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Mets to use a closer-by-committee approach in 2018

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Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Mets are prepared to enter the 2018 season without a designated closer. According to comments made by manager Mickey Callaway, the club will utilize a committee featuring AJ Ramos, Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak and Jerry Blevins as they look to maximize their flexibility during games.

The change appears to be coming at a good time for the Mets. Their bullpen placed third-best among all major league teams in 2016 with a collective 3.53 ERA and 6.5 fWAR, but 2017 saw them plummet to the bottom of the leaderboard, where they ranked fifth-worst in the league after topping off a disappointing season with a cumulative 4.82 ERA and 1.2 fWAR. One of the clear culprits was right-hander Jeurys Familia, who ran up a 4.38 ERA, 5.5 BB/9 and 9.1 SO/9 in 24 2/3 innings. Familia incurred a 15-game suspension following domestic violence charges in 2016 and was sidelined another 15 weeks when an arterial clot was detected and surgically removed from his right shoulder.

The Mets have taken some steps toward improving their bullpen this offseason, most notably with a two-year, $14 million contract for free agent right-hander Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak is coming off of his most valuable season to date after completing successful back-to-back stints with the White Sox and Brewers last year, and should be able to help shift the Mets’ standing in a positive direction.

Aside from his four-man closer committee, Callaway told Morosi that he’ll alternate between a seven- and eight-man bullpen in 2018 and won’t hesitate to exercise his relievers’ minor league options in the event that the bullpen gets taxed during long games. At least five of the Mets’ relief pitchers still have options remaining this year.

Cincinnati Reds fire Bryan Price

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The Cincinnati Reds have fired manager Bryan Price. He’ll be replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Jim Riggleman. The team also fired pitching coach Mack Jenkins. The club also added Louisville manager Pat Kelly to the staff as the new bench coach and Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin as the new big league pitching coach.

It was only a matter of time for Price, whose Reds have begun the season 3-15. This was Price’s fifth season at the helm and the Reds never won more than 76 games in any of his previous seasons, doing so in his first year, in 2014. They won 68 games in both 2016 and 2017 and 64 games in 2015. While that’s far more attributable to the Reds talent level than anything Price ever did or did not do, at some point the manager will take the fall for a team that makes no progress.

Price’s tenure will likely be considered largely forgettable in the view of history, but he did have a pretty memorable moment as Reds manager in April of 2015, when he went on a profanity-laced tirade at the media because they reported the availability or lack thereof of certain players for an upcoming game. Which is part of the media’s job, even if Price didn’t fully grok that at the time. The tirade itself was pretty epic, though, with then Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosecrans reporting that “there were 77 uses of the “F” word or a variant and 11 uses of a vulgar term for feces (two bovine, one equine).” 

Taking over will be Jim Riggleman, who last managed in the big leagues with the Washington Nationals, resigning in June of 2011 because he was unhappy that he did not get a contract extension. It was a weird episode, the sort of which a lot of guys couldn’t have come back from, perhaps being considered quitters. Riggleman took a job managing the Reds’ Double-A team, however, then moved on to Triple-A and then the Reds’ big league coaching staff. There’s something to be said for persistence. And for being a big league lifer.

Anyway, Price’s exit is not likely to change the Reds’ course too much in 2018. But, as it is so often said in baseball, sometimes you gotta make a change all the same.