee approach. Relief pitchers Danys Baez, Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker may all get a chance to close, depending on matchups. One of these pitchers could have fantasy value, although it may not immediately certain which one that is.
Baez, who was signed in the offseason to provide some stability for the bullpen, has posted a 0-5 record with a 6.06 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Despite this numbers, he is tied for eighth in the American League in holds with 13. He does have experience as a closer from his time with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In two seasons (2004-05), he compiled 71 saves in 129 appearances. However, he has struggled this year and might not be worth picking up because of his high ERA and WHIP.
Bradford was also brought in during the offseason and has gone 0-4 with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. He has nine saves in 445 career appearances, and he has limited right-handed hitters to a .229 batting average. Left-handers have hit .341 against him, though.
Walker was signed in the offseason to work as a left-handed specialist. He has made 51 appearances for the team, going 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He also has two saves this season, both coming in the last few days with Ray out. Take note that in both of his save situations, five of the seven batters that Walker faced were left-handed. However, Walker has been effective against hitters from both the left (.242 batting average against) and right (.235). He might have Trembley's trust after earning two saves already.
It might take a little time for this situation to sort itself out, and don't discount Baez, as he already has experience closing games. However, fantasy owners will probably want to grab Walker for now. He has been arguably the best relief pitcher for the Orioles this season and appears to be the best bet to close games for the Orioles. He is available in around 98 percent of leagues polled.
If you aren't enamored by any options the Orioles
have, there are some speculatory options out there. Baseball's non-waiver trade
deadline is Monday, July 31, and some deals could lead to open spots for other
relievers. One option to consider is Kansas City Royals
relief pitcher Joakim Soria. This is contingent
on the Royals trading current closer Octavio
Dotel. Soria could be the future closer for the Royals. In 38 games this
year, he has a 1-3 record with a 2.34 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 10 saves. He also
has 51 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. He served as closer for the majority of
the time that Dotel was on the disabled list earlier this year, and he was obviously
effective. Soria is available in around 44 percent of leagues polled.
Another situation to keep an eye on would be with the Washington Nationals. They have been actively shopping closer Chad Cordero, and if he is moved, that would open up a spot for relief pitcher Jon Rauch to step into the closer's job. Rauch already has some experience closing, as he covered for Cordero earlier this year. In 53 games this season, Rauch has gone 5-2 with a 3.76 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and three saves. He also has 44 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings. Just as with Soria, Rauch is not closing yet but is someone to pick up as the trade deadline approaches. He is available in around 98 percent of leagues polled.
With the team hoping Ray will still return this season, keep him on your roster. Only if they do decide on surgery should dropping him be considered. In the meantime, keep an eye on KFFL for any updates on his condition.