Padres' new closer has already done something Josh Hader never did for San Diego

Robert Suarez delivered for the Padres when they needed him most.
San Diego Padres pitcher Robert Suarez
San Diego Padres pitcher Robert Suarez / Masterpress/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres emerged from the Seoul Series with a 1-1 record. The Friars surrendered a lead late during the first game of the series, as the the Los Angeles Dodgers proved to be too much for San Diego bullpen. But the Padres dismantled Yoshinobu Yamamoto in Thursday's contest and outlasted LA in a high-scoring 15-11 victory.

The Friars will head back to American soil with a .500 record and newly-anointed closer Robert Suarez earned his second career save. The right-hander came on with two outs in the eighth inning and Mookie Betts at the dish while San Diego was clinging to a two-run lead. Betts' RBI single scored one run, but Shohei Ohtani grounded out to end the Dodgers' threat.

The Padres put up a three-spot in the top of the ninth inning, and Suarez shutdown the Dodgers' bats to close out the game. During his 24-pitch appearance on Thursday, Suarez did something that former closer Josh Hader never accomplished while in a Padres uniform -- he pitched in more than just one inning in a single appearance.

Padres new closer has already done something Josh Hader never did for San Diego

Hader, of course, had his reasons for avoiding such a situation. The former Padres closer claimed that during an arbitration hearing with the Milwaukee Brewers he was told that teams reward relievers for traditional stats like saves. Hader, seeing no reason to decrease his value by pitching outside of save situations, made one appearance prior to the ninth inning in 2023. And even that outing that saw him enter in the eighth inning was over after Hader recorded three outs.

While the hope is that Padres manager Mike Shildt won't have to routinely rely on Suarez for a multi-inning save opportunity, the fact that the 33-year-old stepped into the role and took care of business already should be quite encouraging to the Friar faithful. Suarez made 27 appearances out of the Padres bullpen in 2023 and went multiple innings on four different occasions.

Shildt went to his bullpen a lot during the Seoul Series, with Yuki Matsui and Tom Cosgrove each appearing in both games. In all, Padres relievers covered 11.1 innings during the trip to South Korea, though Michael King was used as a relief pitcher during the two-game affair. The former New York Yankees hurler will be part of the Padres starting rotation once the true regular season commences on March 28.

Suarez will be the Padres closer in 2024, but don't assume that his work will be limited to just one inning or even soley the ninth inning. Shildt will deploy his relievers when he deems it necessary, which is a refreshing approach following the entitled run of Hader as the Padres closer.

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