Padres give Hader 'a break' from closer duties

August 20th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres acquired Josh Hader to be their closer -- and they still fully expect for Hader to close games down the stretch this season.

But for now? Well, temporarily at least, Hader is no longer the closer in San Diego.

Amid his recent struggles, the team made the decision to give Hader "a break" from the closer role, manager Bob Melvin said before his team’s game against the Nationals on Saturday night. In each of Hader's last three outings, he has allowed the tying or winning runs to score.

"We'll probably give him a break from [closing] in the interim, let him work on some things," Melvin said. "We'll give him a couple different outings, however long we think it takes to get him back into that role. But our best team, obviously, is with Josh Hader in the closer's role, and that's why we got him."

In the meantime, Melvin said the Padres will go closer by committee. They briefly encountered the same scenario with Taylor Rogers last month before Rogers was dealt to Milwaukee as part of the Hader trade. Only one save situation arose, and right-hander Luis García assumed the closer spot.

Hader likely was going to be off anyway on Saturday after he appeared in each of the first two games of the Padres’ four-game weekend series against the Nationals. Hader entered with the score tied in the ninth inning of both games.

On Thursday, Hader allowed a pair of inherited runners to score. On Friday, he surrendered three runs without recording an out and was booed as he left the mound, with the Padres en route to a second straight defeat to the team with the worst record in baseball.

"There’s always going to be an obstacle in this game that you’re going to have to go over," Hader said late Friday night. "That's one of the things right now -- obviously, this obstacle is hitting a little bit harder than most. But that's why we play this game. ... You’ve got two options: You can give up and fold, or you can figure it out and move forward."

Speaking on Friday, Hader indicated he wanted to get back into the ninth inning as soon as possible, in an effort to quickly put his struggles behind him. But Melvin said Hader was understanding when the role change was broached on Saturday.

"He was fine with it; he just wants to help the team win," Melvin said. "So if that means working on some things to get a little bit more consistent, especially with his command, he's willing to do it. He was great about it. ...

"In this particular instance, I think all parties involved realize that there's probably a little bit of work that needs to be done. It shouldn't take long. You look at his history ... it'll happen."

That confidence is founded in Hader's extensive track record. He's a four-time All-Star and has racked up 125 saves across six big league seasons. His 29 saves this season still lead the Majors.

But, as Hader alluded to after his rough outing Friday night, he hasn't been able to find the dominant version of himself lately. Since the start of July, Hader has allowed 19 runs in 12 2/3 innings, as his ERA has skyrocketed from 1.09 to 5.30.

With the Padres, Hader's command has wholly deserted him. He has walked five and plunked two more in 3 1/3 innings. Then again, Hader's work has also been sporadic with San Diego. He blew a save against the Giants last week, then didn't pitch for nine days before returning to the mound on Thursday.

Hader and the Padres remain optimistic that his struggles are tied to some mechanical issues. The best way to iron out those kinks, Melvin says, is for Hader to get more frequent game action -- the type that simply can't be guaranteed in the closer spot.

"He needs a little bit more regular work," Melvin said. "You sit around for a while, you're with a new club and now you're in a game -- I think the consistent work is going to help him."