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2021 Closer Situations: Team Analysis
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Arizona Diamondbacks
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Total Saves: 22
Closer: Committee
(9/29) Arizona opened 2021 with Stefan Crichton in the closer role, who earned four saves in three months before the team designated him for assignment in late-June due to poor performance. Joakim Soria assumed closing duties in July and earned six saves during the month before the the Diamondbacks capitalized on his pending free-agency and traded him to Toronto. Out of the relievers that remain, Clippard has the most experience with 74 career saves and he has logged five in eight chances since the Soria trade. Ramirez and Wendelken have also earned saves in September, so this role should be fluid for the rest of the season. Just keep in mind save chances will be hard to come by, as the Diamondbacks have one of the worst records in the majors.
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Atlanta Braves
Team: Atlanta Braves
Total Saves: 40
Closer: Will Smith
(9/29) Smith has been the Braves' primary ninth-inning option this season with 36 saves in 42 chances. Although the southpaw has struggled recently with five walks over his last two appearances, only two other Braves relievers have earned a save this season (Martin, Sean Newcomb). The Braves added another high-leverage arm at the trade deadline in Rodriguez, who recorded 14 saves in 17 chances with the Pirates, but he has allowed five home runs in September after permitting just three long balls through the first five months of the season. If Smith is unavailable, manager Brian Snitker may ultimately turn to Jackson, who ranks second in the majors with 30 holds. Jackson also has experience in the role after earning 18 saves for Atlanta in 2019.
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Baltimore Orioles
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Total Saves: 26
Closer: Committee
(9/29) Manager Brandon Hyde set expectations prior to the 2021 season that the Orioles would be on a closer-by-committee basis, but Cesar Valdez logged eight of Baltimore's first 11 saves before he was designated for assignment. Since then, Sulser has received the majority of opportunities with eight saves in 11 chances, but Hyde's ninth inning usage has been fluid with Tate, Tyler Wells, Tanner Scott and Paul Fry also getting opportunities. Wells is a rookie reliever and Rule 5 draft pick with promising ratios who is now done for the season with right shoulder inflammation. He's someone to monitor for 2022. Unfortunately, Baltimore has one of the worst records in the majors and save opportunities have been very hard to come by.
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Boston Red Sox
Team: Boston Red Sox
Total Saves: 49
Closer: Committee
(9/29) Barnes struggled with consistency and command issues in 2020, but had a dominant first half this season with a 2.61 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 63:11 K:BB over 38 innings. The right-hander is 24-for-30 in save chances overall, but recently returned from the COVID-19 IL and struggled in August (13.50 ERA, 8.1 BB/9 and three home runs allowed over 6.2 innings) before testing positive for the virus. In his absence, five different Red Sox relievers have logged saves in September. Among them, Richards logged the club's most recent save on Sep. 19, while Robles has displayed the best form with a 0.00 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and 13:1 K:BB over 9.1 innings this month. Expect manager Alex Cora to continue employing a committee until Barnes shows he regain his form from earlier this season.
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Team Notes
  1. 10/11:Hansel Robles exited Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday due to a stomach illness after allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning. He should be considered day-to-day due to his illness. Assuming he tests negative for COVID-19, it wouldn't be surprising to see the right-hander available for Game 4 on Monday. It was the first earned run he's allowed since August 29.
  2. 10/5:Entering tonight's AL Wild Card game against the Yankees, Hansel Robles has not allowed an earned run in 15 consecutive outings. Both he and Adam Ottavino enter tonight's contest with two-days rest, while Garrett Richards and Garrett Whitlock have had one day of rest after both pitched on Sunday.
Chicago Cubs
Team: Chicago Cubs
Total Saves: 40
Closer: Rowan Wick
Next in Line: Codi Heuer , Adam Morgan
(9/29) Craig Kimbrel earned 23 saves for the Cubs before the team traded him to their crosstown rivals on Chicago's southside. With Ryan Tepera also joining the White Sox via trade and Andrew Chafin now in Oakland, this bullpen looks a lot different than it did in April. The Cubs varied usage in the ninth inning since the trade deadline was a sign they moved to a full committee, but Wick has been the club's preferred option in the closer role since late August. Wick has allowed seven earned runs over his last five appearances, so there's a possibility manager David Ross may turn to some other options to finish the season.
