07/29/07 1:11 AM ET
KC wins third straight behind Perez
Lefty lassos Rangers as Royals smack 13 hits
By Conor Nicholl / MLB.com
It's a choice that has raged throughout baseball for several weeks and was made even a little tougher Saturday night. Dotel allowed two ninth-inning runs but still saved the game in the Royals' 6-5 win over the Rangers at Kauffman Stadium.
"When closers were born, the Lord said, 'You are going to make people nervous,'" manager Buddy Bell said. "It's just kind of the way it is. Octavio did a nice job even though he gave up two."
That's how Dotel's season has progressed since he took over the closer role on June 1. He has a flair for the dramatic and certainly puts men on base but always seems to finish the game. Saturday marked the Royals' third straight win and moved them to 6-3 in their last nine series.
It also marked Dotel's 11th save in 14 chances this season. He has a 3.91 ERA and has averaged 11.35 strikeouts per nine innings -- numbers that make him one of the most sought after players in baseball.
There is no doubt that Dotel's work has helped the Royals turn it around. Do they risk moving a key player for a power bat or a young middle infielder? K.C. doesn't have much power and is always trying to upgrade on the mound and at several other positions throughout its roster.
It's something Bell, general manager Dayton Moore and the entire organization talks about on a daily basis.
"We are in the position where the chemistry is really good in the clubhouse and sometimes you have to do something that you don't necessarily want to do," Bell said. "It's just kind of the way the game is now. No way is [Dayton] just going to give somebody up without getting somebody in return. It is going to be interesting what happens the next few days."
Even Dotel doesn't know what is going to happen. He wakes up every day, checks his phone and expects a phone call from Moore concerning a trade.
"It's bothering me," Dotel said of the trade rumors. "I have to be honest. You don't want it to come to that. At the same time, I understand, there is nothing I can do about it."
Except throw in the ninth inning.
That's something Dotel has done very well this season. The Royals struggled to a 19-35 record through April and May partly because Dotel missed most of that time on the disabled list with an oblique strain. On June 1, Dotel saved his first game as a Royal and in the past two months, K.C. is a different team.
The Royals finished June with a 15-12 record and are 8-7 in July, including series wins over Boston, Detroit and Seattle, three of the top teams in baseball. The revamped bullpen is one of the major reasons why this team has turned its season around.
"They are in set roles and that's how a bullpen is designed to work," John Buck said. "I think that is why everyone is being more successful, because everyone has their designated roles and are able to go out and execute that specific role rather than not knowing what they are going to do for the day."
That's not how the bullpen was in the early part of the year. Several players moved into the closer role and Joakim Soria eventually did an admirable job. However, Soria as the closer, exposed several flaws in the middle relief.
Now, with Dotel at the back end, the bullpen's confidence has soared. After Odalis Perez tossed six solid innings Saturday, David Riske and Zack Greinke bridged a 6-3 lead to the ninth. Riske (1.44 ERA since May 30), Greinke (2.93) and Soria (1.25) have all benefited from set roles once Dotel became the closer.
"With [Dotel] as the closer, our bullpen is so deep that we can do anything," Greinke said. "We have people that we can start pitching in the fourth inning and third inning and finish the game with him as closer. If we don't have him as closer, we lose a lot of depth and then it is not the same.
"Now, if we have a one-run lead in the fifth inning I feel like we could finish the game out on a consistent basis. With him there, it makes it a lot tougher to beat us."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.