By Cole Shelton
Canadian Baseball Network
Entering the 2018 season, many pegged the Toronto Blue Jays to have one of the best closers in baseball in 23-year-old Roberto Osuna.
However, with Osuna suspensed due to an assault charge, manager John Gibbons has had to rely on Ryan Tepera and newcomer Tyler Clippard to close out ball games and both have stepped up to the role. that's before the courts
Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Osuna on Friday through Aug. 4 for violating the league’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. The suspension is retroactive to May 8 and will cover 75 games. Osuna will not appeal. Osuna is facing an assault charge. His lawyer plead not guilty on Monday and his case is scheduled to return to court July 9.
Gibbons had other options for the closer's role in Canadian John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) and Seung-Hwan Oh but he ultimately decided to rely on the Tepera and Clippard which has worked out well for the Blue Jays.
Tepera has had the most chances as a closer and had a rocky beginning in the role, but he has calmed his nerves and in the month of June and has pitched to a 1.00 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in nine innings over six appearances. He has registered a 2.61 ERA in the ninth inning compared to a 3.22 ERA in the eighth.
Not only is Tepera not allowing runs, he is also using his five pitches effectively. Utilizing all of his pitches has been key for Tepera’s success in the ninth as hitters have a tough time figuring him out. So far he is getting hitters to whiff 29.2% of the time, the highest mark of his career, and is not walking many batters. According to baseball-savant, Tepera has an impressive 2.65 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 17 innings in this late/close game situations.
While Tepera is excelling in save situations, so is veteran right-hander Tyler Clippard who is closing when Tepera needs a rest. In those late innings, Clippard boasts a tidy 3.07 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP while also striking out 21 in just 14 2/3 innings.
Clippard was brought in on a minor-league contract after a below average 2017 season in which he posted a 4.77 ERA and spent time on three different rosters. However, since joining Toronto, he has been one of the best and most reliable relievers in the bullpen. With runners on first, he has a perfect 0.00 ERA and a 0.35 WHIP and with when runners are on first and second Clippard also has a 0.00 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP, according to baseball-savant.
Meanwhile, when runners are not on and he is coming into a game with no outs — which he has pitched 10 2/3 of his innings — Clippard has a 0.84 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. Clippard has shown he can pitch in high leverage spots and pitch effectively when called upon and that's exactly what the Blue Jays were hoping for when they signed him.
Tepera and Clippard have exceeded many people’s expectations as co-closers and their names are coming up in trade rumours as the trade deadline is approaching and playoff-bound teams are desperately looking for relievers who can pitch in late game situations.
For now, however, both are a big part of Toronto’s bullpen.