Brian Fuentes on pace to shatter record for relief losses

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Somewhat obscured by Brian Fuentes ripping his manager after last night’s game is that the whole thing transpired because he was stripped of closing duties and then took his seventh loss of the season while pitching in a non-save situation.

Fuentes is now 1-7 with a 5.06 ERA through the A’s first 48 games, which puts him on pace to lose 23 or 24 times this season. Suffice it to say that would be an all-time record for a reliever. By a lot.

Here’s the current single-season relief losses leaderboard:

Gene Garber        1979     16
Mike Marshall      1975     14
Mike Marshall      1979     14
Darold Knowles     1970     14
John Hiller        1974     14

It’s no coincidence that every season listed above is from the 1970s, when relievers often logged 100-plus innings and racked up far more decisions because bullpen management didn’t revolve around the save stat. Gene Garber threw 106 innings with a 4.33 ERA in his 16-loss season, getting the save or a decision in 47 of his 68 appearances.

At first glance you might see that list and conclude that Mike Marshall must have been a terrible reliever, but that’s far from the truth. In fact, he was one of the best relievers of his era and probably the most durable reliever in baseball history. In the two seasons listed above in which he lost 14 games as a reliever Marshall logged 109 and 143 innings. And he had ERAs of 2.65 and 3.29 while winning 19 games.

Fuentes has little chance of breaking Garber’s record by losing 17 times, let alone 23 or 24 defeats, but he’s off to a helluva start.

Royals sign Justin Grimm to a one-year, $1.25 million deal

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The Royals signed free agent reliever Justin Grimm to a one-year, $12.5 million deal, the club announced Sunday. Grimm can earn up to $300,000 in additional incentives, the specifics of which have yet to be disclosed.

The 29-year-old right-hander was released by the Cubs on Thursday. Prior to his release, he was slated to make $2.2 million after losing his arbitration case against the team. Grimm polished off a five-year campaign with the Cubs in 2017 and produced an unimpressive 5.53 ERA, 4.4 BB/9 and 9.6 SO/9 over 55 1/3 innings.

In a corresponding move, right-hander Sam Gaviglio was designated for assignment. He pitched in five games for the Royals this spring, racking up 13 hits, eight runs and seven strikeouts in seven innings.