Baltimore’s surprising closer has been overshadowed by Tampa Bay’s surprising closer, but Jim Johnson notched his 51st save Tuesday in the 1-0 win over the Rays.
That moves Johnson into a tie for ninth place on the all-time single-season saves list with Dennis Eckersley (1992) and Rod Beck (1998). He’s the first closer to save 50 games since the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez broke the major league record with 62 in 2008.
Of course, Johnson does things a bit differently than most closers. He has just 41 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings this season. The 11 other pitchers with 50-save seasons had strikeout totals ranging from 66 (Mariano Rivera, 2004) to 137 (Eric Gagne, 2003).
With 51 saves and 41 strikeouts, Johnson will be the 13th pitcher ever to finish with 30 saves and at least as many saves as strikeouts. Todd Jones did it in back-to-back years in 2006-07 (and had 18 saves and 14 strikeouts in 2008). Danny Kolb is the only closer to have a more extreme split than Johnson here; he had 39 saves and 21 strikeouts for the Brewers in 2004.
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.