Originally written on MarlinsBaseball.com  |  Last updated 1/22/12

Over their history the Marlins have had their share of inconsistent and unreliable closers.    It hasn’t been all bad over the years for Miami though, as they have had a few dominating finishers as well.   Heath Bell who will take over the role in 2012 may wind up the best closer in Marlins history but he does have some competition for that title.

Bryan Harvey served as closer in 1993 and was one of the best in baseball that year at closing out games.     Harvey compiled 45 saves on a team that only won 65 games while striking out 73 and walking only 13.    At only 30, it would appear the Marlins would have an elite closer for several more years but injuries came and subsequently ended Harvey’s career early.   He’d go on to save 6 games in 1994 before retiring in 1995.    Harvey’s success was not a surprise as he had been a great closer with the California Angels prior to the Marlins coming into existence.   Despite only pitching for a short while, Harvey’s name remains one of the most well known amongst Marlins fans.

Robb Nen took over as closer in 1994 and held the job all the way through the 1997 championship season.   Nen did pitch for the Marlins in 1993 as well but he didn’t have much success in his 33.1 innings on the mound.    Over his four years as Marlins’ closer, Nen saved 108 games including 35 during the title run.    For good measure, Nen added four saves in the playoffs during 1997 as well.    Nen intimidated and dominated opposing hitters in his time as a Marlin spoiling fans who had seen Harvey do the same in the inaugural season.    During the firesale following the World Series, Nen was traded to the San Francisco Giants where he continued his success for several more seasons before having to retire due to injuries.

In 1998, the Marlins had an interesting mix while taking the field as defending champions.   Due to a massive roster turnover, there were many new faces.    With only 54 wins compiled, the team had a luckluster 24 saves combined.   The most saves came from Matt Mantei who went by the name “The Ice Man” as he put together nine completions.   Eight saves were picked up by Antonio Alfonseca.   Mantei would go on to be traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999 where he served as primary closer.   Before being traded, he put together ten saves for the Fish in that season.   With Mantei out of the picture, Alfonseca became the closer for the Marlins and tallied 21 saves.    Alfonseca often got the job done but unlike Harvey and Nen, he would often make things interesting.   A little too interesting if you ask many Marlins fans.    There would often be baserunners on-base when Alfonseca sealed the game, and he kept fans on the edge of their seats for many of his saves over his Marlins career.    Alfonseca who was affectionately known as “The Dragon Slayer” went on to save games for the Marlins through the 2001 season.    In all, he saved 102 games with 45 coming in 2000.

Vladimir Nunez and Braden Looper shared the closing duties for the most part in 2002 with Nunez getting the bulk of the saves.   Both players gave the Marlins a similar feel to Alfonseca in that they made things interesting.     Nunez had 20 saves while Looper had 13 during a 79 win season.    Looper took over as primary closer in 2003 during the championship run putting together 28 saves before he lost his job to Ugueth Urbina.   The trade deadline addition of Urbina proved key to the Marlins success.     In contrast to Looper, Urbina brought back memories of Harvey and Nen with his lights out dominating performances.   Urbina’s time with the Marlins proved short as he moved on to the Detroit Tigers for the 2004 season.    Braden Looper also departed the team as he joined the New York Mets.

2004 saw the start of the Armando Benitez era, an era that would last only one season.   In that season however, Benitez dominated opposing teams revitalizing a career that had been on the down-slide.    Benitez saved 47 games and gave the Marlins confidence he’d close the game out every day he took the mound.    It was an All-Star season for the closer as well, his second time receiving the honor and the last of his career.   In 2007, Benitez returned to the Marlins in a trade but he was a shell of his former self and struggled to have any success.    Benitez last pitched in the Majors in 2008.   He tried to work his way back into the big leagues in 2010 playing for the Marlins’ AAA affiliate but he was never promoted and has not pitched again since.

The closer carousel kept spinning in 2005 when Todd Jones stopped by for one year and put together a career revitalizing season of his own.   Following in Benitez’s footsteps, Jones came to the Marlins after some struggles and notched 40 saves with a 2.10 E.R.A.    The elite closer signed a very inexpensive contract with the Marlins with the idea to cash in after the season and he did just that.  He was dominating on the mound and signed a lucrative deal with the Tigers after the season.

Seeing the success Benitez and Jones had, another closer who was looking to turn his career around came on board for 2006.   Joe Borowski signed for the minimum salary in order to pitch for the Marlins who were working under payroll restraints.   While not as dominant as Benitez or Jones, Borowski did have some success compiling 36 saves.   He was more reminiscent of Alfonseca than a Harvey but he got the job done in the end.  Sure enough, after the year he was able to find a multi year deal with the Cleveland Indians where he wound up finishing his career.

Finally in 2007 the Marlins acquired a closer they’d have in place for more than one season.   Kevin Gregg took over the role and held onto it for 2008 as well.    There were many frustrating appearances with Gregg on the mound despite his 61 saves in the two seasons.    He worked himself into jams like an Alfonseca but appeared to not work out of them with as much success on many occasions.   One key memory that stands out is a grand slam Gregg served up to Carlos Beltran that for all intent and purposes ended the Marlins’ playoff hopes.    Gregg was traded to the Chicago Cubs after the 2008 season.

2009 began the tenure of Juan Oviedo or Leo Nunez as he was known then.   Oviedo has been an erratic closer over the past few years, in much the same fashion as Alfonseca was.   With Oviedo, it has often been a cause of relying one pitch for too long and not keeping opposing hitters on their toes.   Oviedo has complied 92 saves over his three seasons as the Marlins’ closer but has at times lost his job due to performance.   After his identity issue to end 2011, the Marlins decided to make a move and bring in the established Bell to take over ninth inning duties.   Oviedo is set to be the primary set-up man in 2012 which is a role he had success in earlier in his career.

Bell will be asked to bring stability to the ninth inning for multiple seasons, and bring memories of Nen, Harvey and the success stories back to the minds of Marlins fans.   If his recent history in San Diego is any evidence, he should do just that.

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