Phil Coke did most of the closing in the playoffs and the Tigers went into the season talking about a “closer-by-committee” situation, but now manager Jim Leyland has settled on Joaquin Benoit as the primary ninth-inning reliever.
“On a lot of the days, if it’s doable, I think Benoit is the most experienced and versatile enough against righties and lefties to pitch the ninth,” Leyland told Jason Beck of MLB.com.
The part about “righties and lefties” may be a nod to Coke’s struggles versus right-handed hitters, which have made it tough to trust him to close things out. However, because the Tigers won’t use Benoit on three consecutive days Leyland may still have to turn to Coke once in a while.
And of course whenever they decide Jose Valverde is “ready” to rejoin the team he’ll presumably get a chance to reclaim his old role.
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.