Will Anderson end up as the Rays’ closer?

by Gary Shelton on February 20, 2020

in general

Could Anderson end up as the Rays' closer?/CHUCK MULLER

Thursday, 4 a.m.

One-run lead. Bases loaded. No one out. Ninth inning.

The noise rises. The intensity builds. Jose Altuve stands at the plate, and no one has any idea if he's still stealing signs.

Palms sweat. Throats are dry. Every second seems to take a minute and a half.

Think for a second: If you are a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, who do you want on the mound?

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Think of the possibilities. There is Jose Alvarado with his triple-digit fastball. There is Diego Castillo with his. Chaz Roe and Oliver Drake have yet to be used.

Do you think about it? Do you look up the career matchups of each pitcher against Altuve?

Or do you take a breath, and call for Nick Anderson?

And then, do you call on him in similar ninth innings for 35-40 more games over the season?

If it's up to me (and probably you), Anderson gets first crack at the Rays' closer position this year. Maybe the second crack, too.

It's hard to find fault with what Anderson accomplished last year. He had a 2.11 ERA. He struck out 41 batters in 21 1/3 innings. He had a presence on the mound for a bullpen that was rebuilt in midseason because Alvarado exploded so loudly the ground crew had to rake up bits of him after games.

Alvarado had six saves in the first two months of the season. He had one afterward. The Rays can't risk that kind of unsteadiness on the mound.

Castillo had a similar year. He had six saves in the first two months, too. He had two afterward.

Roe? Drake? Do you trust either of their stuff in the ninth inning?

No. The answer is Anderson.In 23 appearances for Tampa Bay in 2019, he gave up only five runs. That'll do.

Is there risk? Sure there is. Anderson had all of one save for the Rays last season. And pitchers will tell you that the ninth inning is a beast of its own.

But the job of a closer it turn off the lights. It's to snuff out the last chance of the opponent. It's to smother hope.

From here, Anderson is the best bet.

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