Oakland general manager Billy Beane raised a lot of eyebrows this offseason when he acquired Jim Johnson from the Orioles and paid him $10 million to serve as the A’s closer. And now, less than two weeks into the season, Johnson has already pitched himself out of the closer role.
Johnson has been a mess, coughing up seven runs while recording 10 total outs and allowing opponents to hit .529 with a 1.145 OPS. And in addition to the 18.90 ERA he’s taken two of the A’s three losses this season.
For now manager Bob Melvin says he plans to go with a closer-by-committee approach and one nice thing about Beane spending so much money and resources building the bullpen is that there are plenty of capable ninth-inning options on the roster, including Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson, and Ryan Cook.
Johnson’s league-leading 50 saves last season masked a whole bunch of struggles for the Orioles and Beane paying $10 million for a so-called “proven closer” seemed very odd, but certainly no one could have expected Johnson to completely fall apart like this. I bet he gets another crack at the job eventually.
Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.
Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.
Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.
On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.