So who is the Orioles closer? It's a complicated question.

Some may be inclined to say Yennier Cano because he's secured two of their past three saves, with the other going to Jacob Webb in a 12-inning affair. Others may say it's a committee given that Cano was tasked with the eighth inning as recently as Monday. Still others would say it's Craig Kimbrel just because they know that's ultimately what the Orioles want.

"We're going to stick with him," manager Brandon Hyde said after a stretch of five appearances in which Kimbrel allowed a total of six earned runs. "This guy's got a big-time track record, he's a Hall of Famer, and we need to get him right. He's big for us. It's important that we get him right."

But here's the problem: All three of Kimbrel's appearances since that comment from Hyde have come in an inning other than the ninth. It's why the Orioles lead off this discussion of eight bullpens in flux.

Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves (though it's usually one and the same).


The first time Hyde brought in Kimbrel to pitch the seventh, which came only two days after saying he'd stick with him as the closer, he said he just wanted to give him "a little bit of a different look." Well, that different look is quickly becoming a familiar one for Kimbrel, who also worked the seventh inning Monday. In between, he was the pitcher of record in an 11-inning contest that ended as a walk-off win. Cano handled the ninth inning in that contest, as one would expect a closer to do.

So why do I still have Kimbrel at the top of the pecking order? Again, I think it's the Orioles' ambition to have him be the closer. They brought him in just for this one year with Felix Bautista on the mend from Tommy John surgery. I think the biggest hint that Hyde hasn't moved on from Kimbrel is that Cano came in for the eighth inning Monday after his previous two outings were in the ninth. He struggled, too, serving up a home run and two walks before being removed. Kimbrel, meanwhile, has been virtually flawless in his three appearances out of the closer role, with the only baserunner coming on a hit by pitch.

Kimbrel has had occasional bouts of wildness dating back to his time with the Red Sox, but then he rights himself and gets back to dominating. I think he's close to reassuring Hyde that he's ready to handle the ninth inning again, especially since it's not like Cano is any sure thing himself.

A week ago, I feared that Rocco Baldelli's time without Jhoan Duran had rekindled his interest in a closer committee. Now, it seems like a foregone conclusion. In seven appearances since returning from an oblique injury, Duran has handled the eighth inning three times, with some other reliever following up for the save in each instance. Duran does have three saves of his own and most recently worked the ninth inning with a four-run lead Sunday, but it's clear that Baldelli feels emboldened to use him in the highest-leverage spot regardless of whether it's the eighth or ninth. As such, Griffin Jax, who appears to be Baldelli's second in priority, is worth rostering still in leagues where saves are scarce. He might get double-digit saves the rest of the way.

It turns out Pete Fairbanks needed a little over three weeks to recover from a nerve issue in his arm. He returned to close out a five-run win Saturday, striking out one in a perfect inning. It was actually Jason Adam, though, who handled the team's latest save chance Monday. Apparently, Fairbanks was unavailable due to a cut on his finger. The Rays are saying it's just a small nick that isn't about to land him right back on the IL, and that's all well and good. The bigger issue for Fairbanks than what happened Monday, though, is what happened Saturday. His velocity, which has been down about 2 mph on both his fastball and slider this year, wasn't any better after his stint on the IL. Suffice it to say I'd be reluctant to part with Adam in leagues where saves are scarce.


I'm kind of hoping this is the last time I'll need to write about the Brewers bullpen for a while. It sure seems like Trevor Megill is just the guy. I understand that the same once appeared to be true for both Abner Uribe and Joel Payamps, and in both instances, we had the rug pulled out from under us. But it's different this time. Uribe lost the job due to ineffectiveness, and you could argue Payamps was just a placeholder for Megill, who was recovering from a concussion at the time. Megill's triple-digit heat is a good fit for the closer role, and he's notched each of the team's past four saves (excluding a three-inning one for Kevin Herget in a lopsided win). Meanwhile, Devin Williams (back fractures) won't be returning until the second half, so Megill has about two months to settle in.

Pecking order

Lately, manager A.J. Hinch has been less committed to preserving Jason Foley for the ninth, having him work the seventh or eighth in three of his past five appearances. It's not hard to understand why. Though Foley has a 2.20 ERA on the year, he also has a 1.41 WHIP. His pitch-to-contact approach makes him vulnerable to hits, and he's also been walking guys at an abnormally high rate.

Whatever thoughts Hinch may have had about making a change, though, likely went out the window when Alex Lange allowed four runs in two-thirds of an inning Sunday. Lange, who was the team's primary closer last year, entered Sunday's outing with a 0.64 ERA, but it was clearly a mirage given that his walk rate is even worse than Foley's. Even if Hinch was pondering a change, he wouldn't seem to have a viable alternative right now.


James McArthur still seems to have a hold on the closer role for now, but he blew consecutive save chances last week and also allowed a home run while converting a save Sunday. He's not your conventional closer in that he doesn't regularly push triple digits, and now he's sporting an ERA in the mid-fours. Meanwhile, John Schreiber, who handled a save chance this weekend when McArthur needed a day off, has a 0.98 ERA and 1.04 WHIP on the year. Could a switcheroo be in order? There have been no indications of one, but at least we have a strong suspicion who would be next in line were McArthur to falter.


Carlos Estevez has now blown three of his eight save chances after serving up a two-run homer to Adam Frazier Friday, his ERA rising to 6.17. But his xERA is only 2.39, and his xFIP only 3.28. He also has yet to issue a walk this year, which is stark improvement in what's always been his weakest area. Ron Washington might be the least likely manager to turn to a closer committee, and the rest of the bullpen isn't giving him much of an excuse anyway. The clearest alternatives to Estevez, Luis Garcia and Matt Moore, have ERAs of 4.96 and 6.60, respectively. Maybe Estevez should be on the ropes, but I actually think his role is pretty secure.

To be honest, I had basically written off the Rockies bullpen because the venue is difficult, the team is pitiful, and the personnel is even worse. But lo and behold, a single entity, left-hander Jalen Beeks, has delivered each of their past four saves, all coming in the span of 11 days. Beeks has spent most of his career as a swingman type with the Rays and wouldn't seem to have closer stuff. His strikeout and walk rates are both terrible so far. I don't necessarily trust him to hold onto the role or to keep getting chances at this rate. But hey, he's the Rockies closer, and it's more true for him than it's been for anyone else at any point this season.