The Padres will miss another 40-something, Doug Brocail, but still have a wall in front of Hoffman in Heath Bell and Cla Meredith, who between them stranded 56 of 74 inherited runners. Kevin Cameron should have a meatier role after a solid rookie season. The Friars could use a lefty in the mix, and hope youngster Joe Thatcher can prove to be the one.One of the best things the San Diego bullpen has going for it is someone who will never deliver a pitch. Manager and former pitching coach Bud Black has a sixth sense for blending the right combination. He and pitching coach Darren Balsley will figure out a way to save Hoffman's bullets, given how he buckled physically at the end of last season. 3. Indians: The Tribe ("Major League") could also be the inspiration for a retro TV series, "Sliders." The Indians' under-appreciated bullpen depends on people who live by that pitch. It's what makes Joe Borowski much more valuable than his stats (5.07 ERA, 96 baserunners in 65 2/3 innings) would suggest. Sliders can go flat, but Borowski has been around long enough (13 seasons, seven teams) to know how to shrug that off; 18 of his league-leading 45 saves came in one-run games. Now, a new conditioning routine has him in the best shape of his life. Left-handed poison Rafael Perez's featured pitch also is the slider, and the slider-arsenal has been joined by Japanese import Masahide Kobayashi. Perez faced left-handed hitters 92 times and struck out twice as many (22) as got hits off him (12).
Spot them alongside Rafael Betancourt's and Jensen Lewis' heat, and it's an effective shuttle. Aaron Fultz gives manager Eric Wedge the luxury of a second lefty for mid-game matchups. These incumbents (excluding Kobayashi, of course) inherited 142 runners in the course of last season; 28 of them scored.4. Brewers: How can a team let a 44-save closer (Cordero) and a valued middle man (Linebrink) walk, yet still rate a top-notch bullpen? Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin scores on the proactive meter. Cordero already had a track record (with Texas) for crash-landing after a big season, so Melvin felt better about rebuilding his bullpen and went all out. A lot rides on whether Guillermo Mota and Eric Gagne can re-enact the deadly combination they formed with the 2002-04 Dodgers. There are people with closing experience all over the place. Melvin also added David Riske and Salomon Torres, and Derrick Turnbow is still on the scene. Brian Shouse has aged into a trusted matchup lefty (only 24 of the 94 he faced reached base). 5. Blue Jays: Toronto rates on the cloud-with-silver-lining theory. In the wake of the devastating loss last April of closer B.J. Ryan to Tommy John surgery, the Blue Jays hustled up the league's most surprisingly effective 'pen. Plugging a healthy Ryan's lefty hammer back in would turn good into great. Ryan, who had his elbow operation in mid-May, appears to be on an accelerated track to recovery. By the end of this week, he could make his Grapefruit League debut; barring setbacks, that would make his availability on Opening Day feasible. Ryan's return would knock Jeremy Accardo, who did such a terrific job as the pinch closer (30 saves in 35 opportunities), down a notch. Unless Accardo suffers from Gagne Disease and loses his edge in a setup role, he'd be a nasty eighth-inning guy. Scott Downs helps bridge the gap between the starters and Ryan, a role that Casey Janssen would have also played had he not been lost for the season due to a torn labrum. Brian Tallet is another lefty in the pen.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.