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Cincinnati Reds
Team: Cincinnati Reds
Total Saves: 41
(9/29) The Reds' closer role has been unsettled all season as manager David Bell employs fluid bullpen roles and has turned to 10 different relievers in the ninth inning. The current team leader in saves is Givens with eight, while Heath Hembree also has eight but is no longer with the Reds. Givens, who served as a setup man for the Rockies prior to his trade to Cincinnati, appears to be the current committee leader after logging four of the Reds' five saves in September. However, Sims was effective in the role earlier this season and Lorenzen logged seven saves for the Reds in 2019. Garrett has held left-handed hitters under the Mendoza Line since 2019 and could get the occasional save chance if the relievers ahead of him are unavailable.
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Cleveland Indians
Team: Cleveland Indians
Total Saves: 39
(9/29) Clase missed all of 2020 with an 80-game suspension after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance. However, the hard-throwing right-hander didn't miss a beat this spring, routinely hitting triple digits on the radar gun. Clase had established himself as the team's primary closer through mid-May, but Francona opted to go with James Karinchak in the ninth for a stretch of games, thus creating a closer committee that alternated back-and-forth until Clase emerged again in July. Clase has been Cleveland's primary closer ever since and is 24-for-29 in save chances with four wins and six holds overall, while Karinchak was demoted to the minors due to poor performance.
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Colorado Rockies
Team: Colorado Rockies
Total Saves: 33
(9/29) Bard opened 2021 as Colorado's primary closer and he converted 20 saves in 28 chances before late-August struggles led to a 10.24 ERA in the month and a subsequent demotion from the role. The Rockies have since turned to Estevez - who recently impressed with a 14-game scoreless streak - to work out of the ninth inning. He's logged seven of the Rockies' eight saves in September and has 10 overall this season.
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Chicago White Sox
Team: Chicago White Sox
Total Saves: 43
(9/29) Manager Tony La Russa already had a deep bullpen to work with prior to the trade deadline, but the surprising acquisition of Kimbrel alongside Hendriks makes this one of the most feared one-two punches in the entire league. Hendriks got off to a somewhat shaky start this season, serving up a home run in four of his first nine appearances, but he's 37-for-43 in save chances and his velocity (97.7 mph), strikeout rate (14.1 K/9) and pin-point control (0.9 BB/9) remain sharp. Kimbrel endured a rocky spring (12.15 ERA), but he's returned to form this season with 98 strikeouts through 58.2 innings. He was 23-for-25 in save chances with the Cubs before heading across town to the South side. Since joining the White Sox, Kimbrel has struggled to a 5.32 ERA with three blown saves, however he could still receive the occasional opportunity down the stretch as Chicago prepares for a playoff-berth.
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Detroit Tigers
Team: Detroit Tigers
Total Saves: 42
(9/29) A.J Hinch took over as manager of the Tigers in 2021, and with no surefire option, he opted for a closer-by-committee to start 2021. However, Soto - selected to his first All-Star Game this season - received the bulk of the save chances from July through mid-September before fracturing his finger. Soto will miss the remainder of the season, but leads Detroit with 18 saves. Meanwhile, Fulmer has earned 12 saves this season, Cisnero four, Bryan Garcia two and Funkhouser, Lange, Jimenez and Daniel Norris (now with Milwaukee) have one apiece. Expect Fulmer to close out the season in the chair.
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Houston Astros
Team: Houston Astros
Total Saves: 34
(9/29) As remarkable as Pressly has been this season, the need for bullpen reinforcements was evident and the Astros were one of the most active teams in acquiring high-leverage help at the trade deadline, adding Graveman, Garcia and Maton. Despite the additions, Pressly's stability in the role remains very high. He's earned 25 saves in 27 chances with a 2.32 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 80:12 K:BB over 62 dominant innings.
