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Girardi and the Yankees have yet to name a definite closer until Mariano Rivera returns
Since it’s been known that Mariano Rivera will miss the remainder of the 2012 season, due to a torn ACL suffered while shagging fly balls pre-game in Kansas City, the Yankee organization is on the hunt for a replacement until he can return. No reliever was ever officially named as the new closer, but the spot was assumed to be filled by one of two candidates, Rafael Soriano or David Robertson.
They say no assumption is safe though, and Joe Girardi has proven that to be true as he’s yet to stick to one closer since Rivera’s injury. Instead, he’s rotated a new reliever into the spot with every save opportunity that’s arisen so far, making it like a merry-go-round in the bullpen during save situations.
The argument exists as to who would be the best option to fill Rivera’s spot until he comes back. Some might say Soriano would be best fit for the job, since he has previous experience as a closer. Others opposed, saying that Robertson would make the best fill-in, as his dominance had been much more consistent out of the bullpen for the Yanks. It was even reported that Rivera himself was most confident in Roberston’s ability to take over for him. Girardi didn’t have an easy decision, but it didn’t take long until the time came where he had to choose.
Just one day after Rivera was carted off the field, the Yankees were in a tight game on the road against the Royals, with a score of 6-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. It wasn’t a save situation, but it was close enough to be treated as one. So taking that mentality, Girardi decided to use it as a chance to see what Robertson can do when the pressure is on. He responded in a big way when he took to the mound and struck out the first three batters he faced to end the game with a Yankee win.
Four days later, the club was faced with their first save scenario since losing Rivera. Up 5-3 over the Rays at home, Girardi once again put the ball and his trust in the hands of Robertson. After a quick groundout by the first batter, he looked to be in control. But a few walks and a single later, Robertson loaded the bases with two outs. The suspense was high as fans nervously rose to their feet in hopes that he could work some magic and he did, by striking out the next batter, picking up his first save of the season.
After he displayed the ability to work out of a tough jam under immense pressure, it looked as though Robertson would continue to close games for the Yanks. One day after recording his first save, he was called on again for another chance to wrap one up against the Rays. But this attempt resulted in failure. He didn’t even last through the inning, giving up four runs on just three hits, one being a three-run homer. Robertson blew the save and the Yanks went on to lose.
Finding themselves in yet another close one against the Rays the next night, a closer was required in the ninth to relieve a strong eight-inning outing from C.C. Sabathia. In a 5-2 game, Girardi made the call to the pen, only this time bringing in a new name to close– Rafael Soriano. It didn’t look good as Soriano gave up a single to start which was followed up with a stolen base. But he worked out of trouble by getting the next two batters to ground out, then a fly-out to end it with a 5-3 final.
The saga continued this past Saturday, when a game the Yankees led by what seemed to be a comfortable margin, turned into another save situation. Boone Logan was called on to relieve of a 7.2 inning performance from Phil Hughes and record the last out in the eighth. Logan returned to the mound in the ninth with a 6-1 lead. But after a single and a double that scored a run, the load on his shoulders got heavier as it became a save opportunity. Fortunately though, he buckled down and struck out the next to batters to get the save and a win for the Yanks.
The most recent episode of “As the closer turns,” aired last night in Baltimore. In a back and forth battle with the division leading Orioles, the Yanks finally pulled ahead for good in the seventh inning thanks to a two-run blast by Mark Teixeira. Another was tacked on in the ninth, off an Eric Chavez sacrifice-fly and they held an 8-5 lead with only three outs needed to end the game. On to seal the deal this time, would be the second appearance by Rafael Soriano. Despite a defensive error, his effort was flawless and he earned another save.
Last night it was also revealed that David Robertson was suffering from a rib injury the past two days. If he was healthy would Girardi have given him another shot for a save instead of Soriano?
Girardi’s inability to stick to one decisive closer for the remainder of the year can be looked at in two ways.
First, he’s simply not ready to make that decision based on what he’s seen so far. It seemed as though he may have leaned more toward Robertson initially, until he showed the first sign of discomfort, then Girardi pulled the plug and hasn’t used him in the same spot since. His other two choices haven’t been the most reliable either, however they have come through in each save opportunity they were used in.
The second reason for Girardi’s actions, might be because he just doesn’t have to name a regular closer. Having multiple options to turn to close in the bottom of the ninth and get a win for the Yanks, may be more of a gift than a curse for Girardi. It’ll keep opposing clubs on their toes, not knowing who they might face if that specific scenario does play out.
This strategy could work against him in the same way too. If Girardi nor Robertson, Soriano, or Logan know who will get the call when the game is on the line on any given night, it toughens the task. It only makes it more difficult for them to prepare, especially mentally.
Whatever the case may be for Girardi and the Yankees amidst this dilemma, nobody has spoken out to clear up or address this major issue and question mark for the club. Until an indisputable closer is finally named, the questions will remain: Who will be the Yankee’s replacement closer? Will there be one? Round and round the closers go, who will it be, nobody knows. But nobody will question the call either way as long as the club wins games.