May 11, 2008
Ned Yost finally bowed to pressure from the powerful anti-Gagne lobby, removing his $10 million closer from ninth inning duties, at least temporarily.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had this to say on their Brewers' blog this morning:
The closer role will now be filled by the entire bullpen, and Yost said it might be as many as three pitchers in the ninth inning if the opposing team's lineup dictates such moves. Salomon Torres has 29 career saves, David Riske has 20 and Guillermo Mota has 19.
Yost indicated that Gagne's issues were both psychological and mechanical. "He probably needs a little bit of a mental break," said the manager. Then he suggested that his staff had identified some unspecified flaw:
"I'm not going to tell you, and I'm not going into it because it's nobody's real business. Plus I don't want to let anybody know in case the opposing team sees it."
So don't worry, Brewers fans. Yost is on it. Gagne is as good as fixed.
Today, the Brewers had a 5-2 lead over the Cardinals entering the ninth. The first member of the committee to get the call was Salomon Torres.
And how did it go?
Well, Troy Glaus was the first hitter Torres faced, and he hit a drive just over the right field wall...but Corey Hart pulled it back, preventing a home run. However, Hart couldn't hold onto the ball, and Glaus had a leadoff double. Then Aaron Miles stung a line-drive to short, directly at JJ Hardy. That was out No. 1. After Brendan Ryan advanced Glaus to third with a ground out, Torres walked Cesar Izturis.
Yost had seen enough.
With left-handed Skip Schumaker due up, the Brewers brought in Brian Shouse. Tony La Russa then pinch hit with right-handed Yadier Molina, who immediately smacked a single to right. It was 5-3 Brewers, and there were two on and two out. Having no right-handed hitters remaining on his bench, La Russa let Adam Kennedy face Shouse. Albert Pujols was due up next, so Guillermo Mota warmed up in the bullpen.
Kennedy then grounded to short, nearly beating the play at first. But instead he was out No. 3, and Shouse, a 39-year-old situational lefty, had his fifth career save.
So let's review: Torres had the first shot to save a game in the post-Gagne era. He delivered a very Gagne-like performance, and was pulled to take advantage of a lefty-lefty matchup. Brian Shouse retired one of the two batters he faced. Guillermo Mota would have been called upon to get the most important out of the game if Shouse had failed to retire Kennedy.
We think Mota will get the next shot to close. Ideally, you'd like to avoid this Milwaukee mess entirely, but that's a luxury not everyone has.