If you've invested in Chad Qualls(notes) this year, then by now you've already seen this ugliness. The Arizona closer dislocated his left kneecap on Sunday night. MRIs and X-rays will follow to determine the full extent of the damage. Here's A.J. Hinch via MLB.com:
"The trainer popped the kneecap back in place, but now we'll just have to wait and see how much damage there was. It didn't look good. Instead of shaking hands after a win, you're out there with your closer in pain on the ground."
The Diamondbacks recently dealt Jon Rauch(notes) to Minnesota, so he's out of the end-game picture. Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic calls RHP Juan Gutierrez(notes) "the obvious choice" to close in Qualls' absence, and you'll get no argument here. While Gutierrez's fantasy ratios aren't pretty (4.24 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), he is striking out nearly a batter per inning (55 Ks, 57.1 IP) and he's been outstanding since the All-Star break. In his last 17 appearances dating back to July 12, Gutierrez has allowed just 10 hits and three earned runs. Small sample, of course, but it's at least a reason for hope. Gutierrez's average fastball has been 94.9 mph this season, so he has the traditional closer's velocity.
• Can you imagine how intolerable the hype would be if Neftali Feliz(notes) pitched in New York? It would be endless, overwhelming, oppressive. TV would be all Neftali, all the time. He currently has 22 Ks in 17.1 innings and he's given up only one walk, one run and five hits. Feliz isn't wearing down, either: "I feel great. My arm feels good. If I can keep throwing strikes, everything will be nice."
• Chris Perez(notes) earned a save for the Tribe on Saturday because Kerry Wood(notes) was dealing with shoulder stiffness. Wood has a history of shoulder issues, but his comments to reporters weren't too troubling: "I could have pitched, but we want to be smart about this." On Sunday, manager Eric Wedge declared, "Kerry was good to go today. If we had a save situation, he would have been out there."
Perez is still a useful asset for those of you closing in on innings maximums, however. He's been fantastic following the All-Star break: 15.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 18 Ks.
• Scott Downs(notes) has been effective if unspectacular since his most recent return from the disabled list (3.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K), but you'll recall that he has not officially reclaimed closing duties – and he won't enter spring training as the closer, either. It feels like the Jays 'pen hasn't saved a game since Timlin in '96, so it's not like Jason Frasor(notes) owners have been rocketing up the standings.
OK, here's the American Dental Association's favorite closing grid. Rinse for 30 seconds twice a day, do not swallow.
Photo via AP Images