Now that the Royals have officially picked Jonathan Broxton as Joakim Soria’s replacement nearly every team has named their closer, but one holdout is the guy with the least managing experience in the bunch (which is to say no managing experience).
Robin Ventura played coy with the media yesterday, refusing to disclose his closer while saying that the relievers “will know before the game” and “it’s not like I’m asking them to hit or catch, they’re just going to pitch … I think they’ll be fine.”
Pitching coach Don Cooper also told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that they definitely aren’t going with a closer-by-committee approach, saying: “There will be a set closer. Everything is going to be set. Bullpen positions will be set, and guys will know when they are pitching.”
In other words, they’re just keeping it a secret from the media and, by extension, the fans.
So who will actually wind up closing games early on? Matt Thornton, Addison Reed, Jesse Crain, and Hector Santiago are the options, with Thornton having the most ninth-inning experience and Reed having the most long-term upside in the role. Most reporters covering the team seem to think Thornton will start out with the gig, but Ventura’s secrecy about the whole thing might hint at one of the rookies getting the nod.
The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan report that Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name as recently as December. The fake name is Mason Saunders. Bumgarner explains that “Mason” is shortened from “Madison,” while “Saunders” is his wife’s maiden name.
Bumgarner — err, Saunders — and one of his rodeo partners, Jaxson Tucker, won $26,560 in a team-roping rodeo competition in December. The Rancho Rio Arena posted a picture of the pair on Facebook, highlighting that they roped four steers in 31.36 seconds.
As Baggarly and Buchanan point out, Bumgarner also pointed out in a rodeo competition last March, just a couple days before pitching in a Cactus League game versus the Athletics, back when he was still with the Giants.
Bumgarner suffered bruised ribs and a left shoulder AC sprain in 2017 when he got into a dirt bike accident. Given that, Bumgarner’s latest extracurricular activity does raise a concern for the Diamondbacks, who inked him to a five-year, $85 million contract two months ago. Baggarly and Buchanan asked Bumgarner about such a concern. Bumgarner referred them to the club’s managing partner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick directed them to GM Mike Hazen. Hazen declined speaking about “specific contract language.” For what it’s worth, Bumgarner says he primarily uses his right hand to rope.
The jig is up on Bumgarner’s hobby. He jokingly said to The Athletic’s pair, “I’m nervous about this interview right now.” He added, “I’m upset with both you two.”