This morning's Kansas City Star reports that last season's closer, Joe Nelson, will undergo shoulder surgery and miss two to three months. This is more important than you may think.
The Royals signed Octavio Dotel to a $5MM one-year contract to settle the back-end of the bullpen after years of Mike MacDougal and Ambiorix Burgos. Nelson had 9 saves last September but was clearly not considered a full-season option.
Unfortunately for the Royals and Dotel's fantasy owners, the next full-season Dotel spends as a closer will be his second. That's right. Dotel has one full season as a closer under his belt. That was 2004. He had Tommy John surgery in 2005, but who thought he'd keep the job all season with Huston Street breathing down his neck anyhow? I had Dotel packing his bags for a new team by the end of July 2005. My leaguemates bid Street to $12 in anticipation of Dotel's change of scenery/roles.
Given the struggles Dotel had in his 10-game stint at the end of last season - 29 runners allowed in 10 innings, I'd say he's closer to Jeff Zimmerman than Troy Percival in his recovery from TJ surgery. As a result, the back-up closer in Kansas City is very important.
Unfortunately, the Royals bullpen is very similar to the Devil Rays's pen and the Cardinals' - no clear-cut closer-in-waiting despite serious questions about their designated closer. Proof?