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In closer's world, Bucs valuing setup men

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball has recognized the importance to the modern game of the closer and honored the contributions of the best to assume that role with the creation of the Mariano Rivera/Trevor Hoffman Reliever of the Year Awards.

Considering for whom the awards are named and the voting guidelines laid out, however, they are perhaps "Closer" of the Year Awards that will ignore the equally invaluable work of setup men.

Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball has recognized the importance to the modern game of the closer and honored the contributions of the best to assume that role with the creation of the Mariano Rivera/Trevor Hoffman Reliever of the Year Awards.

Considering for whom the awards are named and the voting guidelines laid out, however, they are perhaps "Closer" of the Year Awards that will ignore the equally invaluable work of setup men.

Full Game Coverage

Men like Mark Melancon, who last season had the following line in eighth innings: 1.00 ERA in 36 appearances, with a .430 opponent OPS and 39 strikeouts.

"For some reason, the hype has been about the ninth inning, and I get it, I've been there," said Melancon, who was Houston's primary closer in 2011 and served in that role for a long stretch in 2013 when Jason Grilli was out with a forearm injury. "But you don't just win the game in the ninth. Still, I don't think [the new awards] discredit setup men. Based on the names on top of it, it's a natural. That's cool."

The player eligible to win the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award (Mariano Rivera's name is attached to the American League Award) was even more outspoken about the sect it could ignore.

"You're talking to a guy who has done everything in the middle," Grilli said. "I think the most undervalued position is middle relief. Those guys get no credit, and I'm very biased about it because I know how hard it is."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle supported the notion that it was time for setup men to get their own official award. (MLB.com's GIBBY Awards include setup relievers but are separate from MLB's awards.)

"I think we've learned to value the 'hold,'" Hurdle said. "There is a growing appreciation for what middle relievers give you."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon