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Assessing the job security of AL East closers

Brach serving as O's placeholder for Britton, while rest of firemen among game's elite
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The American League East has some of baseball's biggest names and five former All-Stars serving in the closer role. If there's one division without a lot of ninth-inning drama, this is probably it.

Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Roberto Osuna and Alex Colome are regarded as some of the top relievers in the Majors. The only missing link is former AL Cy Young Award candidate Zach Britton, but the Orioles have a couple of veteran options to fall back on.

TORONTO -- The American League East has some of baseball's biggest names and five former All-Stars serving in the closer role. If there's one division without a lot of ninth-inning drama, this is probably it.

Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Roberto Osuna and Alex Colome are regarded as some of the top relievers in the Majors. The only missing link is former AL Cy Young Award candidate Zach Britton, but the Orioles have a couple of veteran options to fall back on.

Despite the pedigree, there are at least a couple of situations worth monitoring. New York, Boston and Toronto have a lot of certainty, but Colome is off to a slow start for Tampa Bay and Baltimore's Brad Brach, an All-Star in 2015, is trying to establish himself as a closer after multiple years in middle relief.

Here's a more in-depth look at the closer situation for each AL East team:

Video: TOR@NYY: Osuna K's Judge to earn save, seal win

Blue Jays
Who's the closer?
 Osuna

How's it working out? Osuna converted his first six save opportunities and tossed 9 1/3 scoreless innings until a two-run outing against Boston on Tuesday. Outside of one blown save, there has been a lot to like about Osuna this year. The velocity on his fastball is up 1 mph over last year, and before Tuesday, Osuna had allowed just four hits. There's nothing to worry about here.

How secure is he? Osuna's job is about as secure as it gets. The 23-year-old went through a five-week stretch in 2017 when he posted an 8.10 ERA with six blown saves and he still held onto the closer's role. The leash will be shorter this year on a team that views itself as a contender, but it would have to be a pretty extreme slump.

Who's next in line? Ryan Tepera might be one of the most underrated relievers in the game. He racked up 18 holds last season in a setup role to Osuna and he has been even more effective this year, with a 2.31 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. Tepera is the undisputed eighth-inning man and will step in whenever Osuna is not available.

Video: TOR@BAL: Brach locks down save

Orioles
Who's the closer?
 Brach

How is it working out? Brach only has one blown save on the season, but his performance has been inconsistent. Command has been an issue (six walks over 8 2/3 innings) and Brach surrendered multiple runs in two of his first nine appearances this season. His 5.19 ERA is the byproduct of a small sample size, but the right-hander still needs to be better if he wants to hang onto this job.

How secure is he? Not secure, because Baltimore's hope is that Britton will be able to return at some point in June as he continues to rehab from offseason surgery on his right Achilles. When Britton returns, he'll once again take over the ninth inning, which would slide Brach into the setup role he has filled for the past four years in Baltimore.

Who's next in line? Britton, but if Brach continues to struggle or gets hurt, then veteran righty Darren O'Day might receive an opportunity. O'Day has one save this season and a total of 20 for his 11-year career. The Orioles would like to keep O'Day in a setup role, but he could be considered for part of a patchwork solution until Britton returns.

Video: MIN@TB: Colome strikes out the side in the 9th

Rays
Who's the closer? 
Colome

How's it working out? After leading the Major Leagues in saves with 47 in 2017, Colome is off to a slow start. He has fought his location, and something just hasn't been working. But over the weekend, he started showing shades of '17 with a pair of scoreless innings against the Twins.

How secure is he? Colome is secure. The Rays like his stuff -- the cutter is his best pitch -- and they like his calm in high-leverage situations. Tampa Bay is off to a slow start, but there's no reason to believe Colome's job will be in jeopardy anytime soon.

Who's next in line? Jose Alvarado has been really good and could step in if Colome got stripped of his duties or traded. Alvarado entered play on Wednesday with six holds compared to one blown save in 11 appearances this season, and he appears to have found a home in the eighth inning.

Video: BOS@TOR: Kimbrel retires Gurriel Jr. to earn the save

Red Sox
Who's the closer? 
Kimbrel

How is it working out? Just as you'd expect. Kimbrel is one of the elite closers in the game, though he did have one mishap this week, giving up a walk-off homer to Curtis Granderson on Tuesday.

How secure is he? As secure as any closer in the game. It is Kimbrel's role for the rest of the season, and hopefully beyond, if the Red Sox can extend his contract. Kimbrel could be on track to make the Hall of Fame if he sustains his current level of performance for a few more years.

Who's next in line? If Kimbrel suffers an injury at some point this season, the best bet to replace him is Tyler Thornburg, who should return from the disabled list in the next month or so. Thornburg has closer's stuff when healthy, but he hasn't pitched since 2016 due to surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder. Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Carson Smith are also fallback options if something happened to Kimbrel.

Video: MIN@NYY: Chapman earns the save after review in 9th

Yankees
Who's the closer?
 Chapman

How is it working out? The game's hardest thrower has been ringing up the K's in the early going, striking out 19 of his first 39 batters faced. That's the sixth-highest percentage in the Majors among relievers, and the second best in the AL.

How secure is he? The Yankees did shift Chapman out of the closer's role for a period last season, so they could likely be open to it again if necessary, but that hasn't presented itself thus far. Chapman has been a bright spot in a bullpen that's expected to be a force despite its early stumbles.

Who's next in line? David Robertson averaged 37 saves per season from 2014-16 with the Yanks and White Sox, and he could easily slide back in to replace Chapman in the event of injury or underperformance. Robertson is open to pitching in any inning or situation, which has been a luxury for his managers.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Brad Brach, Aroldis Chapman, Alex Colome, Craig Kimbrel, Roberto Osuna