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Team Notes
  1. 9/29:Ryan Pressly is currently managing a knee issue and hasn't pitched since Saturday. Kendall Graveman was placed on the paternity list Tuesday. Look for Ryne Stanek or Yimi Garcia as the favorites to pitch in potential save opportunities for the next couple days if Pressley remains unavailable.
Kansas City Royals
Team: Kansas City Royals
Total Saves: 37
(9/29) Manager Mike Matheny has depth in his bullpen and employs a modern approach to ninth inning usage. Through late-September, eight different relievers have earned a save for the Royals - Barlow (16), Holland (8), Staumont (5), Zimmer (2), Wade Davis (2), Brentz (2), Richard Lovelady (1) and Jesse Hahn (1). Barlow is the current committee favorite, however, logging 10 of the Royals' 14 saves since August 1. He's the team's highest-leverage reliever by far with a 2.49 ERA, 11.1 K/9 and 0.5 HR/9. Expect Barlow to continue receiving a favorable share of the Royals' save opportunities down the stretch.
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Los Angeles Angels
Team: Los Angeles Angels
Total Saves: 39
(9/29) Manager Joe Maddon has always been one to toy around with lineups and rotations, but he hasn't had to worry about mixing and matching in the ninth inning. Iglesias is 33-for-38 in save chances this season with a 2.69 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 67 dominant innings. He's earned the "proven closer" label and his job stability remains very high in Anaheim after being the topic of trade rumors before the deadline.
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Los Angeles Dodgers
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Total Saves: 56
(9/29) The closer role in Los Angeles has been worth monitoring a few times this season as Jansen struggled with walks early on (13.3%), then hit a rough patch coming out of the All-Star break. Jansen has been much better since August 1 (1.37 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) and has been phenomenal for much of the season going 36-for-41 in save chances. Just keep in mind manager Dave Roberts has quality options to turn to if Jansen's hiccups return. Treinen, in particular, leads MLB with 32 holds and has vultured seven saves this season. He's been dominant since July 1 with a 1.13 ERA and 0.81 WHIP over 39.2 innings.
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Team Notes
  1. 10/14:Corey Knebel will serve as the opener for Thursday's NLDS Game 5 matchup against the Giants. Knebel filled the opener role four times during the regular season, allowing one run in a combined 5.2 innings of work. Julio Urias is expected to follow him in bulk relief.
  2. 10/6:The Dodgers' highest-leverage relievers are well rested, as Jansen, Treinen and Vesia enter Wednesday's NL Wild Card game against the Cardinals on 4 days rest.
Miami Marlins
Team: Miami Marlins
Total Saves: 33
Closer: Dylan Floro
(9/29) Manager of the Year Don Mattingly opened the season with Anthony Bass as his closer, but he blew both of his save chances and was removed from the closer role by April 10. Mattingly gave Yimi Garcia the next opportunity and the right-hander earned 15 saves in 18 chances before he was traded to Houston before the trade deadline. Bender certainly has the stuff to close with 97 mph heat on his fastball while ranking in the 81st percentile in whiff rate, but Floro has logged 10 of Miami's 12 saves since the trade (Bender has the other two). Floro came over in a trade from the Dodgers in February and he was solid in a setup role for the Marlins before landing the closer chair. He's a low-whiff (21.9%), high-groundball (49.4%) option with a 2.95 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 61 innings.
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Milwaukee Brewers
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Total Saves: 44
Closer: Josh Hader
(9/29) Manager Craig Counsel confirmed late in spring training that Hader would serve as a traditional closer this season. He's been incredible in 2021, striking out 44.2% of the batters he's faced while converting 34 of his 35 save chances. Hader has only allowed eight earned runs through 56.2 innings (1.27 ERA) and he remains the anchor of the first-place Brewers' bullpen. Hader tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 2 and was sidelined for 10 days, which allowed Williams, Boxberger and Suter the chance to close. All three earned saves in Hader's absence, with "The Airbender" logging the first of his career on August 4.
