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This past week saw plenty of action in Major League bullpens, reminding us once again of the inherent volatility of sitting in that hottest of hot seats known as the closer’s chair. A pair of closers lost their jobs, thus opening opportunities for their understudies to have a turn in the spotlight. Fantasy owners who stayed abreast of these situations were able to capitalize by grabbing the understudy before it was the “hot” thing to do; perhaps some of these savvy owners were following the ebb and flow of bullpen hierarchy by checking in daily with our Bullpen Depth Charts.

The Marlins are exploring other options to close games, as their longtime ninth-inning man finally lost his hold on the position he had held since 2012. He may ascend back to his old digs in due time, but for now Steve Cishek is on the outside looking in.

The same applies to Addison Reed out in Arizona, who also surrendered his closing job this week. Reed had experienced difficulties getting untracked this season, and the D-Backs had finally seen enough. The team is going with a committee based on matchups, but it is certainly bad news for Reed’s Fantasy owners.

Meanwhile, a pair of former stud closers have made their returns from the disabled list, and bullpens in Los Angeles and St. Petersburg are stronger for the formidable presences of Kenley Jansen and Jake McGee. Both fireballers are not expected to return to closing immediately, but should be in the mix very soon. More on these situations later.

Following bullpens around the league is truly a daily pursuit, so be sure to check out – and bookmark — our Bullpen Depth Charts, which are updated as news breaks… which means pretty much daily.

Who’s Out?

Steve Cishek owned an ERA of 10.32 when he was removed from the closer’s job on May 12, and he had converted only three of his seven save opportunities. Command has been a huge problem, as he had issued eight free passes in 11.1 innings at the time of his demotion. His velocity had also been down, as depicted by the chart from Brooksbaseball.net:

Month Fourseam Sinker Change Slider
4/14 90.93 90.73 85.11 81.33
5/14 92.37 92.23 87.13 81.98
6/14 92.67 93.05 0.00 81.86
7/14 93.42 93.75 85.69 82.82
8/14 93.36 93.19 85.91 83.15
9/14 93.26 93.25 0.00 83.29
Month Fourseam Sinker Change Slider
4/15 90.63 90.43 83.55 80.09
5/15 91.41 91.71 82.32 81.14

Cishek believes that he can regain his form, and it’s important to remember that he saved 73 games – and averaged less than three walks per nine innings  – between 2013 and 2014. If you have the roster space available, consider stashing Cishek on your bench – just in case he indeed regains his closer’s job. He can probably be dropped in shallow leagues.

Addison Reed blew two of his first four save opportunities, and he was reduced to being part of a closer-by-committee May 15 after posting a 7.20 ERA and 1.90 WHIP through his first 10 appearances. Arizona has stated that they will employ a closer-by-committee for the time being, but the lack of viable ninth-inning options pretty much makes this a committee of one: veteran set-up man Brad Ziegler. D-backs’ manager Chip Hale believes that Reed can iron out his mechanical issues and work his way back into the ninth-inning role, but the 4.25 ERA and 1.21 WHIP Reed put on the board last season should signal that he’s far from being an elite closer even when he is going well. Hang on to Reed if you have the roster space.

Who’s In?

The Marlins have announced that they would use a committee to close games, with Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos and Bryan Morris in the mix for ninth-inning duty. Of that group, Ramos looks to have the most Fantasy potential, and indeed, he converted the first save of the post-Cishek era May 13. Ramos owns a 2.57 career ERA, with 195 strikeouts in 171.1 innings pitched, but he has also walked 96 batters during his career. If he can keep the ball in the strike zone, Ramos has the stuff to close games – and he should be owned in all Fantasy leagues.

Many fantasy owners had tabbed Evan Marshall as the next in line for saves in Arizona, but the hard-throwing right-hander was sent to Triple-A back on May 11 – after scuffling to a 6.08 ERA and 1.88 WHIP in 13 games. That leaves veteran submariner Brad Ziegler as the top option for saves; Ziegler has never been a big strikeout pitcher, but he owns a 1.26 ERA and 0.91 WHIP through 14.1 innings this season. Veteran lefty Oliver Perez or converted starter Daniel Hudson could receive a look in the ninth inning, but Ziegler looks like the Arizona reliever to own at this point.

Reliever on the Rocks

Well, we had two struggling closers all queued up for this space, but Messrs. Reed and Cishek are now former closers, so we won’t talk any more about them. Fernando Rodney, though, is at it again: he has coughed up earned runs in three of his last four appearances, and his season’s ERA is up to 5.65. We’ve seen this before from Sir CrookedCap, and we’ve seen him right the ship just before it capsizes, so the Mariners figure to give him a chance to turn things around yet again.

Relievers on the Rise

Drew Storen has allowed just one hit and one walk in his last eight appearances, lowering his 2015 ERA to a miniscule 1.20 through 15 appearances. The Nats’ ninth-inning man has racked up 10 saves, and he sports a WHIP of just  0.80.

Keep an eye on…

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen returned to the majors on May 15, and he announced his presence with authority – recording a rare four-strikeout inning in his first appearance. Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly has said that he would like to ease Jansen back into the closer’s role, but given how unsettled the Los Angeles bullpen has been this season it probably won’t be long before Jansen is back in his customary ninth-inning digs. Check your waiver wire, and if Jansen is there, it’s time to make the other owners pay for their negligent ways.

Tampa Bay Rays’ closer Jake McGee was activated from the disabled list May 15, but manager Kevin Cash plans to play the matchups in the late innings – at least for now. McGee was outstanding as the Tampa Bay closer last season, but Brad Boxberger has allowed just two earned runs and seven hits in his 15 outings this season, while forging an ERA of 1.29. Both Boxberger and McGee should be owned in most Fantasy leagues until this situation sorts itself out.

For the latest daily bullpen updates, be sure to check out our Bullpen Depth Charts.

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