All Spring Training long, fans and experts obsess over their team’s depth chart. A particular point of focus for many teams is who is going to get named as the all-important (to some, anyway) closer. Just when we all think we’ve got it figured out, managers go and pull stunts like the White Sox and Brewers did today.
What Robin Ventura did with his closer is at least somewhat understandable, albeit rather frustrating, especially for fantasy baseball players. He kept mum all spring long on who he would tap to be the new closer after the offseason trade of Addison Reed. This is not entirely unprecedented for Ventura who did the same thing when he first took over in 2012 and had no clear closer on the roster. Despite his silence, it was generally assumed that Nate Jones would take over.
Boy were we wrong. Ventura passed over Jones and instead decided to go with veteran Matt Lindstrom. While Jones may have the big arm and the big strikeout numbers, Lindstrom apparently got the nod because, well, he’s a veteran and he collected 47 saves over his seven-year career. Even then, he was clearly not what most would consider “closer material,” but that isn’t scaring off Ventura now.
“In the past he has closed,” Ventura said.”Right now he has a good slider. Giving a guy a full inning, some guys like that and he’s one who likes that.”
While that is certainly a questionable decision made with questionable reasoning, at least Ventura had the decency to announce his closer choice the morning before the game. The same can’t be said for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke who decided to make Francisco Rodriguez his closer, but neglected to tell anyone, including his own players:
“I was (surprised),” said third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who drove in the only runs of the game with a fourth-inning double off Julio Teheran. “I didn’t know what was going on there.”
Yep, K-Rod just came out for the ninth to lock down a 2-0 win for the Brewers when everyone in the ballpark but Roenicke assumed it would be Jim Henderson getting the call. In his defense, Roenicke had good reason for his choice:
“It’s velocity but it’s also command and life on a pitch,” Roenicke said of what was missing from Henderson, who converted 28 of 32 saves in his first season as closer in 2013. “When you see hitters with him, he does have deception. When he’s going at people the right way, they’re always late on the ball. They’re not getting good swings.
That’s typically the kind of thing that you might want to let people know before your season starts. Even if you don’t want to tip your hand to the media, letting your own players know is usually a good idea too. Hopefully Roenicke will have caught on to that idea whenever it is Henderson does get his stuff back and takes back the closer role.