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Minnesota Twins
Team: Minnesota Twins
Total Saves: 42
Closer: Alex Colome
(9/29) The Twins bolstered their bullpen this offesason by signing a veteran closer, but Colome struggled mightily in the role this April, converting only 2-of-5 opportunities while taking three losses. Manager Rocco Baldelli demoted him to a lower leverage role in late-April and turned to Rogers and Hansel Robles to share the ninth-inning duties. Rogers earned nine saves prior to suffering a finger sprain that has forced him to miss the remainder of the season, while Robles logged 10 saves for the Twins before he was traded to the Red Sox. Of the relievers left standing, Colome has been in much better form with a 3.28 ERA and 15 saves since August 1. He should be the Twins closer the rest of the way.
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New York Mets
Team: New York Mets
Total Saves: 41
Closer: Edwin Diaz
Next in Line: Trevor May , Seth Lugo
(9/29) Diaz rebounded from a skills perspective last season and opened 2021 with possession of the job. He's 31-for-37 in save chances this year with a 3.50 ERA and 12.7 K/9 through 61.2 innings. Diaz blew three consecutive save opportunities in mid-July, but Mets manager Luis Rojas gave him a vote of confidence and he has rebounded since the All-Star break. If Diaz is unavailable, May is near the top of the next-in-line candidates for saves and he has already logged four this year.
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New York Yankees
Team: New York Yankees
Total Saves: 47
(9/29) Chapman got off to an incredible start this season, but endured a rough patch in June with several blowups and three blown saves. The All-Star break came at the perfect time, however, as he found his dominant form again with 10 scoreless outings over 11 appearances before taking a trip to the 10-day IL with left elbow inflammation. Since his return, Chapman is sporting a 3.07 ERA and 1.30 WHIP with a 25:9 K:BB over 14.2 innings. The veteran reliever still has an elite 15.4 K/9 and five wins in addition to his 30 saves, but he's struggled with consistency after dominating over the first two-and-a-half months of the season.
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Team Notes
  1. 10/5:Entering tonight's AL Wild Card game, Aroldis Chapman has a career 6.43 ERA and 2.07 WHIP in 14 innings at Fenway Park. However, he logged a 2.70 ERA against Boston this season with a 8:4 K:BB in 6.2 innings, albeit with two home runs allowed.
  2. 9/29:Jonathan Loaisiga (shoulder) will likely be activated Wednesday.
Oakland Athletics
Team: Oakland Athletics
Total Saves: 39
Next in Line: Lou Trivino , Sergio Romo
(9/29): After signing a one-year, $11 million deal in February, Trevor Rosenthal was expected to step in as the Athletics' ninth-inning man, but those plans were foiled when he was underwent surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, then subsequently underwent season-ending hip surgery. Early in the season, manager Bob Melvin had been employing a closer committee between Trivino and Diekman based on matchups, but Trivino received the lion's share of opportunities from June through August. Trivino then hit a two-week rough patch during which he allowed 13 earned runs in 3.2 innings, thus ceding the closer role to both Romo and Chafin. However, Chafin is currently in much better form (1.54 ERA in September) than Romo (12.46 ERA in September) and appears to have assumed the closer chair due to his recent performance alone.
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Philadelphia Phillies
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Total Saves: 36
Closer: Ian Kennedy
(9/29) While the Phillies overhauled nearly the entirety of the high-leverage portion of its bullpen this offseason, Neris remained the Phillies' primary closer to open 2021. He is 12-for-19 in save opportunities overall, but blew four saves at the end of June, leading manager Joe Girardi to make a change to Ranger Suarez, who earned four saves in July before shifting to the starting rotation. Neris has performed much better since his demotion from the closer role, however, the Phillies acquired Ian Kennedy via trade and he has received the majority of opportunities for his new club. Kennedy excelled as the Rangers' closer prior to his arrival in Philadelphia, logging 16 saves in 17 chances. He has struggled to a 4.50 ERA with seven home runs allowed since joining the Phillies, but the team has stuck with him in the closer role and he's likely to finish out the season in the chair.
