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Closing Time: Dial Z for Zobrist

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It's a very green column tonight as I'm going to recycle a couple of players that my colleagues have been talking about. Sprinkle on some cheese, pop it in the microwave, you're good to go. Time to bullet the blue sky:

The Ben Zobrist(notes) rant belongs to our man Brad Evans, I'm just going to borrow it for a moment. How much evidence do you need to see, Joe Maddon? Give this guy a regular gig. Zobrist's pinch-homer in the ninth off Andrew Bailey(notes) (play the video, the fans make it so worth it) was part of Tampa Bay's three-run, game-winning rally Thursday night; the Rays eventually completed the job with a final run against Brad Ziegler(notes). Who was Zobrist pinch-hitting for, you ask? The immortal Gabe Kapler(notes) (.200/.269/.317), who's got as much a right to be starting right now as Mayor McCheese. Zobrist has shortstop and outfield eligibility and 20 homers over his last 285 at-bats in The Show; this would be such a beautiful story if Maddon would just step to the side and let it happen.

I don't know how seriously Jake Peavy(notes) was considering the tentative trade to the White Sox, but U.S. Cellular Field really mucked things up by allowing 20 runs to Joe Mauer(notes) (grand slam, six RBIs) and the merry Minnesota pranksters (okay, Bartolo Colon(notes) had a hand in this, too). Peavy's a Petco boy, you can't throw a keg-tapper at him. The clean-cut Mauer, for what it's worth, now has eight homers on just 72 at-bats, one of the craziest developments of the year. The cat could always hit, sure, but we're talking about someone who's never hit more than 13 homers in a season. Enjoy your windfall, Mauer Maniacs. Michael Cuddyer(notes) also homered for the third time in four games; he might never see his 2006 level of production again, but the 2007 numbers are probably a realistic target.

Still got that infielder's mitt, Alfonso Soriano(notes)? Lou Piniella is toying with the idea of slotting Soriano at second base, a move that would enable the struggling Cubs lineup to include Micah Hoffpauir(notes). "Hopefully it doesn't get to that," Piniella said Thursday. "But that, again, is a measure of last resort. We'll explore all our other options." The Cubs are hitting .248 on the year, and they're in the bottom half of the majors with 182 runs. Soriano hasn't played second since the end of the 2005 season.

Edinson Volquez's(notes) back spasms have him on the disabled list, which means we'll get another look at Peter King's old friend, Homer Bailey(notes); the erratic prospect will start at home Saturday against the Indians. Bailey's Triple-A numbers don't look like anything special (4.57 ERA, 1.39 WHIP), though he's pitched better of late and has 43 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. For the mixers out there, it's a clear case of "don't call us, Homes, we'll call you."

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I'm all for the Edwin Jackson(notes) story, and he had another strong turn Thursday against Texas (8 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 7 K), but was there any reason for Jackson to throw 132 flippin' pitches? That's the highest total in the majors this year, if you're counting at home. "Every once in a while you get those games where you say, 'You know what, he deserves to be there,'" Jim Leyland told Kyle Austin of MLB.com. "'I just can't take him out. I can't in good faith take him out.'" Whatever you say, skip. Jackson's next turn comes Tuesday at Kansas City against Zack Greinke(notes).

Raul Ibanez(notes) clubbed his 15th homer of the year Thursday, a snappy retort to all the scribes who mocked the Phillies over the winter for adding Ibanez and letting Pat Burrell(notes) walk. I won't disagree with anyone who suggests that the Phillies probably overpaid for Ibanez at the time, but there's no way I'd ever put the grossly overrated Burrell on my ballclub over this gamer. Long live the Ibanez All-Stars.

So much for the Kris Medlen(notes) debut – he had trouble finding the strike zone over three messy innings against the Rockies (3 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 BB, 3 K). Give the rook credit for facing the music after the game and being a stand-up guy. "I can't explain it but whatever it was, it's unacceptable," Medlen told the Associated Press. "I felt fine. I can't explain what happened. ... The wheels fell off." There's enough pressure on anyone making their major league debut, and perhaps a little extra heat when you consider how many people felt Tommy Hanson(notes) should have been on the mound in place of Medlen, Triple-A stats be damned.

