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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Dial K for Kershaw

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

No major theme tonight, let's just empty out the notebook and fire some fantasy-stuffed bullets your way.

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The first two hours at Chavez Ravine were just about perfect: Clayton Kershaw was brilliant on the mound (a mesmerizing one-hitter with 13 strikeouts, spoiled only by Bengie Molina's solo homer) and Vin Scully was poetry on the call. I had nothing to gain from Kershaw's gem – I didn't want to pay the expectant price for the 21-year-old lefty this spring – but you have to appreciate greatness when it's in front of you. When Kershaw has command of his curve and fastball on the same night, you almost feel sorry for the batters.

Alas, Kershaw's win was flushed away by the set-up men in the eighth (Aaron Rowand's homer off Ronald Belisario gave the Giants a two-run lead), but the Dodgers took the game back against San Francisco's spotty bullpen work (Bobby Howry didn't have a thing tonight). Jonathan Broxton remains in fine form – he fanned two of three in the top of the ninth, then claimed a win when the Dodgers pushed the decisive run across in the bottom of the frame. Orlando Hudson (3-for-5) looks like the latest "hitting in front of Manny" lottery winner; he's having a quality at-bat on just about every trip.

It's going to be a while before we get our hands around this St. Louis bullpen. Heck, maybe Tony La Russa feels the same way, given how many options he's currently got. Chris Perez was recalled from the minors Wednesday and quickly got back into the mix, pitching a strong seventh and eighth at Arizona (one walk, two strikeouts). In any competitive save-chasing league, Perez needs to be rostered. Jason Motte followed with a perfect ninth, albeit there's not much pressure when you're staked to a five-run lead.

I wrote a love letter to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington earlier in the week, so there's no reason to rehash it after Wednesday's hometown explosion (19 hits, 19 runs in a rout of the Orioles). Everyone knows how special Ian Kinsler is (6-5-6-4, cycle, stolen base); everyone knows about Nelson Cruz's power upside (homer No. 5 Wednesday); everyone can sense that Andruw Jones (hit, two walks, four runs) has something left in the tank, even if he's not fit to be an everyday player right now.

Marlon Byrd rapped out five hits in the laugher, which figures to keep the hitless David Murphy on the bench a little more often. Jarrod Saltalamacchia took the collar and is one of the few Rangers not hitting at the moment; he's in a 1-for-20 funk. Texas also swiped three more bases; it's interesting to see Ron Washington's aggressive approach given the offensive nature of his home ballpark. It's not how I'd play things – Arlington offers so many crooked numbers, why run into potential outs? – but from a fantasy perspective, sure, we'll take the bags.

Jason Marquis was effective at Wrigley (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R) en route to his second consecutive win, but with just five strikeouts over 14 innings, how can we really get excited? Don't forget that he's now working in Colorado half of the time; while Marquis has a decent record in the thin air over six appearances (2.52, 1.18), I'm betting on gravity. Dexter Fowler didn't start for the Rockies but he had a run-scoring double as a pinch-hitter. I'm almost glad I don't own the talented rookie anywhere, because Clint Hurdle's lineup jockeying would be driving me bananas.

Huston Street was summoned to protect a four-run lead in the ninth but he couldn't complete the job; he promptly gave up a Derrek Lee homer, a walk and a single. Jason Grilli replaced him and quickly put the fire out, but remember that the clear No. 2 in this bullpen is Manuel Corpas (who worked a clean eighth inning).

Armando Galarraga, Detroit ace? It's played out that way through the opening two weeks, he's been brilliant in both of his turns. Galarraga didn't make a start against the White Sox last year, oddly, so maybe it's not that surprising that the Pale Hose didn't get many good swings against him Wednesday afternoon (6.1 scoreless innings, 2 BB, 5 K). He'll get an interesting test in Anaheim next week.

Josh Anderson provided a spark at the bottom of the Detroit order (two hits, two walks, stolen base). His sporadic playing time doesn't make him mixed-league worthy yet, but be ready to make a move if anything happens to a Detroit regular.

