New closers are popping up everywhere! On Opening Day, two dudes got their first saves in their new roles: Kevin Gregg in his first appearance as a Cubbie and Chad Qualls who got promoted in the offseason to the Diamondbacks closer. Last night, three other fellas had their coming-out parties:
Brad Ziegler was to share closer duties with teammate Joey Devine in 2009 but with Devine's chronic elbow problems turning him into a creampuff, Ziegler has the job to himself. Brad's the submarining dude who started his ML career with 39 consecutive scoreless innings last year, and last night he saved the A's win over the Angels by striking out Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter on seven pitches, including three nasty curveballs.
He's not new to the game of closing per say. Ziegler took over from Huston Street towards the end of last season and recorded eleven saves, but that was when the A's were already out of contention. April is the cruelest month for closers; blow a few now and you'll be put out to pasture faster than you can say "Dennis Eckersley isn't walking through that door".
Speaking of Huston Street, he's caught on as the new closer for the Rockies since being traded for Matt Holliday in the wintertime. He beat out Manny Corpas despite having a 5.23 springtime ERA; get ready for some fun-time, Rockies fans! Huston Street plus Coors Field plus razor-thin leads can't possibly end badly. No matter, last night he saved Ubaldo Jimenez' stellar start by retiring the heart of the D-Backs order in the ninth.
New Padres closer Heath Bell had perhaps the most difficult assignment last night. No, not saving the game. The Padres are going nowhere fast this year and could afford to tank a bit and improve their draft pick in 2010. No, Bell's biggest challenge was to pick a nifty tune to replace San Diego legend Trevor Hoffman's oeuvre "Hell's Bells" as his entrance music. Which actually kinda sucks, because a guy named Heath Bell should totally be allowed to use "Hell's Bells" as his song. Instead, Bell went with the Breaking Benjamin ditty "Blow Me Away" which I assume is a tacky nu-metal jawn....and yes, yes it is. (Thanks, Stew!).
If I were a major league closer, (a) I'd lose my job in less than 45 seconds and (b) I'd choose "Wall of Death" by Richard Thompson because that song totally rules.
(Nifty Brad Ziegler photo obtained through a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Kimberly)