Atlanta Braves vs St. Louis Cardinals, Game 3 NLDS in St. Louis

Carlos Martinez pitches the ninth inning in Game 3 of the 2019 NLDS against Atlanta. (Post-Dispatch photo by David Carson)

HUMMEL ON EXPECTATIONS AT CLOSER:

Jordan Hicks, who knocked off 14 saves by mid-June last season, was expected to be able to help sometime in August, 13 months-plus after his Tommy John elbow surgery. But he won’t be plugged into that closer role until next year as he has chosen to opt out of this season because of his  Type 1 diabetes that puts him at risk. 

Andrew Miller has the most career saves of anybody else in the bullpen at 58, but he had issues this spring with his lack of “feel” for the baseball, which set his workload back. Even though he appears to be all right now, it isn’t clear what can be expected of him.

Manager Mike Shildt and pitching coach Mike Maddux seemed intent on righthander Giovanny Gallegos being the ninth-inning pitcher, but Gallegos had mixed results when working ninth innings in the first training camp and was delayed getting into the second one as he wasn’t allowed to leave his native Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic.

The tea leaves had pointed to some sort of confederation involving Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, Tyler Webb and Miller. Buzz-bombing Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley were here for the second camp, and one or both could be on the roster at some point, especially when it is at 30.

But the easiest answer might be to go with the closer who had 24 saves last season, Carlos Martinez. The two-time All-Star had come to both camps this year intent on showing he was strong enough to rejoin the rotation and he displayed that form and intensity. Martinez would be reluctant to return to the bullpen but the need is there and he could provide multiple innings. 

Could Alex Reyes do it? His arm, rarely used in the past three years because of injury, probably isn’t conditioned enough to try the closer role. Nor is his command there yet. But the stuff plays. He missed the first 10 days of training camp, though.

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