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The scuffling Red Sox needed a strong turn – and a bullpen saver – in the worst way Wednesday, and leave it to the AL's oldest starter to answer the call. Tim Wakefield's knuckler danced and darted through the Oakland lineup for most of the afternoon, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning before the A's broke through for a hit (and eventually, a couple of runs). Wakefield's more of a novelty play than an upside option at this stage in his career, but he's probably capable of splitting the difference between what he did in 2007 and 2008; if you'll be happy with 12-14 wins, an ERA around 4.35 and a WHIP in the 1.30 neighborhood, he's worth considering.

The second-oldest starter in the AL East, Andy Pettitte, was also effective on Wednesday, though he had to settle for a no-decision at Tampa (7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K). The Yanks pushed the go-ahead run across in the top of the ninth against a shaky Troy Percival (talk about a guy I have zero faith in), and Mariano Rivera had a rocking-chair save in the bottom of the inning (eight pitches, 1-2-3).

Kudos to anyone who was bullish on Nick Swisher this spring; he's off to a .429 start and he's going to be particularly important to the Yanks given what's happened to Xavier Nady (Tommy John surgery looks imminent). And with all the positive buzz coming from the Alex Rodriguez camp, I'm starting to feel confident he'll beat the May 15 target date.

Oliver Perez kept a consistent release point Wednesday and looked sharp against the Padres (6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K). I like him in this roomy home park, but let's hope the outfield defense doesn't let him down too much (Carlos Beltran is brilliant in center, but there are issues at the corners). Gary Sheffield's first start in right field was relatively uneventful: 0-for-2 with a walk, one run scored, nothing taxing in the field.

Scott Baker couldn't keep the ball in the park during a messy spring (nine homers), perhaps related to a sore shoulder that scratched him from his first start. The gopher problem showed up early and often in his season debut against Toronto Wednesday; he served up four taters in a messy debut. You have to wonder a little bit about the trendy Minnesota right-handers (Baker and Kevin Slowey) – is this a case of "so underrated" sneaking into "overrated" territory? I'm not advising you do anything rash, I just wonder if expectations got out of hand for these guys; we'll scout them very carefully over the next couple of turns.

Emilio Bonifacio singled and scored in the first inning at Atlanta, but the rest of the night didn't go so well (0-for-5, four strikeouts). No worries, his mates picked up the slack and the surging Marlins put up 10 runs anyway. Jorge Cantu returned to the lineup and looks fine; he posted a 5-2-2-1 line and also stole a base. Whatever you paid for Dan Uggla this spring, it probably was a good buy; he's likely to drive in 120 runs given what's in front of him in this underrated lineup.

Speed Round: Cleveland finally claimed its first road victory of the year, taking advantage of a gift that keeps on giving – Kyle Farnsworth, overpaid reliever (three runs against one man retired in the seventh). … Trey Hillman overreacted to John Buck's two-homer game Tuesday night, putting the catcher into the cleanup spot Wednesday afternoon (0-for-3, two strikeouts). … Justin Upton was in the Arizona lineup for the third straight day and went 1-for-3 with a walk (on the heels of a productive game Tuesday – three runs). Small steps, small steps. … Michael Bourn batted leadoff for the first time all year and went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. It's too early to throw a parade over his .280 average, but his swing does look more compact this spring, for what it's worth. Oddly, he's yet to attempt a steal in 2009, though it could be partially tied to the fact that he batted eighth in each game until Wednesday (teams generally don't run in front of the pitcher). … Do you want to make something of Mike Hampton's win at Pittsburgh (six scoreless innings, 8 K)? I'd prefer not to. … Aaron Hill continues to flash his 2007 form, ripping out four hits including his third homer of the young season. Keep him healthy for a full season and we're looking at a possible All-Star. … Miller Park turned into Cameron Indoor Stadium as Mike Cameron hit a couple of homers in a laugher over the Reds. … Ichiro Suzuki looked great in his debut (two hits, four RBIs, stolen base), and Trendy Endy Chavez kept things rolling along with two hits, including a homer. … Joe Mauer (back) should be able to begin a minor-league rehab assignment next week.

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