Closer situation in KC:
Joakim Soria (3.1 IP, 7 ER, 10 H, 1 BB, 3 K this spring) has been served a diagnosis and a concurring second opinion, and itís not good. The KC closer has damage to his ulner collateral ligament that almost assuredly will lead to Tommy John surgery.
Enter Greg Holland (7 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 11 K this spring).
Holland had a penchant for making bats miss his pitches last year, finishing third in contact rate behind only Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen. As you would expect, he finished with a very low ERA, 1.80. A 2.27 FIP and 2.67 xFIP finds little fault in his 2011 output. He relied on a killer slider, throwing it about as much as his fastball.
Popular theory contends Jon Broxtonís (3 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 K this spring) closer experience should make him the favorite for saves, but who knows what condition heís in after having elbow surgery late last season. The team has been understandably cautious with him thus far this spring, ... can see for giving him save opportunities out of the gate is if they think he can build a little trade value and bring back a decent prospect at the trade deadline. Itís hard to believe heís ready for the role after three spring innings.
Another name for which to watch out is Aaron Crow (7 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 7 K this spring), who the team is moving back from a starting competition to the bullpen after the Soria news. Crow was nominally the closer for a few weeks in 2011, though he didnít have the chance to nab a save at the time. The owner of a good 2.76 ERA last year, Crow was otherwise a bit mediocre, posting a HR/9 of 1.16 and a BB/9 of 4.50. An unsustainable strand rate contributed to his low ERA, and his 2011 peripherals would make me hesitate to put him in the closer role. He hasnít been any better with walks this spring, though work as a starter can be partially at fault for that.
That brings us back to Holland. The faults expressed of the other two closer candidates pale in comparison to any wrongs you can find with Holland. Heís the best reliever in the Royals bullpen, and thereís a fair shot that was true even before the Soria injury. Holland has looked great this spring, pitching seven innings while allowing just four hits and a walk, with 11 strikeouts to his credit.