Pete Mackanin Considers Removing Jeanmar Gomez from Closer Role
When Mitch Williams was the Phillies’ closer in the early 1990’s, he flirted with disaster so often in his save opportunities that he earned the name “Wild Thing.”
The reference was to the amount of hitters Williams would put on base, whether it be a walk, a hit batsmen, or a base-hit – he always seemed to make the game interesting, but for the most part, he got the job done.
Jeanmar Gomez would be Pete Mackanin’s Wild Thing, becoming a stress-carrier in the ninth inning of just about any game he enters.
But a change might be coming.
“I’m considering it,” Mackanin admitted to the media after Gomez gave up three runs in a blown save against the Nationals on Sunday. “That’s about all I can say right now.”
If Mackanin is thinking of making a closer change, he has a logical candidate in Hector Neris, who could take over the closing duties as early as Monday. Before Sunday’s game – in which Gomez gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman with two outs in the top of the ninth – Mackanin admitted to being “concerned” about Gomez’s struggles during Monday’s opener versus the Reds.
“We have to do what we have to do,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to talk to Jeanmar tomorrow, I didn’t talk to him today, I’ll have something for you tomorrow – we’ll see, we’re going to discuss it.
“We have to do what’s best for the team, we’ll know tomorrow.”
Gomez had 37 saves last season as the surprise closer for the Phillies, taking over the role early in the season. He was stellar at times, of shutdown quality, saving 24-of-26 games with a 2.59 ERA at one point last season. However, he struggled miserably down the stretch and finished with a 4.85 ERA.
It appears the breaking point has been reached, however. Gomez owns a 15.00 ERA through his first three outings of the season.
What would it hurt to let Neris try to see if his overpowering stuff plays in the ninth inning? Well, there clearly is a downside. As you saw on Sunday, Neris plays a very important role in the Phillies bullpen, coming in for four outs, and nailing down the eighth inning.
While Neris certainly looks like he has closer’s stuff. In 80.1 innings, he had a 2.58 ERA, allowing just 59 hits, with a 102 to 33 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Those are crazy numbers, and they’ve come in a lot of high-leverage situations, too. Neris has two essential closer’s attributes: Swing-and-miss stuff, and the ability to induce ground balls.
The other option would be 39-year old free agent addition Joaquin Benoit, who finished last season strong in Toronto with a 0.38 ERA across 25 appearances – he has yet to give up a run or hit in three appearances with the Phillies in 2017. He has 51 career saves, including a personal high 24 with Detroit in 2013.
The question then becomes if Neris or Benoit take over the closer’s role, what role would Gomez have? He has struggled so much, that it’s hard to see him stepping into the very important setup role, currently held by Neris.
Regardless of what role he takes on, it appears Gomez’s days of pitching in the ninth could be numbered.