Ryan Madson has been one of the best, most underrated relievers in baseball since moving to the bullpen full time in 2007, but because he didn’t thrive in a few brief opportunities to close games in previous seasons the Phillies have avoided giving him another chance as closer.
Philadelphia wasted no time choosing Jose Contreras as the new closer when Brad Lidge was placed on the disabled list in late March with a shoulder injury, but now that Contreras has joined him on the DL with a bum elbow manager Charlie Manuel and company have little choice but to reluctantly hand ninth-inning duties to Madson.
I’m hoping he thrives as a fill-in closer, not because I have any sort of allegiance to the Phillies but because it would help quiet the notion that the ninth inning is some sort of mythical inning where only a special breed of pitcher can record three outs with a lead of 1-3 runs. Madson is an excellent reliever with a lengthy track record of success in the seventh and eighth innings, and if given an extended opportunity to sink or swim in the ninth inning he can thrive there as well.
The only question is whether the Phillies will stick with Madson if he blows an early save or two, because anything but absolute success in the role will lead to fans and media members banging the “he’s just not a closer” drum. And unfortunately Madson isn’t fully healthy either, with Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reporting that he “has been battling some arm soreness” and “required days off on Thursday and Sunday.”
All bets are off if Madson is at less than 100 percent, but if he’s healthy the Lidge and Contreras injuries may not be such horrible things if they ultimately force the Phillies to do something they should have done a while ago and give Madson an extended tryout as closer.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.