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Closing Time: The case for Mike Pelfrey

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Mike Pelfrey(notes) is headed for the Rotisserie Record Books, and he's got an eraser in his hand. After all, he's on pace for 34 wins and 11 saves, miraculous numbers considering he plays for a 6-8 Mets ballclub. This is the season you're going to tell your grandchildren about. All aboard the Pelfrey bandwagon, seats are filling up quickly.

Nothing in that first graph is intended to be taken seriously – a little hyperbole goes a long way on a Wednesday morning – but there is a case to be made for Pelfrey. He was masterful in dispatching of the Cubs Tuesday (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K) and there are logical explanations for a possible growth year. He's a former No. 1 pick (2005, ninth overall). He's using a split-fingered fastball as a put-away pitch and he's also improved his slider. He worked with a sports psychologist in the offseason (don't discount this out of hand; Pelfrey's attitude on the mound has gotten the best of him in the past). He's still just 26.

"My confidence, after every start, is improving," Pelfrey said after Tuesday's win.

"He is probably close to where he was after the All-Star break two years ago, and that is a dominant right-handed pitcher," Jerry Manuel said.

Dominant? Seems like a stretch, even if the small sample of stats do support it. As for the video, you be the judge (here's the Pelfrey highlight package). But here's the bottom line: every season there are pitchers who come out of the woodwork to become stars and game-changers for fantasy. Sometimes there's no warning or clues to these breakouts, but usually there's something that you could point to, even if it's merely after the fact. You can make a case for Pelfrey's breakthrough coming in 2010, and that's why he should be owned in all mixed leagues. There's a chance he's one of the bigger profit players of the year. Once you see a plausible argument supporting the player, don't overthink it – just grab him and see where it goes.

Pelfrey's next start is a home turn against the Braves on the weekend. I'm making no guarantees when he heads to Philadelphia next week.

Jonathan Sanchez(notes) and Mat Latos(notes) hooked up for seven tidy innings at San Diego; Sanchez was more dominant (1 H, 10 K) in his stint, but he allowed a single run while Latos (4 H, 1 BB, 2 K) posted bagels. The strikeout potential and experience advantage makes Sanchez the more valuable play going forward, but Latos deserves to be considered as a spot-play when the matchup is right. I wouldn't use him Sunday at Cincinnati if that's where he slots, but if the Padres hold him off until the Monday game at Florida, I'll sign off on Latos.

Joe Girardi surprisingly did not manage by the save rule at Oakland; the Athletics were still one baserunner away from putting the tying run on deck but Girardi brought Mariano Rivera(notes) in anyway to wrap things up. On one hand it's somewhat refreshing to see a manager occasionally deviate from the idea that a statistic's definition should mandate all of your substitution patterns, but you could also argue that Rivera wasn't needed on this night. Joba Chamberlain(notes) impressed in a set-up role, striking out three of the four men he faced.

Kyle Kendrick(notes) had the pitch-to-contact thing working in Atlanta (eight scoreless innings), then it all felt apart in the bullpen. Ryan Madson(notes) had a bombastic blown save, allowing a two-run homer to Troy Glaus(notes) and a solo shot to Jason Heyward(notes), and Jose Contreras(notes) ended the game by serving up a gopher ball to Nate McLouth(notes) in the tenth. It's only the first blown save of the year for Madson but he's only had a single 1-2-3 inning over seven appearances. Brad Lidge(notes) isn't far from a return, as you know.

Jeremy Hermida(notes) becomes an outfielder of interest in Boston now that Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) and Mike Cameron(notes) are both on the disabled list. Hermida homered for the second straight game Tuesday. The other outfield fill is a little more hazy; Josh Reddick(notes) batted ninth and started in center field Tuesday (one hit, two RBIs), then gave way to journeyman Darnell McDonald(notes) (homer, game-winning single).

As we discussed earlier in the evening, the Rangers ran wild at Fenway (nine steals) and they got plenty of baserunners (eight hits, nine walks), but they also left 11 men on base and weren't able to score after the fifth inning. Nelson Cruz(notes) tweaked his hamstring and had to leave the game, but he's optimistic that he'll be able to go Wednesday.

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Chad Billingsley(notes) was knocked around for the second straight game, not that pitchers struggling in Cincinnati is any new thing. He's got some ugly numbers on the young season (7.07 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, .351 BAA) but Joe Torre says his rotation spot isn't in jeopardy. There's still stuff in that right arm – Billingsley has 14 strikeouts in 14 innings – but he's also walked seven batters. Keep in mind Billingsley pitched so poorly in the second half of 2009, the Dodgers bounced him from the playoff rotation and went with Vicente Padilla(notes) instead.

