By Todd Farino, www.thecloserreport.com
A better question is, does Joe Maddon believe in Kyle Farnsworth? The way it is being played right now, Farnsworth was signed to replace Rafael Soriano as the closer for the Rays. In his career that has spanned six teams, seven times, Farnsworth has never been an opening day starter. The most saves he has ever accrued in one season was 10 in 2005, his first stint with the Atlanta Braves. Since then he hasn’t closed much at all and has racked up only seven saves.
Let’s examine the choice. Kyle Farnsworth is a flame thrower. He has always been known for his fastball and slider, which are two pitchers that a closer should have. Along with that he’s also been known for a high BB/9 rate and a not pleasant ERA.
Over the past two seasons, Farnsworth has added a new pitch to his arsenal, one he learned from Mariano Rivera. The cutter, which he throws at around 90 MPH and compared to his 96 MPH fastball is deadly. Since adding the cutter, he has had some growing pains, but he now throws it with great efficiency. In 2009-2010 Farnsworth’s BB/9 fell to 2.91 with the addition of the cutter (career 3.88). Also, in 2010 is BAA was below 2.30, a number he hadn’t seen since 2005.
So the Rays and particularly Joe Maddon are hoping that they signed the 34-year old veteran to close out games for the Rays and to stabilize the back-end of the bullpen. Clearly Farnsworth has the stuff to close, but I worry if he can mentally and even emotionally handle the job. Sure, it’s just three outs. It’s just the hardest three outs in baseball.
I’ll stand on the sideline on Farnsworth, but I will say this. Adding a third pitch and one he probably feels he has perfected changes allot for Farnsworth. Sure he doesn’t have the control that Rivera has or even the consistency, but he does have other pitches he can throw and has proven that he can be relied on when it matters.
Feel free to draft Farnsworth late, he will likely be there. Consider J.P Howell as a back up, but be mindful that I don’t think the job is Farnsworth’s just yet. He will have to prove himself in spring training and beat out other contenders if he hopes to keep the job as the Tampa Bay Rays closer.