Ryan Madson’s Elbow Wrecks Reds Optimism


Just when you think you have it all together, with all of the pieces in place after a very satisfying off-season of work a lousy ligament blows and you’ve got to start scrambling. That’s the effect of Ryan Madson‘s right elbow going kaplooie has on the Cincinnati Reds with the regular season opener looming.

No one had a better front office off-season than Reds general manager Walt Jocketty. He filled every need, every hole, and Cincinnati looked like the favorite in the National League Central Division. Until the other day when Madson, the free agent acquisition who recorded 32 saves in 34 chances for the Phillies in 2011 had his season ko’d.

Jocketty bolstered the starting pitching, the bench, you name-it, in the months since the Reds ended a very disappointing 2011 season with a losing record. But in no area did he shore up more substantially than the bullpen, and in particular, the role of the closer. That was Madson’s job. Madson’s was a feel-right hire, even after the Reds snagged Sean Marshall from the Chicago Cubs.

When Marshall was acquired there were rumors he would become the closer. That was the wrong approach. Marshall is at his best, can be invaluable, as a late-inning set-up man. When the Reds grabbed Madson, too, they had the bullpen lined up perfectly. Now with the clock ticking on the end of spring training and games starting for real very soon, the Reds have no closer. Madson has been declared out for the season. Now it is an emergency and Marshall may be stuck with the responsibility of becoming a closer whether he is ready or not and whether or not he wants to or the Reds really want him to be that guy.

No doubt Jocketty would be happy to go shopping again, but there is nowhere to shop for closers right now. Costco? Wal-Mart? What’s a distraught general manager to do? Jocketty had a leg up on becoming executive of the year. If he comes up with a worthy closer in the next 10 days they should engrave his name on it permanently.

Right now the Reds are looking in house for a new closer. Madson is reduced to a cheerleader. Marshall is better off handling the seventh or eighth innings. A wild card in the discussion is Aroldis Chapman. It’s been clear the Reds are ready to give more responsibility to Mr. 100 MPH this season, but the question was whether he would become a full-time starter or be used as a middle reliever. Now there is talk of him possibly becoming the closer.

It doesn’t seem as if Chapman is ready for the day-to-day pressure of that job, but if the Reds are ready to risk it and he came through that would be a huge boost. Otherwise Marshall could become the closer and Chapman could assume Marshall’s role. That’s a gamble. It might pay off and it might not. It might simply be the use of two guys being played in positions that are less than their best.

Madson’s elbow is definitely a headache for Reds manager Dusty Baker and the entire franchise. Does anyone think Billy Wagner wants to come out of retirement?

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