- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Whether we care to accept it or not, it sure looks like Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is going to entrust his team's closer role to right-hander Vicente Padilla, provided said right-hander comes off the disabled list Friday and can be somewhat effective. Padilla actually was pitching well before forearm soreness sidetracked him. He had allowed runs in two of his past three outings, but perhaps the soreness contributed. Before that, he had allowed just two baserunners, both walks, in his past four outings (totaling four innings).
Granted, Mattingly isn't blessed with many choices. Unproven right-hander Javy Guerra was blessed with the beleaguered team's last save opportunity, but that was more than a week ago. Matt Guerrier and Rubby De La Rosa hurled in the late innings of close games after that, with Guerrier losing and De La Rosa winning, but I think Padilla will vault each of them. Guerrier is more accustomed to setup duties, and De La Rosa has pitched multiple innings his past two times out, perhaps a harbinger of an eventual starting role. Guerra has done nothing wrong, but the fact that he followed up his save by being summoned in a tie game in the eighth inning -- before Guerrier -- leads me to believe that's the hierarchy. Mattingly has mentioned trusting one pitcher in the closing role, and I think it's Padilla.
Padilla's last outing kind of tainted his ERA and WHIP a bit, when he walked a pair of Arizona Diamondbacks and had to be rescued by right-hander Kenley Jansen for the one-out save. I think Jansen would be closing if he weren't on the DL himself because of shoulder woes. Look at the kid's strikeout rate! I'd roster Padilla in advance of his activation from the DL, and in deep leagues I'd try to keep Jansen around, because this could be his job long-term. As for Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo, well, Broxton probably lacks any sense of confidence right now, and Kuo lacks any sense of health. I'm giving up on them for 2011.
Here are six other closer situations to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:
Ryan Madson, Philadelphia Phillies: Madson is thriving with a 1.88 ERA, with just one rough outing this season, and the return of Jose Contreras didn't push manager Charlie Manuel into a closer change. I don't think the pending return of Brad Lidge will, either. Lidge was, once upon a time, an awesome setup man, with terrific strikeout rates. I think Madson keeps this job.
Aaron Crow, Kansas City Royals: As noted earlier this week, I do think the Royals want Joakim Soria back in the role eventually, and I compared this situation to what happened earlier this season with the Seattle Mariners and Brandon League, who currently leads the AL in saves. It was a really bad week for Soria. He'll fix this, so be careful about simply cutting him loose. Plus, Crow is a rookie, and his eventual role -- though not this year -- is likely in the rotation.
Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics: I'm guessing the next time the team gets a save chance, this former Rookie of the Year gets it, not lefty Brian Fuentes. Bailey has tossed a pair of perfect innings since coming off the DL because of a forearm issue, and there's little question who manager Bob Geren wants in the closer role, especially in light of some ill-advised quotes Fuentes has made of late. Invest in Bailey, who sports a career 1.70 ERA.
Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays: It sure took a while, but the hard-throwing right-hander is finally owned in close to 100 percent of leagues (98.6). I don't see the issue! Lefty J.P. Howell is not being used in high-leverage roles, and he's not pitching well anyway. Farnsworth has issued one walk this season. I just find it incredible what last year's Rays relievers are doing now (Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, etc.) while Farnsworth, Joel Peralta and others are keeping this team in the race. Amazing.
Jon Rauch, Toronto Blue Jays: It's possible this mess continues all season long, but knowing Frank Francisco's penchant for hitting the DL when he's not pitching well, I have to think Rauch will see more work in the ninth inning. He's no Mariano Rivera, but he's certainly performed better than Francisco this season. Jays manager John Farrell tends to mention every pitcher in his bullpen as a potential closer, but I think Rauch is the only Blue Jay on his way to 20 saves.
Matt Capps, Minnesota Twins: With Joe Nathan on the DL for a right flexor muscle strain, and with the Twins just about eliminated from contention already, I doubt Nathan gets save chances this season. Then again, Capps is dealing with a sore forearm and has pitched in just one game since May 23. There's nobody else in this bullpen with closer experience, so Capps seems safe, but doesn't seem healthy. Plus, he's trade bait. You don't have to invest in any Twins relievers other than Capps, and I'd be careful trusting him.
Eric Karabell examines seven bullpen situations, offering his thoughts on such players as Vicente Padilla, Kyle Farnsworth, Andrew Bailey and Jon Rauch.