Batista Named Closer

Named Closer

In a surprise move – the Toronto Blue Jays announced Thursday afternoon that Miguel Batista will be their closer for the 2005 season.

"We just think this makes us a stronger team overall, both in the bullpen and the way that it cleans up our starting rotation," said manager John Gibbons.

As spring training opened this year, the Jays announced that Justin Speier would be the closer for the 2005 season, and that Batista would remain in the bullpen. However, after taking a look at left-hander Gustavo Chacin during camp, the Jays held a staff meeting and decided it would be best to keep the lefty in the rotation at the major league level, and put Batista back in the bullpen.

"When we used Miguel as a closer late last year, it just seemed as if he was able to simplify things. We're hoping this narrows down his choices, that he'll just come into games and air it out" said Gibbons.

Batista was used as the closer during the final seven games of the season and picked up a save in five of those games, while losing just one – a game he gave up an unearned run. In 7.2 innings as a closer last year, Batista gave up nine hits and just three earned runs.

General Manager J.P. Ricciardi and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg mentioned how Batista is a pitcher that can pitch more than three days in a row, because of his loose arm.

"He can go seven, eight days in a row," said Arnsberg. "You wouldn't know if he'd just gotten a 1 1/3 inning save. This is a guy who throws 120 pitches and then long-tosses across the outfield the next day -- so we'll be able to ride with him."

"He has a very resilient arm, and he's a guy who'd throw five days in a row if you let him" said Ricciardi.

When asked how he foresees from Batista as the clubs closer, Arnsberg acknowledged that there would be rocky moments from Batista, however, in the long run he would get the job done.

"We're hoping he's a 35- to 40-save guy."

There are some that question whether or not Chacin can handle the role of a major league starter. Despite the fact that Chacin pitched well in his September call-up last season he has not dominated the minor league level as one would expect. Before his 2004 breakout year in the minors, the left-handers' best season was in 2001 when he went 11-8 with a 3.98 ERA for Double-A Tennessee. Chacin repeated Double-A for the fourth straight year last season, and many cite that as the reason for his success. Chacin pitched twenty-five games at Double-A, two at Triple-A, and two more in the majors, as he went a combined 19-3 in those twenty-nine starts. In six minor league seasons, Chacin has struck out 6.2 batters per nine-innings.

"More development time wouldn't hurt him, but in my opinion, he's ready now," said Arnsberg. "I've seen a good [side session] and a decent one -- he's not going to go out there and get [crushed] too often."

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