Ron Gardenhire announced yesterday that the Twins will begin the season using a “closer-by-committee” approach with Joe Nathan out for the year following Tommy John elbow surgery:
We are a committee. Our closer role is a committee. We’re going to try just about anything. I’ve never had to do it. It’s going to be an experience trying to mix and match as best we can. But I’ve got some capable arms that we’re going to rely on.
I’ve seen committees work. It’s not always the easiest thing in the world, but you just have to ad lib. When you lose your closer, it’s a little different. That’s how we’re going to start, and we’ll go from there.
Aside from steroids there’s nothing the mainstream baseball media seems to freak out about more than a team without a so-called established closer, so expect plenty of hyperbolic, logic-be-damned reactions if the Twins blow a couple leads early in the season. In fact, expect some of those reactions right now.
However, the odds of Minnesota sticking with a committee approach all year are very slim. Gardenhire has made it clear that he wants to find one man for the job, so mixing and matching Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, and Jesse Crain early on will likely just be a way for him to determine the best fit for the role.
I’d be surprised if the committee approach lasts longer than six weeks and, assuming the Twins don’t trade for a veteran closer, would bet on Rauch leading the team in saves. In the meantime we’re bound to hear all about how monumentally insane the Twins supposedly are for treating the ninth inning just like the seventh and eighth inning, which says a lot about how wrapped up everyone is in a role built around the save statistic.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.