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Looking for a savior

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001


The John Rocker trade Friday night was a curious move for both Atlanta and Cleveland. The Braves are left without a proven closer, and the Indians now have two. Following a string of on- and off-field incidents by the volatile Rocker this month, the Braves seemingly decided ninth-inning headaches were preferable to the all-day headaches caused by Rocker.

The thinking in Cleveland was that a left-hander was needed in the bullpen to go the distance in the pennant race. Not only did it get a left-hander, it may have gotten the best in the game. He did, however, come at a cost. Steve Karsay (1.28 ERA) and Steve Reed (3.62 ERA) have never shown they can close, but they have been extremely effective as setup men in what already was the league's best bullpen.

Going into the weekend, the Indians were second in the majors in innings pitched in relief and first in bullpen ERA. Indians manager Charlie Manuel may have fewer options earlier in games, but he now can choose between two strong closers in the eighth and ninth. Although he has been far less visible than Rocker, Bob Wickman has been every bit as effective as a closer the past three seasons. Here is a comparison of Wickman's and Rocker's save totals since 1999:

BOB WICKMAN (Yr., Sv/Opps, Pct.)

2001, 15/16, 93.8

2000, 30/37, 81.1

1999, 37/45, 82.2

Totals, 82/98, 83.7

* * *

JOHN ROCKER (Yr., Sv/Opps Pct.)

2001,19/23,82.6

2000,24/27,88.9

1999,38/45,84.4

Totals,81/95,85.3

-- Compiled by John Romano.

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