With Vicente Padilla(notes) (shoulder) headed to the disabled list, Brad Evans man-crush Derek Holland(notes) gets to roll in the rotation, starting with a Friday turn at Houston. Don't look for Mr. Holland's Opus right away; the talented but green Holland hit a rough patch against the Angels last week, and it's doubtful he'll throw more than 80 pitches in this turn. That said, it's impossible to scout this lefty and not come away impressed; it will be interesting to see what becomes of the buzz-worthy Texas pitching prospects over the next couple of years.

Handshakes: Rafael Betancourt(notes) fell into a rogue save because Kerry Wood(notes) needed a rest and Matt Herges(notes) fell into trouble in the ninth. … Everyone wants to be rappin' Fernando Rodney(notes), but the happy-go-lucky hat tilter hasn't blown a save yet this year through eight chances. Rodney kept it interesting with a couple of baserunners against the Rangers, but a Michael Young(notes) double-play grounder ended the threat. … Brian Fuentes(notes) was around the strike zone (16 pitches, 11 strikes) and cruised to his 11th save of the year at Seattle. … Brian Wilson's(notes) had some mechanical issues of late, and he's allowed multiple runs in three of his last four outings, including Thursday's blown save at San Diego. Heath Bell(notes) allowed his first run of the year in the top of the frame, then snuck into a win on Scott Hairston's(notes) walk-off single.

It's not often the Nats give us a clean day of relief work, but that's what happened Thursday: Julian Tavarez(notes) retired five of six men, and Joel Hanrahan(notes) struck out two in the ninth en route to his fourth save . … Trevor Hoffman(notes) (11) worked around a couple of hits and still hasn't allowed a run. … After laboring in Wednesday's save, Ryan Franklin(notes) (11) threw just two pitches Thursday and mopped up for Adam Wainwright(notes).Chad Qualls(notes) (10) struck out the side on just 12 pitches at Florida. … Mariano Rivera(notes) (9) worked a 1-2-3 inning against the Orioles.

Not an Injury Blog: Joey Votto's(notes) dizziness has been officially diagnosed as an inner-ear infection and he's considered day-to-day, as ambitious as that might seem right now. … Bobby Abreu(notes) says his toe is feeling better and it's possible he might be able to contribute in some role against the Dodgers (you know, that other LA team, wink wink) this weekend. … Although Chien-Ming Wang(notes) (hip) hasn't allowed a run in 13 innings at Triple-A, the Yanks want him to make another rehab appearance. … Joba Chamberlain(notes) left his start in the first inning after taking an Adam Jones(notes) line drive off his leg. X-rays came back negative. … Chipper Jones(notes) has a sore bunion on his right foot and it's not clear if he'll play in the weekend series against Toronto. … John Smoltz(notes) (shoulder) is currently working in Single-A, and we should see him in Boston in the first half of June. … Jose Reyes has tendinitis in his calf and might be able to avoid the DL after all.

Speed Round: Welcome to the season, Dan Uggla(notes). The slugging second baseman has three homers over his last three games, he's pushed his average over .200, and he's drawing plenty of walks as well (nine free passes over his last 10 games). … Max Scherzer(notes) grabbed our attention with a zesty 10-strikeout game at Florida, but it's hard to get wins (just one in eight starts) if you never work past the sixth inning. … Who do the Braves think they're fooling with this Jordan Schafer(notes) charade? A .220 average and 49 strikeouts over 132 at-bats? It's not a shame to need more seasoning at age 22. … David DeJesus(notes) is a good reminder that fast players don't always make good base stealers. He swiped his first bag of the year Thursday, and he's hitting just .240 on the year. He turns 30 after the season, it's time to wipe this name off the sleeper list for good, amigos. … Troy Tulowitzki(notes) returned to the lineup Thursday after his Clint Hurdle spanking and went 0-for-5. … Travis Snider(notes) is headed to Triple-A Las Vegas on the heels of a 10-for-54 slump (.185/.214/.204). "We want him to go down and play a little bit," Cito Gaston explained. "He's not playing that much here." … The numbers keep coming for Mark Reynolds(notes); he stole another base (six in three games) and homered at Florida, then packed his bags after a notable Friends & Family trade: Reynolds and A.J. Burnett(notes) head to Team Falzone, while a pair of Mets (Reyes, Gary Sheffield(notes)) sidle up to Andy Behrens. I realize we're presenting this deal to you without context, but nonetheless please declare a winner in the comments.


Images via Associated Press

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