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By Todd Farino, www.thecloserreport.com
St. Louis Cardinals
Since the fall of Ryan Franklin, this bullpen is a mess. The new closer, Mitchell Boggs, has been doing a great job and already has three saves. However, where do they plan to use Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte, or Eduardo Sanchez? Only Trever Miller (Lefty Specialist) has a certain role. Both Sanchez and Motte have been used as setup men, but they have also been used in the seventh inning. I see Franklin moving to a seventh inning role or mop-up role. If he doesn't get better soon he will either be sent to the minors or outright released. Motte should slide into the eighth inning role once he gets the confidence of skipper Tony La Russa.
Chicago White Sox
This is still a hot potato situation. Whatever the case is, Matt Thornton is out as closer and that is likely permanent. Since the White Sox have nine of their last 10 games, we haven't seen the emergence of a new closer. Chris Sale was my favorite during spring training and while he has more saves than Thornton (1), his ERA hovers about 6.00 and the league is batting 2.97 against him. I think that will all change once Sale gets more work and expereince. His K/BB ratio is 5:1. Other guys that have a chance to get in the mix are 7/8th inning reliever Jesse Crain (ex-Twin) and Sergio Santos. Forget about Crain. Santos has been the best pitcher in that bullpen with a 0.00 ERA and 13 Ks in 9.2 innings. While he had solid numbers in 2010, Santos hasn't proven he is closer material and I have my doubts, as would Ozzie Guillen. Of course, right now the White Sox are focused on having a lead in the ninth inning to start!
Toronto Blue Jays
Right now, Jon Rauch remains the closer in Toronto. Frank Francisco got bombed by Curtis Granderson on the 20th of April, but rebounded with a quiet inning against the Rays in a loss. It's just a matter of time before Franciso gets the call and Rauch becomes the setup man with Jason Frasor and Dotel in the seventh inning.
Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless inning with 2ks on Saturday. It was the ninth inning, but it was also a 10-3 score. Capps has been serviceable for Gardenhire and will continue to close until he feels Nathan is 100%. Within a week or two you should see Nathan in the setup role and by the end of May as the Twins closer, pushing Capps back to the setup role.
While Jose Contreras has been completely dominating, he's heading to the DL with a hip flexor. Ryan Madson has been stealing saves while Contreras is rested and will now take over the closer role. The last time this happened, Madson started fast and then fell apart. Lidge wasn't left to rot with how well Contreras was pitching, but now Charlie Manuel will welcome his closer back in 3-5 weeks if Contreras isn't ready to return. In the meantime, Madson is the closer. Antonio Bastardo will take over the eighth inning role and might see some save chances.