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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Come in from the ledge, Cliff Lee owners

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There are 1,000 stories in the Rotisserie City on any given night - let's get to as many of them as we can.

Cliff Lee probably slammed the buy-low window shut at the new Yankee Stadium on Thursday, limiting the hosts to one run over six solid innings (7 H, 3 BB, 4 K). It's a cop out when pundits say "he'll never match his Cy Young season" – that doesn't help anyone for 2009. I still feel Lee has an excellent chance to be one of the AL's Top 10 pitchers (pinpoint control, roomy park, enough strikeouts to move the needle), and that means he should be in our mixed-league lineups just about all of the time (I might give him a holiday if another Arlington assignment comes up).

Grady Sizemore's grand slam broke the game open, and surging Victor Martinez added three hits and his third homer of the year. CC Sabathia was in trouble most of the way on the other side (5.2 IP, 5 H, 5 BB), but he only allowed one run; the Indians ultimately won this game against Jose Veras and Damaso Marte. Robinson Cano had three of New York's hits and is off to a .421 start.

Ailing Vladimir Guerrero spent the first week and a half at the DH spot but the Angels knew he wasn't right. An MRI this week revealed a strained pectoral muscle, and he's headed back to LA to get his chest examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum. Forgotten Gary Matthews Jr. gets a bump of playing time while Guerrero is out, but I wouldn't bother with him unless you're looking for a place-holder in an AL-only group.

Ryan Franklin isn't the sexiest pick in the St. Louis bullpen, but he's quickly forcing his way into the closing argument. He picked up his second save of the year in Thursday's win at Chicago (1-2-3 inning, 2 Ks), and he's only allowed one baserunner thus far over four appearances. I don't anticipate Tony La Russa handing the ninth inning to any single option for a while, but the way Franklin is throwing the ball, he'll probably get his share of looks as the committee cycles around.

It wasn't a dominant performance from Anibal Sanchez by any means (6 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K), but we'll take the win -– and at this point anyone or anything on the Florida roster is worthy of a second look. The bullpen supported Sanchez with three clean innings, though the four-run net kept Matt Lindstrom from getting a save. Cody Ross finally contributed something to the cause (3-1-3-4, homer), but the Emilio Bonifacio experience was grounded for the second straight game (0-for-5, 3 Ks).

Kenshin Kawakami was knocked around some on the Atlanta mound (6 IP, 5 R, 4 ER), but he's also struck out 15 batters over 12 innings, an encouraging sign (you'll want to use him at Washington next week). Yunel Escobar left in the sixth inning with a strained abdominal muscle.

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This Michael Bourn leadoff story might have some legs after all; he was a pest from the jump against Pittsburgh on Thursday, scoring twice and reaching base three times. The shorter swing seems to be agreeing with him, and now that he's got a little confidence going, we'll probably see more activity on the bases (he swiped his first bag of the year Thursday, and don't forget for all his troubles in 2008, he stole 41 bases). A sore back kept Jose Valverde off the field (LaTroy Hawkins got the easy save), and Kaz Matsui (back) won't return until Saturday at the earliest.

Nyjer Morgan's skill set is similar to Bourn's, and he's been productive in the opening two weeks (.400, six runs, three steals). You get concerned when you see just one walk on 40 at-bats, but I'll keep running him out there until his play forces me to stop. Adam LaRoche went 2-for-4 with an RBI; the perennial slow starter is at .294. John Grabow and Matt Capps have yet to allow a run over seven collective innings.

It's not unusual to see foreign players have a spike in their second North American season (score one for cultural adjustment), and with that in mind I present the case of Kosuke Fukudome. He had a double and his third homer in Thursday's loss to St. Louis, and Lou Piniella likes him parked in the No. 2 spot in a very rich lineup. Fukudome's also been aggressive on the bases, though he's been nabbed in two of his three steal attempts. It will be interesting to see what Piniella does when the Cubs run into more left-handed opponents.

Alex Gordon's swing looked horrible for the opening two weeks but he had a legitimate excuse – his ailing right hip. He's slated to have surgery to repair a cartilage tear and probably won't be back until late June at the very earliest. Traveling Mark Teahen gets the tap on the shoulder to replace Gordon, his third position of the young season (he opened at second base, then shifted to right field when Jose Guillen went down).

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I love a good Pulp Fiction reference as much as the next guy, which might be why I dialed up Eric Stults as a one-night streamer against the Giants Thursday (Eric Stoltz did some of his best work in the Tarantino classic). Okay, that's not the full story – I also was enticed when I saw human sinkhole Barry Zito lined up on the other side. Stults only went five innings and he got in his share of trouble (5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K), but a streaming victory always put a bounce in your step. Winston Randy Wolf gets the ball Friday against Colorado.

Speed Round: Alex Rodriguez (hip) took 49 swings of batting practice Thursday. … Mark Teixeira (hamstring) took a cortisone shot before the matinee and plans to play through the discomfort. … Khalil Greene has batted everywhere but first, third and eighth this season; he homered at Wrigley out of the No. 7 spot. … So much for the Kenji Johjima comeback story, he's headed to the DL with a balky hamstring. Jamie Burke and Rob Johnson will handle the catching chores while Johjima gets well. … Chase Headley had four hits and three RBIs at New York and figures to get plenty of production chances if the Padres kept him tucked behind Adrian Gonzalez. … Ken Griffey Jr. has been dealing with a sore back and the Mariners decided to rest him against a lefty Thursday. … The pesky Jason Bartlett is off to a .389 start in Tampa, with two homers and four steals. It must be a lot of fun to play for aggressive skipper Joe Maddon; the Rays are 16-for-17 on the bases this year. … The retooled Washington lineup produced eight runs and a win over Philadelphia; so much for the 0-162 dream. Nick Johnson lashed three hits from the No. 2 spot (the man will produce until the inevitable injury), and the Nats hit four homers on the night (Adam Dunn, Elijah Dukes, Josh Willingham and Cristian Guzman-sub Alberto Gonzalez). … I know you picked up Aaron Hill a while ago, so there's no reason to oversell the story. Enjoy the three hits, the .380 average, the sneaky power, the prime batting slot. Marco Scutaro is a tougher long-term call, but batting leadoff in this underrated lineup can't be a bad thing, can it? The position flexibility also helps the cause.

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