Once again, the volatile nature of relief pitchers may have come back to bite the Cincinnati Reds.
Not long after the Reds lost their closer, Ryan Madson, to a season-ending injury, it seems that their current closer may not actually ending up closing at all. Sean Marshall, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for pitcher Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and infield prospect Ronald Torreyes last December, has already lost the closer job for the time being.
So far through 2012, Marshall has posted a 1-2 record with a 4.91 ERA and seven saves in eight opportunities. The more shocking stat is Marshall has given up 22 hits in 14.2 innings pitched to the tune of a .338 opponent batting average.
After another brutal showing against the New York Yankees on Saturday, in which Marshall gave up two runs on four hits and recorded only a single out before getting pulled, manager Dusty Baker seems to have endorsed Cuban fire-baller Aroldis Chapman as the closer for the near future.
Marshall has since pitched twice as a lefty specialist to only two batters, although one of those two appearances was in Monday night's victory over the Atlanta Braves as he closed out the game in relief of a struggling Jose Arredondo.
Marshall may have time in 2012 to earn back the closer role if he improves, and it is likely the organization is hoping he can turn it around after giving Marshall a three year, $16.5 million extension in late February. Marshall is still owed $3.1 million for the remainder of the season on a contract signed prior to the 2011 season.
If he can continue to dominate lefties and get in quality performances late in games, he may yet get that chance. Marshall does have the advantage that Baker is reportedly hesitant to pitch Chapman in consecutive games for several games in a row.
It will take time to determine whether Marshall is worth the money Cincinnati has committed over the next three seasons. The current idea is to convert Chapman to a starter in the future, which means Marshall may have time to regain the closer role.
However, if he pitches like he has in the past couple months going forward, Cincinnati will regret that extension.