All outs are created equal as far as Kyle Barraclough is concerned. But the ones in the ninth have a little something extra going for them, a this-is-it quality that isn’t found in the seventh or eighth.
“I don’t want to say any other position is less important,” Barraclough said. “But it’s a little more exciting knowing it’s the last out of the game, or the last outs of the game.”
From now on, Barraclough will know that feeling.
Manager Don Mattingly moved Barraclough into the closer’s role after Brad Ziegler lost the job he following another rough outing in San Diego.
“It is something that you don’t like to do because when you make that change, it means you’e been having late-inning troubles,” Mattingly said. “It’s not one of those you want to do.”
But Mattingy had little choice. Ziegler was 0-5 with a 7.83 ERA.
The hard-throwing Barraclough and his 1.48 ERA was a no-brainer to move into Ziegler’s ninth-inning spot.
As Mattingly put it: “Now we’re trying to work the ball to him. He doesn’t get the safety net. He has to go walk the wire without the net. He’s the last in line.”
Which is fine with Barraclough.
Like all relievers, Barraclough coveted the closer’s role.
“I think the closer is the position that guys want to be in,” Barraclough said. “I think everybody wants the ball at the end of the game. Obviously it’s an exciting part of the game as well. The game is close.”
Barraclough has been thrown into a few ninth-inning save situations over the past two years with unremarkable results. He blew his first couple of chances before chalking up his first ninth-inning save at Colorado at the end of last season.
“I think getting that first save last year was the biggest hump of everything,” Barraclough said. “(It was) just kind of getting the monkey off my back after the first couple of ones I had.”
Barraclough also recorded a save on April 28 of this season when he entered in the ninth inning with a three-run lead and struck out all three batters he faced.
“I wouldn’t call it tension,” Barraclough said of being on the mound in the ninth. “I would just call it the competition of it all, the excitement. That’s the great part of pitching, that there’s a little mano-o-mano, me versus the hitter.”
Barraclough is a far different closer than Ziegler, a soft-thrower who depended on ground balls for his outs. Barraclough attacks with hard heat. He’s averaging 10 whiffs per nine innings. On the other hand, command has been his main nemesis, as he averages more than five walks per nine innings.
“That would be our main concern,” Mattingly said of Barraclough’s walks.
But Mattingly said it’s less than a concern now than it once was when Barraclough first came up and base runners took advantage of his slow time to the plate. Mattingly said he’s “not long to the plate” as he once was.
“So that’s out of the equation now,” Mattingly said.
Barraclough said he’s looking forward to his new role.
“I just want to win, whether it be this role, the eighth inning, seventh inning or sixth inning even,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I just want to go out and get the outs I’m asked to get. But it’s a little different in the ninth, just being the last three.
“That’s always been my goal. I want to pitch at the back end of games. Now this is kind of the ultimate back end of the game.”
Wei-Yin Chen said he felt normal. Don Mattingly said he didn't look normal.
Or at least that's how Mattingly viewed matters in deciding to remove Chen only 47 pitches into a short-lived outing Thursday that culminated in the Marlins' third straight loss, an 8-3 defeat to the Padres.
When Chen ran into trouble in the second inning, Mattingly wasted no time going out to get his pitcher, something he's said he's more prone to do with Chen than he is with his other starters.
"It didn’t look like he had anything tonight," Mattingly said. "It just looked like the ball wasn’t coming out."
Mattingly emphasized that he had no concerns with Chen physically, and Chen said his arm was good.
"I didn’t feel really different," Chen said. "I didn’t feel bad. I felt pretty normal."
Chen did manage, however, to drive in a pair of runs with a two-out single off Lyles in the first. But those were of small consolation given the brevity of his outing.
"That’s probably the only thing I can be happy about tonight," Chen said. "That’s one good thing. Unfortunately, pitching-wise I didn’t do that well. So it wasn’t a good night overall."
-- Reliever Nick Wittgren had a swollen middle finger on his pitching hand after being struck by a come-backer in Thursday’s game. But he said he thought he would be fine to pitch by Saturday.