posted 5/17/11 4:05 PM PST
by Jason Martinez
Earlier in today's 'Reliever Roundup', I discussed a few closers who are looking over their shoulder because of recent struggles with the game on the line. Here are a few pitchers who have not had much trouble as of late.
RELIEVERS ON THE RISE
Marco Estrada, RHP - Milwaukee Brewers: Instead of sending him back to the minors when Zack Greinke returned from the disabled list, the Brewers moved Estrada to the bullpen and have to be pleasantly surprised with the results. Including two scoreless appearances in between starts early in the season, the 27 year-old has now tossed two-hit ball over 7.2 scoreless innings with one walk and seven strikeouts as a reliever. Since being moved to the bullpen for good, Estrada has three holds during the Brewers' recent streak of six wins in seven games. As long as they keep winning, and they do have the talent to do so, there should be plenty of hold opportunities to go around between Kameron Loe, LaTroy Hawkins, and Estrada.
Aaron Laffey, LHP - Seattle Mariners: A starter for most of his career with the Indians, the Mariners committed to keeping Laffey in the bullpen after acquiring him early in Spring Training and the move is paying off. The 26 year-old lefty has a 1.27 ERA in 21.1 innings and is holding left-handed batters to a .459 OPS. Right-handed hitters have handled him much better (.283 BA) but he's been able to keep the runs to a minimum. With a mid-80's fastball, the M's are reluctant to use him much with the game on the line but he should get plenty of chances in high-leverage situations against left-handed heavy lineups.
Fernando Salas, RHP - St. Louis Cardinals: Better late than never for the Cardinals' fourth 'closer' of the season. While manager Tony LaRussa doesn't always acknowledge which pitcher is his closer, it is clear that Ryan Franklin was the closer to start the season, then Mitchell Boggs, then Eduardo Sanchez, and now it's a combination of Sanchez and Salas. Overall, five relievers have combined for 13 saves. The 25 year-old Salas (pictured) has four of them to go along with three holds and a 1.08 ERA in 13 innings. While he doesn't throw as hard as many of the other relievers on the team, Salas does have excellent control of a three-pitch arsenal and appears to have the confidence of LaRussa. That's a good thing, considering how many times he was shuttled back and forth between St. Louis and Triple-A Memphis last season. Looks like he's here to stay this time, however, where he should continue to pile up the saves and holds behind an excellent starting rotation.
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