SAN DIEGO — The Padres are shaking things up at the back end of their bullpen. For the time being, Taylor Rogers is no longer their closer. In fact, right now, no one is.
Manager Bob Melvin said prior to Friday’s series opener with the Twins that he will go with a closer-by-committee approach, this decision coming after consecutive blown saves by Rogers in Detroit this week. Melvin was quick to add that he’s optimistic Rogers would work his way back into the closer role later this season.
“We’ll probably give him a little bit of a break from that role,” Melvin said. “Our best team is with him closing. What is he? [Tied for first] in the league in saves? So he’s done some good work there. … We wouldn’t be where we are this year without him.”
That decision — which notably comes four days before the Trade Deadline — has ripple effects in both the short- and long-term. Here’s what it means:
Who gets the ninth?
The Padres have a number of quality arms, but Rogers is the only reliever on their active roster with experience handling the ninth inning. He has 28 saves already this season, tied with Milwaukee’s Josh Hader for the most in the Majors entering play Friday. The rest of the Padres’ active bullpen, meanwhile, has combined for a total of 13 career saves.
As such, the ninth-inning is very much TBD.
“Usually I start at the ninth and try to work backwards,” Melvin said. “This is not going to happen this way. So we’ll see how we get there and try to match up the best we can at the end.”
Here are a few of Melvin’s options:
• After Rogers, Luis García‘s eight career saves are the most for anyone in the Padres’ active bullpen. He’s been sharp lately, having posted a 2.16 ERA in July.
• Left-hander Adrian Morejon has the electric stuff to handle the role, and if the Padres are truly playing matchups in the ninth, Morejon is the obvious choice when the Padres are faced with a tough lefty hitters.
• Right-hander Nick Martinez was placed on the paternity list on Friday, but he’s racked up four saves this season (though mostly of the multi-inning piggyback variety).
Could the Padres trade for a closer?
It’s certainly on the table. San Diego has been active in searching for potential relief help — and that was true even before Rogers’ struggles arose earlier this month.
The reality, however, is that there aren’t many true relief aces available on the trade market. As with the Padres’ internal options, there are intriguing arms available. But the ninth-inning would be a question mark for almost all of them.
So, while it’s entirely possible that the Padres trade for a reliever ahead of the Deadline, it’s less likely they’d deal for a guy who would slot instantly into the ninth inning.
The likeliest path forward is closer by committee in the short-term. Then, in the long-term, perhaps Rogers wins his role back. Or, perhaps fellow southpaw Drew Pomeranz returns from injury and showcases the dominant stuff that has led him to a 1.60 ERA in his 47 appearances since signing with the Padres before the 2020 season.
On that front: Pomeranz pitched another simulated game on Friday, increasing his workload a bit — throwing 26 pitches and facing six hitters. If all goes well, he could begin a rehab assignment in the very near future.
What’s next for Rogers?
For now, the 29-year-old left-hander will get lower leverage opportunities. Melvin isn’t wrong in touting Rogers’ effectiveness for most of the season. He posted a 2.84 ERA through June. That number has since jumped to 4.35, and Rogers has blown four of his last 10 save opportunities.
“That is a really hard role to struggle in, because everybody feels it,” Melvin said. “But until this period recently, he’s been so good for us.”
Rogers will likely get favorable left-on-left matchups moving forward. It’s unlikely he’d be thrust immediately into an eighth-inning setup role in a close game. The Padres would instead prefer to get Rogers back on track with a less-visible appearance or two, before building him back toward the backend.
“It’s just a breather,” Melvin said. “That’s probably the toughest role there is in baseball, because when you have a bad day, you lose. Sometimes you just need a little bit of a break from that.”
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