With Chris Perez headed to the fifteen day disabled list, the Indians bullpen has been thrown into a state of chaos. This is the first time in his career that Perez has been sent to the disabled list, meaning that this is the first time in a long time that the Indians will be forced to rely on anyone other than Perez to close out games for the foreseeable future.
So where do the Indians go from here?
The logical successor to the throne would appear to be Vinnie Pestano. All offseason long fans clamored for a trade that would involve Perez packing his bags and Pestano assuming the role of the team’s closer. That didn’t happen. Now Pestano will get his chance as the club announced yesterday that Pestano would assume the role for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, Pestano has been dealing with an elbow issue of his own and has not looked sharp in his limited appearances since his return from the DL a few weeks ago.
So what happens is Pestano fails in his newly defined role? Where do the Indians turn to next to close out games?
If you’re like any number of new school thinkers, you might believe that the idea of having an established high-priced closer is both archaic and foolish. You might even believe that the role of closer is best filled by whoever has the hot hand at the time or closer by committee. It’s not an absurd train of thought. We’ve seen other teams succeed with such arrangements.
However, under Terry Francona, it appears that the Indians are operating under the idea that things work out for the best when everyone has a defined role within the confines of the team. Again, you may or may not go along with this thought process, but the logic behind it makes sense. For that reason it stands to reason that if Pestano fails, or worse, re-injures his elbow, the label of closer will be slapped on someone else’s resume.
The most likely candidate from those available may have been Brett Myers. After all, Myers has had experience closing out games in the past and shown that he can have success in the role. Unfortunately, his continued struggles in rehabbing from elbow issues may eliminate him from possible contention. If that occurs, the next, most likely candidates would appear to be Cody Allen or Joe Smith. Both have the arsenal of pitches that could translate well into the closer’s role. The only issue is their overall lack of experience in the role.
Nick Hagadone was, at one time, considered a potential successor to the closer throne, but his most recent struggles throwing strikes on a consistent basis and general lack of confidence are the last thing the Indians need in high stress, ninth inning situations. Perhaps he would flourish in the role. Maybe his current role as a situational lefty doesn’t suit him well. But, until he can show the ability to once again throw strikes on a consistent basis, Hagadone’s prospects as the next Tribe closer appear to be few and far between.
Whatever they decide, the Indians had better decide on it soon. They have already seen a number of games slip away from them in getting to this point. The last thing that can afford to do is allow any more games to slip away.