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Pittsburgh Pirates
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Total Saves: 25
Next in Line: David Bednar , Chad Kuhl
(9/29) For a team with little stability and clearly in rebuilding mode, the Pirates had a relatively clear-cut closer situation prior to the trade deadline. Richard Rodriguez secured 14 saves for Pittsburgh before the team traded him to Atlanta. Now that he's no longer with the team, the closer role has alternated between Bednar and Stratton, although Bednar recently experienced right side discomfort which required a trip to the injured list. Stratton served as Pittsburgh's primary closer in Bednar's absence, but Bednar is back with the club to close out the season. Bednar had been dominant prior to his injury, logging a 0.54 ERA, 0.48 WHIP and 23:2 K:BB over 16.1 innings with three saves since August 1.
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San Diego Padres
Team: San Diego Padres
Total Saves: 43
(9/29) Melancon may not be the dominant force he was at his peak, but he still has been mostly effective keeping runs off the board (2.26 ERA) while racking up league-leading 38 saves. He has a tight grasp on the Padres' closer role and will continue to see the vast majority of save opportunities over the final week. Should Melancon be unavailable, Hudson would likely fill in with Pagan struggling in September (11.74 ERA and four home runs allowed).
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Seattle Mariners
Team: Seattle Mariners
Total Saves: 51
Closer: Committee
(9/29) Manager Scott Servais has employed a closer committee this season with eight different relievers recording saves thus far. Three relievers out of the eight have logged double-digit saves, including Steckenrider (12), Sewald (11) and Kendall Graveman, who logged 10 before Seattle shipped him to Houston before the trade deadline. Expect this closer committee to continue between Steckenrider, Sewald and Castillo for the remainder of the season.
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San Francisco Giants
Team: San Francisco Giants
Total Saves: 56
Next in Line: Jake McGee , Tyler Rogers
(9/29) McGee did not allow an earned run from May 31 through August 7, a span of 24.2 innings. His dominant form allowed him to lock down 31 of his 36 save opportunities before hitting the IL in mid-September with an oblique strain. In his absence, manager Gabe Kapler will likely employ a committee between Rogers, Leone and Doval, the latter of which earned his first-career save on September 28.
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Team Notes
  1. 10/4:The Giants bullpen gets a much-needed break after winning the NL West. Camilo Doval, in particular, pitched 4 times in 5 days during the final week.
  2. 10/1:Doval, Rogers and Leone have worked 2 out of the past 3 games, with Rogers throwing 47 pitches over that span. Strong possibility Rogers gets the night off against San Diego.
  3. 9/30:Doval earned his 2nd big-league save on Wednesday and may be the new closer in San Francisco.
  4. 9/29:The plans for Jake McGee (oblique) beyond Wednesday aren't entirely clear, but so long as he gets through mound work without any setbacks, a return to the Giants' bullpen for the final regular-season series against the Padres might not be out of the question.
St. Louis Cardinals
Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Total Saves: 50
(9/29): Reyes was originally designated to be a long reliever this season with future plans to end up in the rotation, but served as the Cardinals' primary closer for five months before blowing three saves in five chances in late-August. His struggles forced manager Mike Shildt to make a switch to Gallegos, who has always displayed the upside of a traditional closer, but was typically reserved for the highest-leverage situations rather than the ninth inning. Gallegos has earned 11 saves in September and is poised to remain the Cardinals' closer through the end of the year. Meanwhile, Reyes will transition to a multi-inning relief role with an eye on building him up for a spot in the starting rotation in 2022.
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Team Notes
  1. 10/6:The Cardinals' highest-leverage relievers are well rested, as Gallegos, Cabrera and Reyes enter Wednesday's NL Wild Card game against the Dodgers on 4 days rest, while Garcia is on 3 days rest.
  2. 10/1:Garcia earned his 2nd save of the season Thursday night as the Cardinals give Gallegos some much deserved rest before the playoffs. Gallegos has logged a new career-high 79.1 innings this season.
