For the past couple years, Tigers' closer Todd Jones has been the player fantasy owners are targetted as Most Likely To Lose His Job, and his back-ups have been hot closer-in-waiting properties. For the past couple years, Jones has done nothing but close games.
When 2007 ended and Jones' two-year deal with the Tigers expired, fantasy players were about to see their predictions come true. Fireballer Joel Zumaya was set to close in 2008.
Then wildfires hit Zumaya's Southern Califormia home, and he injured his shoulder moving his valuables. Jones was resigned by the Tigers to close in the 2008 season.
Now word comes down that back-up closer du jour, Fernando Rodney, has had a relapse of the shoulder pain that shut him down for a few weeks during the 2007 season. Who will claim the mantle of back-up closer now?
There are three candidates in the Tigers' bullpen that I see. The first is 31-year-old Jason Grilli. He has consecutive 50+ appearance seasons for the Tigers and would appear to have manager Jim Leyland's confidence as a result. His ratios are nothing to impress, but neither are the ones Todd Jones produces. However, Grilli did strike out 62 in 79.2 IPs last season. (In two seasons spanning 125.1 IP, Jones struck out 61.)
Next is Kansas City and Colorado cast-off Denny Bautista. In a full-time bullpen role for AAA Colrado Springs, he struck out 63 in 64.2 IP. That may not be overly impressive, but he is still young at 27 and could surprise.
Finally, there is Yorman Bazardo. He is a 23-year-old righty the Tigers claimed from the Marlins last season. In a September, he made 11 appearances in a Tigers' uniform are accumulated some intriguing stats - 23.2 IP 19 hits, 5 walks and 15 Ks. He has been a full-time starter in the minors. Could he possibly be the next good converted starter to become a quality reliever?