Ron Gardenhire announced yesterday that the Twins will begin the season using a “closer-by-committee” approach with Joe Nathan out for the year following Tommy John elbow surgery:
We are a committee. Our closer role is a committee. We’re going to try just about anything. I’ve never had to do it. It’s going to be an experience trying to mix and match as best we can. But I’ve got some capable arms that we’re going to rely on.
I’ve seen committees work. It’s not always the easiest thing in the world, but you just have to ad lib. When you lose your closer, it’s a little different. That’s how we’re going to start, and we’ll go from there.
Aside from steroids there’s nothing the mainstream baseball media seems to freak out about more than a team without a so-called established closer, so expect plenty of hyperbolic, logic-be-damned reactions if the Twins blow a couple leads early in the season. In fact, expect some of those reactions right now.
However, the odds of Minnesota sticking with a committee approach all year are very slim. Gardenhire has made it clear that he wants to find one man for the job, so mixing and matching Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, and Jesse Crain early on will likely just be a way for him to determine the best fit for the role.
I’d be surprised if the committee approach lasts longer than six weeks and, assuming the Twins don’t trade for a veteran closer, would bet on Rauch leading the team in saves. In the meantime we’re bound to hear all about how monumentally insane the Twins supposedly are for treating the ninth inning just like the seventh and eighth inning, which says a lot about how wrapped up everyone is in a role built around the save statistic.
Blue Jays closer Ken Giles hasn’t exactly turned things around since joining the Blue Jays on July 31, when the club sent embattled closer Roberto Osuna to the Astros. Giles posted a 4.99 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with the Astros, then put up a slightly less miserable 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings with the Jays. Still, he’s much happier with the Jays than he was with the Astros, even after winning the World Series with them last year. He said to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston. It’s kind of weird to say that because I won a World Series with that team. But it’s like, I just felt trapped there. I didn’t feel like myself there. Overall, I felt out of place.”
Giles also said “the communication was lost” with the Astros and it was something that came easy with the Jays. He said, “When I came here, they stayed patient with me. I said hey, I want to work on this thing till I’m comfortable. All right. OK, I’m comfortable, let’s move on to this next thing. Pitching, you can’t just try to fix everything at once. For me, I had to take baby steps to get my groove back. The Jays allowed me to do that. Yeah, the team was out of contention, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still my career. I still have to prove myself. Them being so patient with me, understanding what I want to do, was very, very big.”
Giles, 28, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining. He has shown promise despite his overall mediocre numbers. In non-save situations this season (with both the Astros and Jays), he has a 9.12 ERA. But in save situations, his ERA is a pristine 0.38. Giles could be a closer the Jays find themselves leaning on as they attempt to get back into competitive shape. Since it sounds like Giles is quite enamored with Toronto and with the Blue Jays, a discussion about a contract extension certainly could be had.