Walt Weiss is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to choosing a closer for the stretch run of the season.
The ninth inning of Monday’s 4-3 loss against the Texas Rangers leaves the Colorado Rockies manager with a difficult decision: Stick with hard-throwing rookie Carlos Estevez, who blew his second straight save and fifth of the season, against Texas? Or go with the more experienced Adam Ottavino, who made his return from Tommy John in July?
It’s difficult to imagine Estevez staying in the role after Monday. He entered the game in the ninth with Colorado leading 3-1, but gave up two hits and a walk that let Texas tie it back up. The Rangers took the lead off Boone Logan when Elvis Andrus scored from first on Mitch Moreland’s RBI-double.
It was the second time in four games the 23-year-old Estevez blew a save. He’s had many promising moments since replacing Jake McGee as the team’s closer. In his first 12 appearances, he allowed just two runs. But in his last two outings, he’s given up seven runs to raise his ERA all the way to 5.18. He can throw fireballs — his fastball runs in the upper-90s — but command has been an issue.
“You’ve just got to keep grinding,” Estevez said. “Whatever happened today, OK tomorrow is a new day. You’ve just got to turn the page.”
Colorado sunk to 4 ½ games back in the National League Wild Card race after its most recent late-game loss.
Can Weiss afford to keep trotting out a rookie closer when his team’s playoff chances are slipping away?
“I’m not going to talk about roles after the game,” said Weiss when asked about a potential change.
If one does come, it will likely be Ottavino. The 30 year-old righty has allowed eight hits and no runs since making his return from Tommy John surgery July 5. He’s just recently started pitched in innings of consequence. He escaped an eighth-inning jam Monday. Closing is a different animal, though.
It’d be a lot to ask someone so fresh off recovering from Tommy John to take over closing duties for a team in the Wild Card hunt. But Weiss doesn’t have many other options.
Jake McGee, who the team traded for last year with the hopes that he’d assume closing duties, is in the midst of the worst season of his career, with 19 earned runs and 11 walks in 32.2 innings. He hasn’t looked right since coming back from his DL-stint with a sprained MCL.
So who then? Boone Logan has pitched well this year, but he’s recorded all of three career saves in 11 MLB seasons. The only other logical option besides sticking with Estevez is Ottavino. Is his elbow ready?
There aren’t any easy solutions. Only difficult questions.