Joe Girardi says the Yankees will use a closer-by-committee approach

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David Robertson replaced Mariano Rivera as the Yankees’ closer last season, but now who replaces Robertson? No one. Well … two guys, actually.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced that he’ll begin the season without a set closer, instead splitting the ninth-inning duties between right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller based on matchups and game situations.

Betances has struggled at times this spring, showing diminished velocity and shaky command, so that may have played a part in Girardi’s decision. Or maybe he’s just a believer in the closer role being less about mystique and more about getting three outs with a lead of 1-3 runs. In which case, why not bring in Miller when a couple good left-handed hitters are due up and why not use Betances when a couple good right-handed hitters are batting next? Leads can be coughed up and games can be lost in the seventh and eighth innings, too.

We’ll see how last it lasts, of course. Generally speaking teams that have gone with a closer-by-committee approach–or just not named an official closer, however you want to phrase the decision–have changed their minds fairly quickly if there are any bumps in the road. And you can be certain some Yankees fans and New York media members will be on code red, clamoring for an official closer, at the first sign of trouble.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.