Tampa Bay Rays
Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Total Saves: 42
Closer: Committee
(9/29) The Rays' progressive approach means their bullpen is typically among the most difficult to parse, but Tampa Bay was decimated with injuries earlier this season which forced manager Kevin Cash to employ a more traditional path with Diego Castillo primarily manning the ninth inning. Castillo saved 14 games for the Rays before the team surprisingly traded him to Seattle before the deadline. The closer role has been a committee ever since, with a total of 14 different relievers earning a save for the Rays this season. Kittredge had been the committee leader prior to hitting the IL with neck tightness, but he recently returned to the club. Anderson earned the Rays' most recent save on September 26, but he subsequently hit the 10-day IL. Kittredge, McHugh, Robertson Fairbanks and Chargois remain in the mix for saves over the final week.
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Team Notes
  1. 10/11:Collin McHugh will serve as the Rays' opening pitcher Monday against the Red Sox as part of a bullpen day in Game 4 of the ALDS, Manager Kevin Cash hasn't appointed a primary pitcher to work behind McHugh, as the Rays will instead likely turn to a cadre of arms to fill innings out of the bullpen. Josh Fleming, JT Chargois, Pete Fairbanks, J.P. Feyereisen, Andrew Kittredge and Matt Wisler tossed 20 pitches or fewer in Sunday's 13-inning loss, so the Tampa Bay bullpen should be relatively fresh for Monday's contest.
Texas Rangers
Team: Texas Rangers
Total Saves: 31
Closer: Joe Barlow
(9/29): Jose Leclerc was expected to be in the driver's seat for closing duties, but he suffered a UCL sprain in camp that later required Tommy John surgery, taking him out of the mix for the Rangers until at least the second half of the 2022 season. Jonathan Hernadez (elbow) was effective in 2020, but also underwent Tommy John surgery in April. With Hernandez and Leclerc dealing with long-term injuries, Ian Kennedy quickly emerged as the Rangers' closer, converting 16 saves in 17 chances before he was traded to the Phillies in late-July. In Kennedy's absence, Patton received the first chance in the role, but was ineffective blowing two of his three chances. Barlow was next-man-up after recording seven saves for Triple-A Round Rock earlier this season. He earned two saves before hitting the 10-day IL with a blister, but stepped right back into the role again upon his return. The 25-year-old right-hander has 10 saves in 11 chances overall and should close out the rest of the season in the closer role.
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Toronto Blue Jays
Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Total Saves: 34
Next in Line: Tim Mayza , Adam Cimber
(9/29) The offseason addition of Kirby Yates was expected to clarify the closer role, but he sustained a flexor strain late in spring training that required season-ending Tommy John surgery in late-March. Merryweather earned a couple saves in April, but suffered an oblique injury that sidelined him until mid-September. More injuries and overall ineffectiveness forced manager Charlie Montoyo to turn to Romano, his highest-leveraged reliever, to maintain leads in the ninth inning. Toronto also acquired Cimber, Soria and Brad Hand to shore up the late innings, but Hand has since been designated for assignment. Romano has been a steady presence in the closer role since late-May and will continue getting save chances as the Blue Jays push for an AL Wild Card spot in the playoffs.
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Washington Nationals
Team: Washington Nationals
Total Saves: 36
(9/29) Brad Hand went 21-for-26 in save chances for Washington before being traded to Toronto on July 29, while setup man Daniel Hudson was also traded to San Diego. After the departures of Hand and Hudson, manager Dave Martinez indicated he intended to use both Finnegan and Tanner Rainey in the ninth inning. Rainey was recently recalled from the minors and has been in excellent form with a 1.93 ERA and two saves in five appearances as he auditions for the closer role for 2022. Finnegan has a 6.23 ERA with three home runs allowed in September and has ceded the Nationals' most-recent save chances to Rainey.
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Team Notes
  1. 9/23:Tanner Rainey earned the save for the Nationals last night and has worked 3 out of the last 4 games. Expect Kyle Finnegan, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 19, to get the save chance if one presents itself against the Cardinals tonight.