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Indians may turn to Opening Day starter Justin Masterson as playoff closer

Oct 1, 2013, 11:51 AM EST

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Justin Masterson is still building back arm strength after missing time with an oblique injury late in the season and Chris Perez pitched his way out of the closer job with a brutal final month, so Mark Emery of MLB.com wonders if the Indians could end up giving Masterson a look in the ninth inning.

For now manager Terry Francona is simply saying he’ll use a closer-by-committee approach, but Masterson looked good in some late-September relief outings and has plenty of bullpen experience from his days with the Red Sox. Francona called having him available out of the bullpen “quite a weapon” and “we plan to use it.”

Masterson was Cleveland’s Opening Day starter and was on the verge of his third consecutive 200-inning season before the injury. He still ended up leading the Indians with 193 innings, posting a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio while allowing just 13 home runs. If the Indians make it deep into the playoffs moving him back into the rotation could be an option, but in the meantime he seems destined to get some high-leverage relief work.

  1. jbriggs81 - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    While I am sure that Masterson could be used as a closer, it seems silly to assign the closer role for him. Tito could use him in any high leverage spot throughout the game and possibly for several innings depending how stretched out or how good Masterson feels. Limiting him to one inning, when there could be more important spots or innings is kind of a waste.

    • r8rnuck - Oct 1, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      in fairness to the original statement, the word “may” is used but i agree that hypothetically it would be silly to designate him closer. why would you handcuff yourself to that statement. tito was pretty good about being non-commital about the entire closer situation until perez blew the door down.

  2. threeifbyair - Oct 1, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Don’t forget Tito’s done this before. In 2005, Curt Schilling was still recovering from surgery (the ‘bloody sock’ of 2004) and missed the first half of the season. When he came back, the Red Sox didn’t have an effective closer and Schill wasn’t really up to pitching seven innings at once. So Tito installed him as closer — fairly effectively, given that the Sox made the playoffs that year. (They got swept in the ALDS by the White Sox, but still…)

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