The story is almost identical for Homer Bailey(notes), Cincinnati's starter. He's also got an ERA over 7, he's also walking too many men (9 in 15.2 IP) and he's also teasing us with some strikeouts (13). "I'm not very big on personal stats," said Bailey, noting the Reds won Tuesday's game, 11-9. "As long as we get the win when I'm out there, that's what's important." Bailey obviously doesn't realize that he's taking thousands of fantasy teams down with his mediocre pitching.

Every major league club is capable of supporting a closer so long as the manager pays homage to the save rule and uses one guy as the designated stat-grabber. That's the case in Houston, where Matt Lindstrom(notes) is the man for the ninth; he's quickly picked up three saves as the Astros have four wins over the last week.

The Houston offense got Lance Berkman(notes) back against Florida Tuesday and although he didn't go bananas in his return (1-for-4, two RBIs) the Astros did have a rare outbreak of offense (seven runs, a homer, two steals, even three walks, which is a lot for them). Carlos Lee(notes) and Hunter Pence(notes), the two hitters behind Berkman in the Houston order, figure to benefit the most here.

The Orioles are a team you can definitely gang up on for streaming purposes, at least when the schedule falls into line (Baltimore gets the Red Sox and Yankees after the current Seattle series; most of the arms there are owned). Baltimore is the lowest-scoring lug in the American League thus far (don't blame Wiggy, it's not his fault), and they're also a woeful 2-13 as we hit the middle of Week 3.

Scott Olsen(notes) shouldn't be pitching for a major league club, something the Rockies were more than happy to remind him off Tuesday (2 IP, 7 H, 6 R). Carlos Gonzalez(notes) got the day off against the Washington lefty, which is a shame everyone in the Colorado lineup finished with some production in the 10-4 victory.

The Twins looked like a tough matchup for Justin Masterson(notes) on paper and that's how it played out on the field, though Masterson was let down by his defense (4 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 6 K). If Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) converts what appeared to be a routine double-play grounder in the third, we'd looking at a much different result. It will be interesting to see what Masterson can do at Anaheim next week; although the Angels have their share of quality left-handed batters, I'd probably give him a play here.

Speed Round: Life as Nick Johnson(notes) these days: .146 average, .407 on-base percentage. Hey, he's doing what they want him to do, and he hasn't gotten hurt yet. … Ian Kinsler(notes) (ankle) did some running Tuesday and says he feels great. … Garrett Jones(notes) went 0-for-3 with a walk, pushing his average below .200. He has just one extra-base hit (a double) since the second day of the season. … The Jays continue to manufacture save situations; Kevin Gregg(notes) retired three of four men to put the Royals away Tuesday. But any victory over Kansas City when Scott Podsednik(notes) isn't playing simply should not count. … John Danks(notes) has been sharp in all three of his starts, and when you mow down the Tampa lineup (a two-hitter over eight innings, one run, nine strikeouts), you've really done something. The revitalized Andruw Jones(notes) backed the Chicago offense, getting two hits including his fourth homer. … Jose Reyes broke out of an 0-for-18 slump, collecting four hits and stealing a base. … Is Chase Headley(notes) too good to be true? He reached base twice Tuesday, scored a run, and stole three beautiful bases. I had plenty of Headley shares last year, this year, I'm sitting on zero. And so it goes.

Chad Qualls(notes) wants everyone to know that he's fine; he put down the Cardinals 1-2-3, picking up two strikeouts and his second save. … Kelly Johnson(notes) batted leadoff for the second straight day; obviously the Conor Jackson(notes) DL news was a boost to KJ's immediate value. … Cliff Lee(notes) (abdomen) is scheduled for a Triple-A rehab start this weekend. … News of a PED suspension raced around the internet Tuesday; it was a relief for most of us when we found out the flag was on Edinson Volquez(notes), who's already out of our 2010 plans due to Tommy John surgery. Nothing to see here, keep moving. … Michael Gonzalez(notes) will meet with Dr. James Andrews and get a second opinion on his shoulder. The Orioles insist there hasn't been a setback here, but any fantasy veteran knows what to think when an Andrews visit is involved. … Mike Napoli(notes) figures to be the regular Angels catcher while Jeff Mathis(notes) recovers from a broken wrist. Napoli batted ninth in the order Tuesday, going 1-for-4 with a strikeout and a double-play grounder. … If you want to discuss the Texas track meet at Fenway Park (9-for-9 on stolen bases), we welcome your comments here

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