Toronto have named Miguel Batista their closer for 2005, writes the Globe & Mail’s Jeff Blair. And if nothing else, this should make for an interesting competition for the 5th starter spot.
General manager J. P. Ricciardi approached Gibbons and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg about the move 10 days ago, telling them to sleep on it for a couple of nights. But the idea had been tossed around on three previous occasions, too. Batista was 5-for-5 last year after being installed as the closer on Sept. 18. He had a 10-12 record and 4.88 earned-run average as a starter.
Justin Speier, who will be used as a setup man, took the news hard, according to Gibbons and Arnsberg. Batista was enthusiastic. “I saw a gleam in his eye,” Arnsberg said.
Batista “is a little like John Wetteland, in that as a closer he will give you some grey hair,” said Arnsberg, who was a pitching coach with the Montreal Expos when Batista was with the team. “But we’re hoping he’s a 35, 40 save guy.”
Ricciardi said last night that the team will break camp with “the best pitching we can possibly have.” He responded with a simple, direct “sure” when asked whether that meant he’d be prepared to eat a guaranteed contract.
Jason Frasor, Brandon League and Vinny Chulk have to pitch their way off the major-league roster. Scott Schoeneweis is guaranteed the situational left-hander spot, while Scott Downs or Pete Walker might land a swingman’s spot. Kerry Ligtenberg and Billy Koch have a long road to go to get back into it, despite the fact both have guaranteed contracts.
Catcher Gregg Zaun likes the makeup of the staff now that the move has been made official. Batista (above) used to frequently shake off Zaun last year as a starter, and Zaun was particularly annoyed at Batista’s refusal to use his cut fastball that he says compares favourably with that of Mariano Rivera.
“Miguel gets a little less creative when he closes,” Zaun said. “I don’t know, but it seems like he loses a little interest when he starts.
“I guess after a while it gets old annihilating guys with your cutter. Maybe the game becomes too easy for him at that point.”