Three Veteran Closers Searching for Bounce Back Seasons

Thursday November 8th, 2012

Sam Evans: When it comes to closers, 2012 was the year of the injured veteran reliever. A couple of teams probably would have had different postseason success had they been able to use their reliable ninth-inning man. From Mariano Rivera to Sergio Santos, the list of closers that missed the 2012 MLB season goes on and on. Here’s an early glance at some of these pitchers hoping to rebound from their respective off years in the upcoming season.

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera is the best closer in the history of baseball and probably the best relief pitcher as well. Even as a forty-one year old in 2011, Rivera was forty-four for forty-nine in save opportunities. That was his ninth consecutive season with thirty or more saves. Unfortunately, Mariano Rivera missed almost all of the 2012 season due to a torn ACL he suffered while shagging fly balls.

Rivera makes up for a rather average fastball with an outstanding cutter. This is truly an “80” pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. Very few times has baseball seen a pitcher who can dominate hitters due to only on pitch. Rivera’s cutter will be his key to success in the 2013 season. Since he injured his knee not his arm, one would think that Rivera’s cutter wouldn’t lose much if anything during all this time off. However, it has to be extremely difficult to take all this time off and expect to have pitchers where they were before the injury.

The breaking news as of this past weekend is that Rivera should return to the Yankees in 2013. While Rafael Soriano did a fine job filling in for Rivera, the Yankees must be thrilled to have Rivera coming back. Soriano’s status for next season is uncertain as of right now and the other Yankees probably have missed Rivera’s clubhouse leadership. According to reports, Rivera will be ready for Spring Training. While it might take a little bit longer to get his 43-year-old body back into baseball shape, Rivera will be a key contributor on the 2013 Yankees squad.

Sergio Santos, Toronto Blue Jays: When the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Sergio Santos from Chicago last offseason, it was seen as smart move by the Toronto organization. Santos saved thirty games for the White Sox in 2011 and turned a lot of heads in baseball due to his nasty slider.  The Blue Jays made it clear from day one that Santos was going to be their closer.

After pitching in just six games, Santos missed the rest of the year with a shoulder injury that wouldn’t go away. As most baseball players realize, with injury comes opportunity. After Santos went down, Casey Janssen stepped into his role and ran with it. Janssen was successful in twenty-two out of twenty-five save opportunities. It is too early to tell- but even if Santos is healthy in spring, Janssen appears to be the early favorite to close ballgames next year in Toronto.

Ryan Madson, Free Agent: The Cincinnati Reds made headlines during the 2011-2012 offseason by signing Ryan Madson, he of fifty-two career saves, to a one-year $8.5 million contract. By signing Madson, the Reds not only showed that they weren’t sold on Aroldis Chapman being the closer some thought he could, they showed that the front office was committed to winning in 2012.

Unlike most closers, Ryan Madson’s best pitch is his changeup. It is very unusual that closers frequently throw an effective changeup, but Madson proved that it is possible to throw a changeup and be one of the best closers in the game. In 2011 with the Philadelphia Phillies, Madson saved thirty-two games in just thirty-four opportunities.

The bad news for the Red and Madson was that Madson needed Tommy John Surgery after suffering an elbow injury in Spring Training. The good news for the Reds was that Aroldis Chapman had a tremendous year as their closer. A year that I believe nobody thinks that Madson is capable of. Thanks to Aroldis Chapman, Reds fans weren’t whining about this contract during the dog days of summer.

Madson is a free agent this offseason and I’m confident that he is not going to get the long-term contract he should be hoping for. Teams are getting less and less open to the idea of getting closers long-term deals and Madson’s injury definitely won’t help. Madson needs to get healthy and find a team where can pitch in the late innings of games.

These three players have all proven they can be some of the top closers in the game, but it is highly unlikely that all three of these guys can return to their previous form in 2013. Missing all or almost all of a season has shown in the past that it can dramatically change the course of a pitchers career. Best of luck to Rivera, Santos, and Madson as they prepare to combat career-altering seasons.

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of*)

***Today’s feature was prepared by Sam Evans, Baseball Writer.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter. (@RJA206)***


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About samevans87

I love writing, talking, watching, and playing baseball. I am a baseball writer for MLB Reports and Fish Stripes. "No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined." -Paul Gallic

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