Padres taking committee approach at closer

Padres taking committee approach at closer

NEW YORK -- It's not rocket science, but it's not exactly the baseball norm either: The Padres will use their best relief pitcher in the highest-leverage situations, save opportunities be darned.

A day after Brad Hand notched his first save of the season, a thrilling escape act against the Mets, manager Andy Green wasn't willing to commit to Hand as his closer moving forward.

His reasoning:

"It'd be unwise to go into a game and just say, 'I'm just going to keep Brad for the ninth inning.' Sometimes that's a really poor use of him. He's the type of reliever that only honestly really exists in a few places today. High leverage, you need a punchout, he can go get it for you. High leverage, you need to close out a game, he can go do that for you.

"There's a lot of different ways to utilize him. It would be unwise to limit our team to a declaration that I'm going to obligate myself to use this guy in the ninth inning. It just doesn't make sense to me."

Nonetheless, Green called upon Hand again to close out Thursday night's 4-3 win over the Mets, after Brandon Maurer had pitched the eighth. But he noted afterward that the matchups had dictated as much. Hand faced lefties Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce in the final frame.

Since the Padres acquired Hand off waivers from the Marlins last April, he's been nothing short of dominant. Only Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have recorded more strikeouts out of the bullpen. And through 27 innings this season, Hand has posted a 2.00 ERA and 35 punchouts.

Until Wednesday, Maurer had spent the season as the Padres' closer. Green flipped the righty Maurer with the lefty Hand, and Maurer pitched a scoreless eighth on Wednesday before surrendering a run on Thursday. Hand also allowed a run Thursday. Going forward, Green isn't planning on using any labels, noting, "We're going to look at the situation."

So long as they're pitching, neither Hand nor Maurer seems to care when or where. Left-hander Ryan Buchter is also in the mix to pitch in high-leverage spots late in games, and he pitched 1 1/3 quality frames on Thursday, escaping trouble in both the sixth and seventh.

"We're the type of club that the further away we can get from roles, the better off we're going to be, the more liberty we'll give ourselves to make decisions in the middle of games," Green said. "You're looking at Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and Brad Hand, sixth through the ninth. 'Guys, be ready.'"

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.