If you read Ben Cherington’s comments from earlier today, obviously he’s comfortable with the idea of Mark Melancon being the closer. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Melancon will be coming out for the ninth inning on Opening Day.
There are many options. Let’s take a look ranked in order of probability:
Mark Melancon:The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series with Jason Motte as their closer. He is a former catcher at Iona College who prior to this season had three saves. The Rays won the American League in 2008 with broken-down Troy Percival as their closer. When he couldn’t pitch in the postseason, Dan Wheeler and David Price stepped in.
You don’t need a Big Name to close. You just need a guy with good stuff and enough nerve. Brad Mills, who coached in Boston a long time, believes Melancon has the nerve to be successful with the Red Sox.
Melancon does not have a freight train 99-mph fastball. But his four-seamer averaged 93.5 mph last season and he keeps it down. He also throws a cutter and has an above-average curveball. He has the tools to do the job.
Daniel Bard: The Red Sox have granted his wish, telling the righthander to prepare himself to become a starter. But if Melancon falters in spring training, the no-brainer move is to make Bard the closer. He has been groomed for that job for two years now.
Bobby Jenks: It’s easy to dismiss Jenks. He barely pitched last season and looked awful when he did. But he’s only 30 and will be pitching for a contract. Far worse than he have bounced back and become very good closers. For evidence, check out what Kyle Farnsworth did for the Rays last season. Relievers are erratic by nature and Jenks is due for an upswing.
Alfredo Aceves: Like Bard, he has been told to get ready to start. But like Bard, that can change. Aceves is nutty enough that the pressure wouldn’t get to him and he has the stuff, too. Plus his disgusting sweaty hat would distract batters.
Player X: The Sox would welcome the idea of Ryan Madson taking a one-year “pillow contract” (™ Scott Boras Corp.) like Adrian Beltre did in 2010. Sign him for $8 million and let him close for a year then walk. Ownership probably would be willing to slide over the luxury tax limit for that.
Given their other needs, using what trade chips are left for Andrew Bailey would not seem to make sense. The Red Sox need a starter far more.
Meanwhile, the bullpen looks like this for the moment:
Could be a starter, or maybe not
RHP Alfredo Aceves
RHP Daniel Bard
LHP Andrew Miller
You can be sure many names will be added to the mix before spring training.