The Great Reliever Roundup

March 10, 2003

Despite all the talk about a depressed free-agent market, relief
pitchers played a rousing game of musical chairs in the
off-season. In the past four months numerous contenders have
overhauled their bullpens, most notably the Braves, Red Sox and
Yankees. Even closers got into the act: Seven pitchers who led
their teams in saves last season are wearing different uniforms
this spring, including Billy Koch of the A's and Keith Foulke of
the White Sox, who swapped teams. Atlanta had the best bullpen in
the majors last season but didn't re-sign two key components,
lefthanders Mike Remlinger, an All-Star, and Chris Hammond. Here
are the most prominent relievers with new addresses this spring
and an assessment (on a 1-to-10 scale) of the impact that each
will have on his new team. --Albert Chen

Keith Foulke, RHP
LAST SEASON: 2-4, 11 saves, 2.90 ERA as White Sox closer
THIS SEASON: A's closer
With one of the game's best changeups, he earned 42 saves in
2001. He'll thrive behind better starting pitching, provided he
keeps hitting the low 90s with his fastball, which he did after
the All-Star break last year (0.74 ERA).
IMPACT RATING: 9

Chris Hammond, LHP
LAST SEASON: 7-2, 0 saves, 0.95 ERA as Braves setup man
THIS SEASON: Yankees setup man
With an often unhittable off-speed pitch, he got stronger down
the stretch last season (32 scoreless appearances after June).
Not bad, considering he hadn't pitched in the majors since 1998.
IMPACT RATING: 6

Roberto Hernandez, RHP
LAST SEASON: 1-3, 26 saves, 4.33 ERA as Royals closer
THIS SEASON: Braves setup man
The 38-year-old no longer has the stamina to pitch much more than
one inning, but his heater still reaches the upper 90s regularly.
After five seasons with the Devil Rays and the Royals, Hernandez
is hungry to pitch in meaningful games.
IMPACT RATING: 6

Billy Koch, RHP
LAST SEASON: 11-4, 44 saves, 3.27 ERA as A's closer
THIS SEASON: White Sox closer
He has proved to be one of the league's most consistent (four
straight 30-save seasons), durable (no trips to the DL) and
overpowering (100 mph fastball) closers. There's no reason to
think Koch won't dominate in Chicago too.
IMPACT RATING: 9

Ramiro Mendoza, RHP
LAST SEASON: 8-4, 4 saves, 3.44 ERA as Yankees setup man
THIS SEASON: Red Sox jack-of-all-trades
Versatility makes this pure sinkerballer a nice fit in Boston's
dial-a-closer bullpen. Mendoza can close, set up, pitch in long
relief and also start--and he'll most likely be called upon to do
all of the above.
IMPACT RATING: 7

Mike Remlinger, LHP
LAST SEASON: 7-3, 0 saves, 1.99 ERA as Braves setup man
THIS SEASON: Cubs setup man
He has the stuff and temperament to take the closer's role if
Antonio Alfonseca (nine blown saves in 2002) struggles early.
Remlinger's slider was the biggest reason righthanded hitters
batted .184 against him last year.
IMPACT RATING: 7

Mike Stanton, LHP
LAST SEASON: 7-1, 6 saves, 3.00 ERA as Yankees setup man
THIS SEASON: Mets setup man
The 35-year-old is at his best when he gets frequent work, and
he's equally tough against righties and lefties. Stanton gives
the Mets a battle-tested playoff warrior who has pitched in 11
consecutive postseasons.
IMPACT RATING: 6

Ugueth Urbina, RHP
LAST SEASON: 1-6, 40 saves, 3.00 ERA as Red Sox closer
THIS SEASON: Rangers closer
After two elbow surgeries in 2000 he finally regained his arm
strength and the velocity on his fastball last year, but will the
shaky Rangers pitching staff set him up with many save
opportunities?
IMPACT RATING: 7

COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL ZAGARIS/OAKLAND A'S COLOR PHOTO: EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT AUDETTE/AP COLOR PHOTO: RON VESELY COLOR PHOTO: CRAIG JONES/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES COLOR PHOTO: LOUIS LANZANO/AP COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY TEXAS RANGERS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)