Guardado removed from closer's role

Guardado removed from closer's role

CHICAGO -- A day after Eddie Guardado blew his third save opportunity of the season, manager Mike Hargrove decided to go into another direction as to who will close games.

"We're going to back off Eddie as being the closer right now," Hargrove said before the Mariners faced the Chicago White Sox on Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field.

"We'll try to pitch him in less pressure situations. Just back him away from the edge and see if we can't get his confidence back up."

Hargrove noted the team, for now, will go with a closer-by-committee setup.

Guardado allowed a home run to White Sox pinch-hitter Pablo Ozuna in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 6-5, 11-inning loss to Chicago.

It was the third blown save for Guardado -- who is 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA -- since April 17. All three blown saves have come on home runs.

On April 17, Guardado had a one-run lead in Boston with two outs but allowed a single and a walk-off home run to Mark Loretta.

On April 20 against Texas, Guardado wasn't bitten by the long ball but a complete loss of control as he walked four batters in one inning and allowed a run in a loss to the Rangers.

Then on April 24 at Safeco Field against these same White Sox, Guardado had a one-run lead again only to allow a two-out home run to Brian Anderson in the ninth inning. The Mariners eventually won that game in 11 innings.

Finally on Wednesday, Guardado got two quick outs but left a slider out over the plate to Ozuna, who had never hit a home run in his previous 333 career at-bats.

"Am I hurt ... sure, because I care," Guardado said. "I love this game. I'm just not doing the job and it's hurting the team. At this time they feel like they want to make a change. It's hurts because it's my job."

And now that job belongs to ... everyone?

Hargrove said he hasn't picked a designated closer and will instead go with the "hot hand."

"It will be a combination of all of them," Hargrove said. "We have options. It may be [J.J.] Putz one night, Sean Green the next, [Rafael] Soriano the next, Jake Woods and George Sherrill. How long this lasts, a week, two weeks, the rest of the year. ... I don't know."

What Hargrove does know is that by taking Guardado out of the closer role for now, that it changes the roles his relievers have settled into. That bothered Guardado as well.

"The thing I feel bad about is that it messes up the chemistry [of the bullpen]," Guardado said. "Hopefully, they can go about their business. I've put them in this situation and I feel really bad."

The logical candidate to close games would be Putz, the hard-throwing right-hander who saved nine games in 2004 when Guardado was sidelined in August with a tear of his left rotator cuff.

Putz has been dominant in his role as a late-inning setup pitcher this season, going 1-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 15 games. In that span, Putz has struck out 22 hitters in 15 2/3 innings and has allowed only one run in his last 12 appearances.

But Putz certainly didn't want to get the opportunity to close this way.

"You never like to see anyone struggle, especially when it's a guy of Eddie's character and personality," Putz said. "We're going to try to get the outs and give Eddie a chance to settle back into the Eddie we all know he is."

Soriano is another possible candidate. Going into Wednesday's game, Soriano hadn't allowed an inherited runner to score. That changed when he allowed a seventh-inning grand slam to Joe Crede.

Hargrove didn't slam the door on Guardado returning as closer this season. The timing just called for a change now.

"Eddie's one of the good guys," Hargrove said. "I'm sure it will take him a little bit of time to rally himself. He's a tough guy.

"With guys like Eddie, you take it a little longer than someone else. But there comes a time it's really not accomplishing anything. I think we reached that point last night."

Corey Brock is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.