Francisco, Rauch sharing closer role

Francisco, Rauch sharing closer role

Francisco, Rauch sharing closer role
TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell insisted to reporters Saturday that he still has two candidates for closing duties -- Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch.

"The fact is, we have multiple ways we can go in those eighth and ninth inning matchups," Farrell said. "We're fortunate to have the type of options we have if we need them."

Francisco was named the team's closer in Spring Training, but started the regular season on the disabled list with a strained pectoral muscle. In his absence, Rauch assumed the closing duties and notched five saves in April before blowing a save in Tampa Bay on May 3.

Francisco has converted both save opportunities since Rauch's blown save, including a three-pitch save Friday night in Toronto's 7-4 win over the Tigers. Rauch pitched a scoreless eighth inning in that game.

"We had every intention of getting through the game without Frankie coming in, but we needed him," Farrell said.

The first-year manager also noted that with two left-handed batters due up in the eighth inning, he liked the matchup for Rauch, who has held lefties to just a .185 batting average this season. Rauch has also consistently been able to find the zone in his appearances this year, walking just four batters on the season.

"That's where, for me, that was a very good fit for him in that role last night," Farrell said. "Strike throwing is so critical in the eighth inning because you've got the ninth inning behind you -- there's not that sense of urgency. You don't see guys chase pitches in the eighth inning but I think you do in the ninth."

While Farrell stopped short of naming Francisco his full-time closer, it appears the 31-year-old right-hander will be getting the majority of the work in the ninth inning while Rauch is used only for certain matchups.

"He really has those types of weapons to shut some people down," Farrell said of Francisco. "He's gaining arm strength. The last three or four outings we're seeing better velocity and better command with his stuff."