Rays interested in Brian Fuentes as their new closer

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Brian Fuentes has been linked to the Red Sox for most of the offseason, but now Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays are interested in signing the veteran southpaw to be their new closer.

Fuentes served as a setup man for the Twins down the stretch after coming over in a late-August trade, but has plenty of closing experience and racked up an average of 30 saves per season from 2005-2010, including a league-high 48 in 2009.

As a side-arming left-hander many people assume that Fuentes would fit best as a situational southpaw and he certainly shuts down left-handed hitters. However, he’s also very effective versus right-handed hitters, holding them to a .224 batting average and .684 OPS during the past three seasons.

He certainly won’t be as overpowering as the man he’d be replacing in the ninth inning, Rafael Soriano, but Fuentes’ high-80s fastball and excellent changeup have made him one of the most effective (and underrated) relievers of the past decade and even at age 34 he posted a 2.81 ERA and 47/20 K/BB ratio in 48 innings.

Cardinals shut down Carlos Martínez for two weeks due to shoulder issue

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports that the Cardinals are shutting down pitcher Carlos Martínez from throwing for two weeks because his shoulder strength isn’t where it should have been at this point. Langosch added that an MRI showed no structural damage in Martínez’s right shoulder.

Interestingly, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak didn’t sound too happy with Martínez offseason training regimen. Per Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Mozeliak said, “Obviously, there’s a history with Carlos’ shoulder and it would be probably in everybody’s best interest if he maintained a constant or perpetual approach to that program.”

Martínez, 27, battled oblique and shoulder injuries last year. He accrued just 118 2/3 innings, making just 18 starts. He was moved to the bullpen when he returned from the disabled list in August and finished out the season in that role. Still, Martínez managed a 3.11 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 60 walks.

Langosch reported last week that the Cardinals were considering using Martínez in relief again in 2019. The latest news may push the Cardinals to indeed use Martínez out of the bullpen once again. He will be reevaluated in early March, but there is a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day.