Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dustin Hermanson, Mike Stanton Bring Pedigrees to Problem of Who Will Be Cincinnati's Newest Closer

Veteran reliever Dustin Hermanson has arrived at Reds camp in Sarasota, Fla., looking to replace injured Eddie Guardado as closer, but he must outperform another old timer, Mike Stanton, to do so.

Hermanson, 34, and Stanton, 39, are the most accomplised of several relievers who will get a look as closer this spring while Guardado recovers from an injury that may keep him out until as late as August. David Weathers and Todd Coffey will get a look as well, along with highly regarded rookie Bill Bray, acquired from Washington in last year's Austin Kearns deal.

But Weathers, 37, and Coffey, 26, have fallen short in the closer's role before, and Bray, 23, would best be suited as a lefty specialist coming in during middle innings.

That leaves Hermanson, who had 34 saves and a 2.04 ERA with the White Sox just two years ago, and Stanton, who racked up eight saves with a 3.09 ERA after taking over as San Francisco's closer last year, with the best pedigrees for winning the closer's job, barring manager Jerry Narron using a committee approach.

The problem with Hermanson, a Springfield, Ohio, native, is a bad back that kept him from action for most of last year and resulted in a loss of speed off his fastball that discouraged most teams from seriously considering him. Hermanson has only an outside shot at making the team, with a non-guaranteed $500,000 minor league contract. It wasn't for nothing that he's been handed jersey No. 50.

That leaves the wily Stanton as the most likely, unlikely dark horse. He has a 3.81 career ERA mark with 84 saves.