Brandon League still Seattle’s closer after four straight losses

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After going 9-for-9 saving games to begin the season, Brandon League just turned in maybe the worst week a closer has ever had, taking losses in four straight appearances and blown saves in each of the last three. Overall, he gave up 10 runs in 2 2/3 innings over four appearances.

He became the first reliever since the Nationals’ Ron Villone in 2009 to take losses in four straight appearances.

What the stretch really brings to mind, though, is the one Brian Fuentes, then with the Rockies, had in 2007. Fuentes, an excellent closer for 2 1/2 years, suddenly lost it at the end of June. He took blown saves and losses in four straight games over an eight day stretch, yieldding 11 runs — eight earned — in 2 1/3 innings in the process.

The Rockies felt they had no other choice but to pull him from the closer’s role and go to Manuel Corpas. Fuentes went on the DL just a week afterwards because of a strained lat muscle. He returned and pitched brilliantly as a setup man in the second half, amassing a 1.52 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. Things went well for the Rockies, too, as they advanced to the World Series before losing to the Red Sox.

League, of course, won’t be contributing to a postseason run this year, not unless he’s traded anyway. And the Mariners really want him to succeed in the closer’s role with David Aardsma potentially done for the year. They do have three relievers with sub-2.00 ERAs in David Pauley, Aaron Laffey and Jamey Wright, but they’re all failed starters with mediocre stuff.

As things stand now, it looks like manager Eric Wedge is giving League one more chance to keep his job. Another blown save, though, and it will probably be Wright’s turn to close.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.