Dusty Baker is one of many managers across baseball who utilizes his bullpen according to the save rule, which means that the closer doesn’t enter the game until his team has a lead between one and three runs in the ninth inning. In this afternoon’s game against the Pirates, the Reds entered the bottom of the 11th tied 4-4. Reliever Alfredo Simon entered for a third inning of work as flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman sat in the bullpen.
After Pirates catcher Russell Martin reached base on a throwing error by shortstop Zack Cozart, Simon walked Pedro Alvarez to put runners on first and second with one out. In fairness to Simon, he has been good since being claimed off waivers by the Reds from the Orioles in April last year, but he is no Chapman. Chapman strikes hitters out at nearly twice the rate and in a situation where you want to limit base-advancement (made easier on balls put in play), strikeouts are king. But Simon stayed out there, only to give up a two-out, walk-off RBI single to Travis Snider.
Three of the four highest-leverage situations in the game belonged to Simon — one in the tenth and two in the eleventh. It makes logical sense to use your best reliever in the game’s most important situations, but unfortunately, Baker sees his bullpen through the unfortunate prism of saves.
After the game, Baker had this to say:
Chapman has pitched once in the last six days.
The Red Sox are expecting to go to an arbitration hearing with left-handed reliever Fernando Abad, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski said there was a “decent chance” a hearing would be necessary after countering Abad’s $2.7 million request with $2 million.
Abad, 31, pitched just 12 2/3 innings for Boston after the club acquired him from Minnesota at the trade deadline last season. The lefty earned a cumulative 3.66 ERA, 4.2 BB/9 and 7.9 SO/9 for the two teams in 2016. He received $1.25 million in 2016 and will remain under club control (through arbitration) in 2017. A $2.7 million salary would be a hefty increase for the veteran reliever, who has seen a significant decline since he put up a 1.57 ERA for the Athletics in 2014 and who has not amassed more than 0.6 fWAR in any single season to date.
While the Red Sox aren’t close to settling with Abad, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports that they may be closing in on a settlement with left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz filed at $5.7 million, while the Sox felt more comfortable at $3.6 million. The two are expected to meet somewhere in the middle to avoid an arbitration hearing later this winter.
The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.
Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.
The team has yet to confirm the deal.