Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has already named a favorite for his team’s closer role: Jeanmar Gomez, as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “I believe he deserves to be called our closer at this point,” Mackanin said.
Gomez, 29, finished last season with 37 saves, a 4.85 ERA, and a 47/22 K/BB ratio in 68 2/3 innings. He was solid for the first four months of the season, but ran out of steam in August and September. Between August 1 and the end of the season, Gomez yielded 22 earned runs on 35 hits and 10 walks with 16 strikeouts in 20 innings.
The Phillies added veteran Joaquin Benoit, who posted a 0.38 ERA with the Blue Jays last year, and also have Hector Neris, who compiled a sterling 2.58 ERA over 80 1/3 innings in 2016. Strong spring performances from either could still move the needle.
“I remember back in 2009, my first year as a coach here, when [Brad Lidge] blew a lot of saves and Charlie [Manuel] stuck with him. It proved to be important that he did, even though a lot of people were clamoring for a change. Charlie showed him confidence and stayed with him. I think that was the right thing to do,” Mackanin said.
The Phillies made it back to the World Series in 2009 in spite of Lidge’s ineffectiveness, not because of it. Lidge did not improve as the season went on as his first half ERA was 7.03 and his second half ERA was 7.43. And he famously blew a tie ballgame by serving up three runs in the top of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the World Series against the Yankees. So, pointing to Lidge is not exactly the best example Mackanin could have come up with.
All this being said, the 2017 Phillies team isn’t expected to be a competitive ballclub, so vacillating between closers is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.