While the Reds have turned to David Weathers as their closer (good luck) following the release of Danny Graves, the Akron Beacon Journal’s Terry Pluto reports on success the Indians have found with another journeyman reliever turned closer, Bob Wickman.
The Indians’ closer looks like a man under the lights in a police interrogation room. He grimaces. He squints. He takes deep breaths.
None of it inspires much confidence, other than the facts.
Somehow, someway, Wickman (above) usually gets them out.
There usually are runners on base, the Indians one pitch away from a win or loss in Wickman’s world, which is a baseball high-wire act without a net.
He did it again Monday against the Minnesota Twins at Jacobs Field.
He came into the game with the Tribe in front, 2-1, and promptly struck out power-hitting Justin Morneau.
The 13,257 fans took a deep breath. Maybe this will be 1-2-3. No runs, no drama, no reason to panic.
Then he served up a double to right field, banged off the wall by Torii Hunter, about two feet from being a home run.
So much for an easy ninth inning.
He retired Jacque Jones on a ground ball that sent Hunter to third base.
The score was still 2-1. The tying run was only 90 feet from home plate. Some fans were screaming. Some were standing and stomping. Some were closing their eyes and praying.
Nearly all of them were thinking, “Does it have to be like this every game?”
Then Wickman walked Lew Ford, who promptly stole second base.
There were runners on second and third, the Indians one single away from falling behind.
Wickman stood behind the mound, sweat pouring off his bald head, rubbing up the baseball hard enough to squeeze it into a marble.
Finally, he was back on the mound, and he induced Michael Cuddyer to ground out to Jhonny Peralta at shortstop.
Indians win, 2-1.
Give him a scare and a save.
Wickman is now 13-of-15 in saves, including his past nine in a row. We don’t know how many ulcers he has caused for the fans.
We just know that since Wickman returned from arm problems in the middle of last season, the Indians went from one of baseball’s worst bullpens to one of the best.
Consider that saving 80 percent of games is considered to be very good.
Consider that Wickman is 26-of-29 in the past two seasons, and nearly 90 percent (92-of-103) since coming to the Indians in 2000.
Consider that this is the year closers are collapsing under the pressure, the latest being Danny Graves who was cut Monday by the Cincinnati Reds.
Somehow, Wickman has survived.
“I’m not afraid to put runners on base, if I have to,” he said. “I don’t have good enough stuff to just blow away hitters. I have to pick away.”
It’s a John Franco Kinda World when closers openly admit to having to face 6 or more batters to get 3 outs.