Closer Encounters: Pressly Nearing Return to Astros

Closer Encounters: Pressly Nearing Return to Astros

This article is part of our Closer Encounters series.

With April in the books, there's been no shortage of closer news in the first week of May. Below we'll dive into a few injury updates, a pair of anticipated closer returns, while monitoring the progress of a few high-upside relievers that recently recorded their first save of the season for their respective clubs.

Injury Updates

Ryan Pressly, RP, Astros - Pressly (knee) needed just six pitches (all strikes) to record a scoreless frame in a minor-league rehab appearance with Triple-A Sugar Land on Tuesday. His fastball velocity got up to 93.6 mph during the game, which still is not on par with his average from last season (95.5 mph).

Nonetheless, it was an efficient outing for the Astros closer, who has been on the injured list since April 16 with right knee inflammation. At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether Pressly will require more than one rehab outing, but Astros GM James Click said the team will see how Wednesday goes and then make a determination:

With April in the books, there's been no shortage of closer news in the first week of May. Below we'll dive into a few injury updates, a pair of anticipated closer returns, while monitoring the progress of a few high-upside relievers that recently recorded their first save of the season for their respective clubs.

Injury Updates

Ryan Pressly, RP, Astros - Pressly (knee) needed just six pitches (all strikes) to record a scoreless frame in a minor-league rehab appearance with Triple-A Sugar Land on Tuesday. His fastball velocity got up to 93.6 mph during the game, which still is not on par with his average from last season (95.5 mph).

Nonetheless, it was an efficient outing for the Astros closer, who has been on the injured list since April 16 with right knee inflammation. At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether Pressly will require more than one rehab outing, but Astros GM James Click said the team will see how Wednesday goes and then make a determination:

It sounds like Pressly's return from the IL is imminent, even if he needs another rehab outing. In the meantime, look for Rafael Montero to continue receive save chances for Houston in Pressly's absence. He has recorded two saves in the last week and has allowed just one run through 10.1 innings this season.

Josh Hader, RP, Brewers - Brewers manager Craig Counsell revealed after Tuesday's 6-3 win over the Reds that Hader is dealing with back spasms. Hader hasn't pitched since April 27 and was not available for Tuesday's win, but completed a bullpen session that same day and is expected to be available either Wednesday or Thursday. In Hader's absence, Devin Williams secured his second save of the season during Tuesday's win. Williams got off to a rocky start this year, but has pitched 6.1 scoreless innings in his last seven appearances with a win, two saves, four holds and a 9:2 K:BB over that span.

Dylan Floro, RP, Marlins - Speaking of imminent returns, it seems like Floro (shoulder) has been close to returning from the IL for the last several weeks. The veteran reliever has yet to make his 2022 debut after suffering right rotator cuff tendinitis, but he has pitched in four minor-league rehab games, including back-to-back games April 30 and May 1.

Floro rejoined the Marlins earlier this week for their series against Arizona, but will pitch in another rehab outing, per manager Don Mattingly. Assuming that outing goes well, a return toward the end of this week is possible. I'll be monitoring Floro's usage upon his return, as there's a chance he could reclaim the closer role that he held in the second half of last season. Meanwhile, Anthony Bender has tallied six saves in seven chances and should continue to be in the mix for saves, if not maintain the primary closer role, when Floro returns.

Mark Melancon, RP, Diamondbacks - Melancon, who has been on the injured list since last Friday after a positive COVID-19 test, played long toss and threw in the bullpen late Monday night after Arizona's 5-4 win at Miami. As of this writing, the veteran closer still requires another negative test to be activated, thus his return is to be determined. Ian Kennedy has tallied two saves in Melancon's absence, with lefty Joe Mantiply closing out Tuesday's win with Kennedy unavailable.

Recent Returns

Lou Trivino, RP, Athletics - After missing more than two weeks due to COVID-19, Trivino was reinstated Tuesday. He had a disastrous minor-league rehab outing with Low-A Stockton on May 1, allowing five runs on five hits in an inning, despite working against a much lower level of competition. Despite the poor performance, Oakland reinstated him Tuesday and immediately put him to work against the Rays. Unfortunately, his big-league return was just as bad as his rehab appearance. Trivino was summoned to record the final out of a tie game in the ninth inning, but imploded when the game went to extras. He took his second loss of the season, allowing five runs (four earned) on four hits and a walk with no strikeouts in two-thirds of an inning. Meanwhile, Dany Jimenez has yet to allow a run through 10 innings and is a perfect 4-for-4 in save chances this season. Look for Jimenez to receive Oakland's next save opportunity with Trivino struggling.

Lucas Sims, RP, Reds - The Reds fell to 3-20 after Tuesday's 6-3 loss at Milwaukee. They've lost seven consecutive games and 18 of their last 19. There obviously haven't been many save opportunities to go around this season, but all three of Cincinnati's wins were capped with a save. In true David Bell form, all three were by different relievers — Tony Santillan, Art Warren and Sims, who returned from the injured list April 23 after dealing with elbow and back issues this spring. Sims has been limited to just three appearances since his return, with his last coming April 30. Two of those outings were in the sixth inning of games the Reds trailed by two runs. It's anyone guess who will receive Cincinnati's next save chance, but Sims should be in the mix as of one Bell's preferred options.

Continue Monitoring

Ryan Helsley, RP, Cardinals - Helsley has been the best reliever in baseball the first month of this season. I would usually include "arguably" in that sentence, but I don't think there's any argument. Helsley leads all qualified relievers with a 17.3 K/9, 61.5 K-BB percentage, 26.1 swinging-strike percentage, 0.12 WHIP and -0.77 FIP. Yes, his FIP is negative. Helsley's strong performance to date earned him his first save opportunity of the season Sunday, which he successfully converted after firing two scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the Diamondbacks. Giovanny Gallegos rebounded from a poor outing April 25 to convert the team's next save chance Monday, but Helsley wasn't available after working two innings the day prior. It will be interesting to see how Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol distributes the save opportunities. Gallegos is likely to remain the primary closer, but Helsley has earned more opportunities than the team probably anticipated giving him when the season started. Remember, Helsely's strikeout and ratio contributions are valuable even if he's not racking up a ton of saves. For added context, Helsley is now rostered in 98 percent of NFBC Main Event leagues (15-team format). I was among the managers who picked him up last weekend.

Jhoan Duran, RP, Twins - I covered Duran three weeks ago as a potential source of saves and he has since followed through, converting his first of the season Monday against Baltimore. The rookie flamethrower has been spectacular with a 3.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 19:2 K:BB in 12 innings. He ranks in the 90th percentile or better in several pitching categories:

Meanwhile, Duran's 38.6 K-BB percentage and 0.95 xFIP rank second among relievers behind the aforementioned Helsley. Emilio Pagan still leads the Twins with two saves and was warming up for the save chance during Tuesday's 7-2 win over the Orioles, but ultimately wasn't used when Minnesota tallied two runs in the top of the ninth inning to extend their lead in the game to five. Keep in mind Duran has worked multiple innings in half of his eight appearances and might not always be in line for a save opportunity, but he's certainly earned more chances as the season progresses. He's clearly Minnesota's most talented reliever, while Pagan's home run problem might ultimately force manager Rocco Baldelli's hand for the AL Central division leaders.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Rufe
Ryan manages the MLB Closer Grid and authors 'Closer Encounters'. He also contributes to the MLB draft kit and has been helping RotoWire subscribers through our 'Ask An Expert' feature since 2014. He's an NFBC enthusiast.
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