As new bullpen messes develop, we can be thankful for the one that's about to be cleaned up.

Jordan Romano is expected to come off the IL Tuesday after missing the start of the season with elbow inflammation. Maybe his first appearance won't be to close out a game -- or maybe it will be -- but he's obviously the Blue Jays closer and will get his first save chance soon enough. Chad Green and Yimi Garcia were splitting saves in his absence, with each recording two, but they're of little Fantasy consequence now.

Unfortunately, other seemingly settled closer scenarios have become murky again, the most obvious being that of the defending World Series champs.

Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves (though it's usually one and the same).


Despite being reluctant to name Jose Leclerc the closer back in spring training, manager Bruce Bochy has been unusually patient with the right-hander to begin the year. While Leclerc has worked lower-leverage situations in his past two appearances, it's reportedly just a temporary measure so he can sort through his issues without costing the Rangers games, and so far, he has three scoreless innings to show for it. Meanwhile, Kirby Yates is 2 for 2 in save chances during that time and has closing experience himself. If I were Bochy, I'd stick with Yates for as long as it worked, but based on what's been reported, I'm keeping Lelerc at the top of the pecking order for now. Really, though, he and Yates are about on equal footing as far as Fantasy rosterability goes.


Jose Alvarado's past three appearances have come in the eighth inning while Jeff Hoffman's past three have come in the ninth, including twice to preserve a tie and once to record a save. So ... why do I still have Alvarado at the top of the pecking order? As with Leclerc for he Rangers, it's by the slimmest of margins. My read is that he's still manager Rob Thomson's most trusted reliever, and my evidence is that he was brought in to face the heart of the order in the first two of those eighth-inning appearances. The third came with a runner on base, meaning he was called in to put out a fire.

Perhaps it's the wrong read and Hoffman has overtaken Alvarado as the closer, but Thomson hasn't been the most disciplined about bullpen roles historically. If he were to settle on a singular closer, the most likely choice might be Orion Kerkering, who was just activated from the IL Sunday.


Speaking of managers who haven't been disciplined about bullpen roles, the Mariners' Scott Servais might be the worst offender in that regard. He never shied away from using Paul Sewald in the eighth inning if he felt the situation called for it, and in fact, he's deployed every Mariners "closer" that way since Edwin Diaz departed. So it should be no surprise that he's doing the same with Andres Munoz, having twice used him in the eighth inning of a close game rather than preserving him for the ninth. In both instances, Ryne Stanek got the save instead, though it may be Matt Brash who assumes the backup closer role once he's recovered from an elbow injury. Muñoz still figures to get two-thirds of the Mariners' save chances, at least, but that's a lesser share than we hoped for.


Abner Uribe had three saves after the Brewers' first four games this year, coming in so hot that we hardly a had a chance to notice how he didn't look so good in converting those saves. It's become more apparent in his three appearances since then that he's not missing bats like he did as a rookie, and it probably says something that the latest of those appearances came in the seventh inning of a tight game rather than the ninth (he blew the lead and took the loss, for what it's worth). I guess he's still at the top of the heap, but I'm curious to see what happens the next time the Brewers have a save chance. It's been a while, and Joel Payamps is a perfectly viable alternative. Unfortunately, Devin Williams (back) is still months away.


The Royals gave Will Smith the first crack at the role, but after a couple ugly outings for the veteran left-hander, they quickly pivoted to James McArthur, who got a handful of saves for them down the stretch last year as well. And he has taken to the role like he was born to do it, gong a perfect 3 for 3 on save chances and recording multiple strikeouts in each of his past four appearances. His fastball isn't a swing-and-miss pitch on its own, which is unconventional for a closer, but he makes up for it with two distinct breaking balls capable of piling up whiffs. He's mostly untested in the role (and at the major-league level in general) and could fizzle out quickly, but he's clearly the Royals reliever you want right now.


Tanner Scott was a revelation for the Marlins in the ninth inning last year, but his old control problems resurfaced this spring and haven't gone away so far during the regular season. In fact, he has more walks (10) than strikeouts (seven), and as you might imagine, it's led to some not-so-clutch performances. Though his first blown save technically didn't come until his latest appearance Sunday against the Braves, Scott has suffered three losses already. Manager Skip Schumaker so far seems unaffected by it, perhaps because the Marlins bullpen isn't exactly bursting with viable alternatives, but right-hander Anthony Bender has looked good apart from his 5.14 ERA and would likely be the next man up.

This one is a mess of manager Rocco Baldelli's own making, though it was halfway expected once Jhoan Duran was lost to an oblique injury. Before Duran solidified the closer role last year, Baldelli was resistant to the concept of bullpen roles. Griffin Jax got the save on opening day but hasn't worked the ninth inning since. Steven Okert handled the team's last conventional save chance Wednesday, with Jax and Brock Stewart both setting up for him, but his one appearance since then came in the seventh. Stewart closed out a four-run lead once and seems like just as much of a leverage guy for Baldelli, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him notch a save at some point.

By now, though, it's clear we're just chasing our tail here until Duran returns, and at last report, he was gearing up to face live hitters soon.


After surprising us by bringing in Jason Foley to close out a one-run lead on opening day, manager A.J. Hinch has mostly stood by the sinkerballer, who still has yet to allow an earned run, but there have been a couple wrinkles. He once had Foley pitch the eighth and then had left-hander Andrew Chafin and last year's closer, Alex Lange, share the ninth. There was also a time he brought in Shelby Miller with two outs in the eighth and then kept him in for the ninth. Granted, Miller blew the lead in the eighth, eliminating the possibility for save, but I suspect he would have stayed in for the ninth regardless. It was also the first game of a doubleheader, so Hinch may have been trying to avoid using Foley altogether. The bottom line is that Foley's role appears to be pretty secure, but I don't entirely trust Hinch to stick to a script.

White Sox

It's clear the White Sox aren't going to provide their relievers with many save chances this year, but the two wins they've gotten were both closed out by Michael Kopech, who has been the last White Sox pitcher to take the hill in each of his past five appearances. He's peaking at 101 mph out of the bullpen and piling up strikeouts like he never did as a starter, and it's become clear that manager Pedro Grifol will turn to him whenever the game is close, perhaps for multiple innings. What he'll lack in saves he could make up for in pure volume, delivering an impressive strikeout total for a reliever along with a handful of late-inning wins. Suffice it to say there's no reason to bother with anyone else in the White Sox bullpen.


The Athletics said in spring training that they planned to use Mason Miller more as a multi-inning reliever than a closer, but that lasted about two appearances. His last three have all come in the ninth inning to close out a one-run lead, and he was near immaculate in recording those saves, striking out seven without allowing a baserunner. He's averaging more than 100 mph on his fastball while peaking at 104, and his ratios may end up being so sensational that you won't even mind him getting fewer than 30 saves, as is likely given how infrequently the Athletics figure to be on the winning end.