Ducks closer and former Yankees reliever Tyler Webb on the...

Ducks closer and former Yankees reliever Tyler Webb on the mound at Bethpage Stadium in Central Islip on May 18, 2022. Credit: Long Island Ducks

Call it the “closer conundrum.’’ That’s where the Ducks are with Tyler Webb, the former Yankees reliever who is anchoring the back end of their bullpen. It’s no one’s fault, really, just an unfortunate byproduct of being under .500. The Ducks, who began last week 8-11, simply haven’t had a lot of opportunities to use their closer.

“He needs to pitch more,” manager Wally Backman said. “He’s not being able to because we’re not ahead in a lot of these games.”

To combat this lack of usage, Backman has taken to using Webb in non-save situations. Last Sunday, he pitched in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to High Point.

“He just doesn’t have to close,” Backman said. “He wants to still pitch. Which is nice for me, to be able to use him in different spots if I want to. I want him to close, but I want him to be able to pitch on a regular basis, too.”

Webb was back in the traditional closer role Wednesday night against the Staten Island FerryHawks, locking up his fourth save in a 10-9 win in a season that already was nearly a month old.

“It’s tough,” Webb, 31, said of the inconsistent usage. “I’m constantly trying to get some work on the side and stay as sharp as I can. I think Rick [Tomlin, the pitching coach] and Wally are doing the best that they can to give me some innings that aren’t in save opportunities. I appreciate that, because it’s about winning games and getting saves, but it’s also about getting out there and proving I’m healthy and putting up zeros, even if we are behind in the game.”

After Wednesday’s outing, Webb was 0-1 with a 3.68 ERA, 10 strikeouts and two walks in 7 1⁄3 innings in eight appearances. He had allowed two home runs and three earned runs and was pitching to a 1.64 WHIP.

“There’s been good days and bad,” Webb said. “I think it took me a little while to get in a bit of a rhythm. It’s kind of the product of the bullpen. Sometimes you throw every day in a week and other times it’s hard to get innings. I think maybe that has a little bit to do with it. But the more I get out there, the better rhythm I get. I’m feeling good at what direction it’s going.”

Webb made 22 appearance for the Cardinals last season, pitching to a 13.22 ERA, but battled injuries before getting healthy right before the end of the year. In 2020, he was a lot better, allowing five earned runs and 17 hits in 21 2⁄3 innings (21 appearances), and went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA with the Cardinals. He said a mix of the injury and the shortened spring training and free-agency period caused by the MLB lockout prevented him from signing with a major league organization this offseason.

Chosen by the Yankees in the 10th round of the 2013 draft, Webb made seven appearances for them at the big league level in 2017. He allowed three runs and struck out five in six innings before being traded to the Brewers for first baseman Garrett Cooper.

Said Webb, “Making my debut in Yankee Stadium was obviously something I’ll never forget.”

New team for Lombardozzi 

Former Ducks second baseman Steve Lombardozzi, who won the Atlantic League Player of the Year award last season, signed with Illinois’ Kane County Cougars of the American Association, the Cougars announced Tuesday.

Backman, who was hoping Lombardozzi would end his 'partial retirement' and return to the Ducks this season, said Lombardozzi intends to play only a short time in the American Association in hopes of being signed by a major league affiliate.

If that call doesn’t come within a month or two, Lombardozzi plans to retire and possibly begin a coaching career. He did not want to take away a roster spot from any current Duck for such a short stay, Backman said.

“Someone would have lost their job,” Backman said. “If [Lombardozzi] comes for a month or two months, I would have had to have gotten rid of somebody and then [when he left] I would have had to replace him again . . . He didn’t want to disrupt what we have here. I would have loved to have him here, no question about it, and taken the chance by losing a guy, but I understood where he was coming from.”

Lombardozzi, 33, hit .329 with 16 home runs and 83 RBIs last season. He set a Ducks record with a league-high 90 walks and finished in the top five in games played (119), hits (143), and runs (99).

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