When the Kansas City Royals need to be bailed out, manager Ned Yost turns to Scott Alexander. Why not just make Alexander the permanent closer? It’s safe to say, he should be able to handle the pressure.
There is a lot of pressure pitching in the ninth inning of a MLB game with a lead of any size, especially on the road. The Kansas City Royals have showcased that pretty well over the past few weeks.
That’s why it’s time for a change at the backend of the bullpen. With closer Kelvin Herrera working his way back from a recurring forearm issue, now is the time for Ned Yost to add a “former” to Herrera’s aforementioned title.
Herrera has always been better as a set-up man—be it in the seventh inning or eighth. He has the stuff, as it were, to be a closer, but his control is not there often enough in the ninth inning.
The reason he has stayed in the role this season has been simple: Nobody else has done enough to take it away.
Joakim Soria did well enough to keep hold of the eighth-inning duties until his recent injury. Brandon Maurer showed Monday afternoon in Detroit why he can’t be trusted as the closer of the Kansas City Royals.
But the man who replaced Maurer did.
Scott Alexander entered Monday’s game in a tight spot. The Tigers had runners at first and second with two outs in a 7-6 game. It was still just the third toughest position he’s been thrown into over the past two weeks.
Kansas City Royals
On August 22, Alexander replaced an injured Herrera with the bases loaded, two outs and a 2-0 count on the batter. He induced a groundout to end it. Friday night in Minnesota, Alexander again replaced an injured Herrera with two outs in the ninth inning. This time the runners were at first and third, and he got a strikeout to end it. Then came Monday’s situation. Alexander induced another groundout to end it.
All three of those were one-run games.
If Alexander can enter situations like that—not once, not twice, but three times—and come through, how does Yost not give him the closer’s role?
To be clear, I completely understand the argument for using Alexander the way Cleveland uses Andrew Miller. The idea of a “closer” is outdated, and I don’t need to see Zach Britton left in the bullpen of the Wild Card Game to know that.
But Yost is not Terry Francona. Yost adheres to the old-school way of looking at pitching out of the bullpen. It’s hard to blame him for wanting a set closer given the embarrassment of riches he has had in his bullpen the past few years.
However, two of those guys are on National League playoff contenders. The other one is hurt. Even though, Herrera may be ready to go soon—perhaps even Tuesday—he should not return to the ninth-inning role.
That should go to Alexander.
Might he fail? Sure, it’s possible. It takes a certain demeanor to be an every-day closer. It’s not for everybody.
Alexander has at least earned the chance to see if it’s for him. If not, he’s done an amazing job as a super-reliever and would likely continue to do so.
But maybe Yost just throwing him out there to start the ninth inning in save situations—and having him ready to come in immediately if a four-run lead gets trimmed a little too close—would save him and Kansas City Royals fans a lot of unnecessary stress.
What do you think fans? Should Alexander become the new closer? Do you prefer him in the super-reliever role? Let us know in the comments and on social media.