Yost relieves Gagne from closer duties
Brewers manager won't commit to one reliever to finish games
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ned Yost on Sunday announced he is relieving Eric Gagne of his closer duties and will "mix and match" his relievers at the ends of games.
"It's not a problem," Yost said. "We got it covered."
Gagne, who allowed the go-ahead runs in the ninth inning Saturday and took the loss against the Cardinals, told reporters afterward he does not "deserve that ninth inning right now."
Gagne has nine saves, which is among the National League leaders, but also five blown saves and a 6.89 ERA.
Yost, who said he usually pays no attention to what is written about his team, decided to make a move after he heard about Gagne's remarks from general manager Doug Melvin on Sunday morning.
"He probably needs a little bit of a break, a little bit of a mental break," Yost said of Gagne. "He's pushing himself really, really hard."
Yost would not commit to one person to replace Gagne, who will move to the seventh or eighth innings as needed.
"I'm not going to set the ninth inning up with any particular person, because I got a lot of confidence in everybody that we have," Yost said. "Normally in a situation like this, you just take the next best guy. But I feel real strongly that the next best guy is four or five relievers."
Conversely -- and somewhat paradoxically -- Yost points out that the closer's role is not for every reliever.
"It's a hard job to be able to take all that pressure to get through the ninth inning," Yost said. "Losing leads in the ninth inning is a big blow to any team. That's why so much pressure is put on a closer. The whole weight of the team is riding on his shoulders to close that game out, and when you don't do it, it's real devastating.
"When it starts to happen two or three or four times, like it has, it takes somebody who's really, really tough to absorb that."
Salomon Torres has the most career saves -- 30 -- of any other Brewers reliever. Most of them came in 2006 and '07, when he picked up 12 saves each season. Torres also has finished 127 games in his career.
David Riske, who has been a closer from time to time, with Cleveland and elsewhere, has finished 153 games and has 21 career saves -- including eight with the Tribe in '03.
Guillermo Mota has seven career saves, closing games with the Florida Marlins among others, and has 137 career finishes.
"I don't expect it, but if I get a chance, if he puts me there, I'll try to do the best I can," Mota said."I was brought here to set up Gagne, and that was my role, so I'm comfortable there, but I used to be in the ninth, too, when I was in Florida."
Pitching the ninth for a save is just mind over matter according to Mota.
"You have to go out there and do your job," he said. "Everybody thinks it's different, but when you're in the game you don't think about that. You think about getting 1-2-3 outs. Sometimes it's hard, but that's the game."
Yost seems to believe that Gagne, who is making $10 million on a one-year deal, will get the bugs worked out. The Brewers spotted a flaw in his approach -- though Yost would not specify the flaw or the fix for it.
"His stuff is great," Yost said. "That's not the problem. He's throwing the ball really, really well. He's just been beat down a little bit. He needs to take a step back and regain his confidence, make an adjustment or two and that'll work."
Gagne has 186 saves in 201 career chances, for a 92-percent success rate, the best for any closer in history with at least 175 saves.
Yost noted that other closers are struggling, including the Cardinals' Jason Isringhausen and even Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox.
"You can't explain to the average person what a closer goes through," Yost said. "It's hard. You're out there all by yourself.
"If he closes that game out, well, 'That's what you were supposed do.' If you don't, it's like, 'Ehhhh!' Everybody goes nuts."
David Brown is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.