Tuesday, April 15, 2008

And the new Tribe closer is...

Joe Borowski has been placed on the DL with a right triceps strain (and I pulled my gluteus spending too much time on the computer).

Convenient or actual, Borowski has an injury and won't be coming out of the Tribe bullpen in the ninth inning - at least for a while.

So who will?

The consensus in the media seems to be that Raffie Betancourt will get the job.

It's possible one guy wrote it and everyone else picked up on it, although stuff like that rarely happens among sportswriters.

At first blush Raffie Right seems like the choice after the season he put in last year and his performance last night in what amounted to a save situation in the seventh.

But Betancourt has not been nearly as good in the early days of this young season. He sports an ERA over 5.00 and has given up two dingers in seven outings this year, covering 5 1/3 innings. Last year he gave up three all season.

A bit more damaging to the case for Betancourt is his past record as a closer. Raffie Right is 12 for 29 in career save situations. Next to those number Borowski looks like Rollie Fingers. Or, for those of you a little younger, Mariano Rivera.

Jorge Julio was a closer for a while. In fact, other than Borowski, Julio has spent more time closing out - or trying - games than anyone else on the staff, by far.

Julio has 99 career saves. most of them over three seasons with the Orioles in the early 2000s.

This year he's allowed two runs in seven innings over four appearances.

Since leaving the Orioles in 2005, he's bounced around between Arizona, the Mets, the Rockies and Florida and had to pitch his way onto the club this season.

Even as a closer, Julio was not exactly what you'd hope for, displaying control problems at the damnedest times.

That leaves Masa Kobayashi, one of the top-three all-time save leaders in Japan and a 33-year-old rookie in the Big Leagues this year.

Kobayashi has an ERA of just over 2.00 in five outings with the Tribe so far, for what that's worth.

Would the Tribe want to lay the job in the lap of a guy who's pitched five innings in the bigs so far?

Does it make it any easier to do that given Kobayashi's age and experience in Japan?

None of the options is terrific.

But given Raffie Right's past problems at closer and the fact that it's great to have him to slot in either the seventh or the eighth - when a real need comes up - rather than have him married to the ninth inning, I'd go with Kobayashi.

Do I think the Tribe will go in that direction?

Well, I picked up Kobayashi in my fantasy baseball league (Betancourt wasn't available).

But do I really think he'll be the choice?

No. I'm betting on Raffie, but I have my doubts.

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