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Ausmus expects Tigers to find closer on the market

The 2015 season for the Detroit Tigers has been plagued by injuries scattered throughout, but by and large has been a disappointment because of under-performance and season-long inconsistency.

Much of that came from the relief pitching and the closer role. The team waived the white flag in late July and traded away closer Joakim Soria to the Pittsburgh Pirates, in an effort to clear cap and get something in return for a quick rebuild. Soria converted 23 out of a possible 26 save opportunities for the Tigers in 2015 before being shipped out, posting a 2.85 ERA.

If the team was playing better in the first half of the season and the starting pitching had given the team more chances for him to close down games, Soria still might be donning the olde Enlgish D as we speak. He is a free agent after this season.

Since Soria’s departure, the Tigers have had a revolving door of pitchers assume his role as closer. They started with the project of grooming young fireballer Bruce Rondon to be the closer of the future, but major inconsistencies and lack of effort eventually sent the 24-year old home packing for the rest of the year just a few weeks ago. When Rondon left and even when he was still a part of the team, manager Brad Ausmus would go to either Alex Wilson or Neftali Feliz to close out games.

Wilson seems to have found his niche as a late inning guy for the Tigers. In 59 appearances and 70.0 innings pitched, he has compiled a sparkling 2.19 ERA. For a guy that was just a “throw in” piece in the Rick Porcello trade to Boston that netted the big fish in Yoenis Cespedes, Wilson seems to be the big winner here.

Feliz on the other hand has seem to have fallen off the map of baseball. Since being picked up by the Tigers after being designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers, Feliz has amassed a 7.19 ERA in 29 games for Detroit. The former closer appears to be a shadow of his former self, one who used to be lights out when he came into games. Yet, he’s only 27.

I’ts highly unlikely the Tigers will bring back Feliz, as it was one of a handful of experiments that have gone wrong for the Tigers this season. Wilson however has shown he is capable of closing out games and would get my vote to do so if I were in charge, but sadly I’m not. If you ask the skipper though, he thinks the answer to the Tigers bullpen woes is out on the market:

“I would think we would,” Ausmus said. “I would think that would be high on the priority list. But it’s a lot easier to say go find a closer and a lot harder to do. I won’t name names but I would think investigating closer opportunities would be high on the priority list.”

“Relievers are so hard to predict, bullpens are hard to predict,” Ausmus said. “I don’t have a crystal ball big enough to tell you what’s going to happen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ausmus also added that it is never easy going out and looking for relief pitching via free agency nowadays:

“You’ve got to get a little lucky with relievers,” Ausmus said. “You have to have somebody pitch well that you didn’t expect to pitch well. Look at the Orioles. Zach Britton, they had him for years. They put him in the bullpen and all of a sudden he’s one of the best closers in the game.”

 

 

 

 

 

He’s right. A lot of the time, the best bullpen guys start off as unknown gems that fly under the radar and help carry the team to success and into the national spotlight. Both the Orioles and Kansas City Royals had two of the three best bullpens in all of baseball in 2014. All those two did were battle it out in the American League Championship Series.

Ausmus said there are four pitchers that have helped their job security as far as being a reliever for the Tigers in 2016. In addition to Wilson, the Tigers have gotten positive contributions from Blaine Hardy all season long, as well as Drew VerHagen and Kyle Ryan down the stretch:

“I don’t know if they solidified a role, but they solidified that they are big league pitchers,” Ausmus said. “At least they look like it at this point.”

 

 

 

 

Certainly a nice core to build around, but a lot still needs to be addressed. A few more arms should do the trick.

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