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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Chad Qualls down, seat open in Arizona

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Chad Qualls(notes) has been a profit player for anyone who invested in him back in March, but the gains made might be frozen for the balance of the year.

Qualls secured his 24th save against Houston on Sunday but it came at a price; he dislocated his kneecap on the game-ending play and is headed for an MRI Monday. Arizona's been out of the playoff race for some time, so if there's any doubt on Qualls's status the club has every reason to play it safe. There's also a financial issue at play here; Qualls can't become a free agent until after the 2010 season but any additional saves he piles up could cost the club money, be it in a straight negotiation or through arbitration.

If you need to speculate for possible saves in the desert, Juan Gutierrez(notes) probably makes the most sense. He's right-handed, he's striking out almost a batter per inning, and he's been working as one of the bridges to Qualls in recent games (he got the last two outs of the eighth inning Sunday). The rookie is also carrying around a 4.24 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, but hey, you can't have everything. It's a shame Jon Rauch(notes) was traded out of town last week, this could have been an open-and-shut case.

It's going to be a while before Brad Lidge(notes) owners can really step in from the ledge but nonetheless he did have his good stuff against the Braves this weekend, retiring six straight men and picking up a couple of easy saves. And it's a key time for Lidge to come around because Ryan Madson(notes) is off his game – he didn't get anyone out Sunday night and has been scored on in four straight appearances.

The Waiting for Guffman story continues with Jake Peavy(notes). He's been sidelined with an ankle problem for several months but now a sore elbow has crept into the equation and he didn't look good in his rehab start over the weekend. The White Sox doctors will check him out again Monday, and at this point I'm not holding out any hope that Peavy will be a fantasy factor in 2009. "He said he hadn't felt this [elbow discomfort] before and he didn't want to take any chances," pitching coach Don Cooper said. Does that sound encouraging to you?

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To no one's surprise Zack Greinke(notes) marched onto Safeco Field on Sunday and humbled the Mariners, throwing a one-hit shutout. We could sit here all day and discuss the greatness of this universally owned pitcher, where's the value in that? But let's not overlook what happened on the other side of the action, where Ryan Rowland-Smith(notes) worked a strong eight innings and gave us some useful numbers (5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 7 K). That's five strong turns out of seven for Rowland-Smith (along with 3.95 ERA and 1.13 WHIP) and don't forget he has the sublime Seattle defense working behind him. He's recommended at Oakland next week.

Cheer for Paul Byrd's(notes) return to Boston but don't buy in – he wasn't missing Toronto bats here (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 1 K) and the spotty Red Sox defense doesn't encourage a pitch-to-contact strategy. I will tip my cap to Byrd's comments after the game, however; he's clearly someone who doesn't take the major league experience for granted. "I'm just so excited to be back," said Byrd, who was pitching to a youth baseball team when the Sox called. "I want a World Series ring. Hopefully I can help this team get there. I'll clean toilets if I have to, and I told them that."

Jim Johnson(notes) is now 5-for-6 on save chances this month after putting the Indians aside Sunday. Don't hold his middle-relief blown saves against him, it's a misleading thing; most set-up men are forced to assume the risk of a blown save without any real chance of finishing the game out and claiming the stat. He's been capable in this role and should continue to be.

Whisper to a Stream, Tuesday Edition: Are you willing to give Anibal Sanchez(notes) a second chance after last week's collapse against the Mets? He's at home, up against the comebacking Tim Hudson(notes). … We have to change our Vicente Padilla(notes) stance now that he's a Dodger instead of a Ranger. Chavez Ravine and the visiting Diamondbacks, sounds good to me. … Justin Lehr(notes) isn't for everyone, but he has given us three solid starts out of six and one of his messy turns had seven strikeouts attached to it. If you're really desperate, at least he gets the Pirates here (though it's in Cincinnati). … Anyone who starts Andy Sonnanstine(notes) against the Red Sox deserves to lose. … Toronto and Texas play a day-night doubleheader, which might help you make up some at-bats. And while we're on the subject of twin-bills, don't forget the Pirates and Reds have one Monday.

Speed Round: Alfonso Soriano(notes) had a cortisone shot in his troublesome left knee. He's hoping to return Tuesday or Wednesday. … The surging Chris Perez(notes) recorded a save Saturday night while Kerry Wood(notes) rested his sore shoulder; Perez should be owned in anything past a shallow mixed league. … Jorge Posada(notes) (finger) was back at it Sunday and plans to gut it out through the discomfort. You can be sure that Laura Posada is proud of him. … Akinori Iwamura(notes) made a snappy return to the Rays, taking this one deep off Justin Verlander. … Nelson Figueroa(notes) turned in one of the fluke lines of the year, working seven super innings against the Cubs (1 R, 10 K). … The Yankees stuck to the Joba Chamberlain(notes) plan Sunday, taking him out after three innings and 35 pitches. … Fernando Rodney(notes) doesn't believe in the 1-2-3 inning but nonetheless he's 29-for-30 on saves after converting Sunday. … Brian Matusz(notes) had his way with the Cleveland lineup (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 8 K) but things figure to be tougher against Texas next week. … I better mention Kendry Morales's(notes) 30th homer of the year (and 10th of August) before the CT Natives get restless.

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