Jason Grilli (39) days until Opening Day.
After being plucked from the Phillies’ Triple-A roster in July of 2011, “Grilled Cheese” has improved with age and was one of the best setup men in all of baseball last season. With the departure of Joel Hanrahan, Grilli slides into the closer role after signing a new two-year deal in December.
Three questions about number 39…
1. How will he adapt to the closer position? There’s been a lot of debate over the “closer mentality” in Major League Baseball. Some believe that only a select few can succeed in the role, while others say it is position that can be easily filled. Grilli shows plenty of emotion on the mound, often exhibiting unreal fist pumps after a big out. The mentality seems to be there for him, but can the National League’s oldest closer get the job done in the ninth?
2. Will he stay remain productive as he gets older? As previously stated, he’ll be the oldest closer in the NL in 2013. Despite his recent success, Grilli will inevitably slow down in the future, as he enters his age 36 season. He did struggle in September, allowing a .317 opponent batting average and posting a 6.52 ERA. Between a ninth inning workload and getting up there in age, hopefully Grilli can stay healthy and earn his two-year, $6.75 million contract.
3. Can he continue to strike batters out at a ridiculous rate? Grilli was off-the-charts in 2012 with a tremendous 13.8 K/9. Fellow National League bullpen hurlers Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman topped Grilli at 16.7 and 15.3, respectively. If he can strike men out at a high clip again in 2013, he could be very successful as the Bucco closer.