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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Freddy Sanchez sneaks up on you

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It seems like we're always bagging on Freddy Sanchez(notes) for what he can't do; specifically, he's not a power source and he seems to have trouble staying healthy. But let's bury the hatchet and accept how Sanchez can help a club: he's a decent source for average, he's not a bad run producer, and he's also in the midst of an excellent year on defense.

Fantasy owners might be quick to dismiss Sanchez out of hand when they see that he has zero homers and zero stolen bases through 24 games – there's no categorical juice here. That established, a .341 average goes a long way in a category many owners tend to underrate, and Sanchez is also doing a solid job with run production thus far, scoring 14 times and knocking in 14. If you extrapolate this pace to a full season, he'd be around 188 runs produced. I'm not trying to build a Hall of Fame case for the guy and in a perfect world you'd have three better middle infielders, sure, but his ownership level should be over his current 17 percent.

If nothing else, consider Sanchez when you're caught short on a Monday or Thursday and need a temporary option to kick the tires on. San Francisco's roomy ballpark plays to Sanchez's strength – he's a frozen-rope machine (24.3 percent on line drives for his career) who likes to work the gaps. The Orioles can tell you all about it; Sanchez got them for two hits, a sacrifice fly and four RBIs as the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Giants rolled on Monday night.

Justin Smoak's(notes) rookie year has two distinct tones to it – he's been productive against right-handed pitching (.272/.395/.466) but thus far lefties are eating his lunch (.096/.186/.192). Normally you wouldn't pay too much attention to the second batch of numbers, for several reasons: Smoak is a switch-hitter; he wasn't considered a liability from the right side into this year; and we're still taking about a tiny sample (52 at-bats). That said, the Rangers reportedly are looking around for a possible platoon partner for Smoak, a right-handed bat that could take up the short end of the time-share. Ty Wigginton(notes), Conor Jackson(notes) and Wes Helms(notes) are some possibilities floating through the rumor mill.

A.J. Hinch hasn't come out and made a closer switch, but all the context clues point to Chad Qualls(notes) and his 8.46 ERA finally getting a much-overdue boot out of the ninth inning. "It's been a rough year," Hinch told the Arizona Republic after Sunday's game, an victory that came despite another bombastic blown save from his struggling closer. "[Qualls is] bearing the brunt of the struggles in the bullpen, so at some point it has to happen, where you can't leave it into fate and decide and try something different. I don't want to back myself into a corner either way, but I'm certainly going to look into things. We've really only had one guy down there that's maintained some consistency (Aaron Heilman(notes))."

Here at Roto Arcade we've wasted spent about 147 man hours on the Diamondbacks bullpen this year, so the sooner Hinch sees the light and makes the switch, the happier we'll be. Arizona opens a series in Boston on Tuesday.

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The most intriguing pitching matchup on the Monday card didn't occur on a major-league diamond – you had to go down to Gwinnett County in Georgia to check things out. That's where Jair Jurrjens(notes) (rehab assignment) and Jeremy Hellickson(notes) (highly-touted Tampa prospect) matched up in a game with future fantasy implications, representing the Gwinnett Braves and the Durham Bulls, respectively.

Jurrjens says he's over his hamstring problem, but his final line from Monday suggests otherwise (2.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 4 K). His game is all about pounding the strike zone, something he was unable to do consistently here. Mind you he wasn't facing an ordinary Triple-A lineup; the Bulls had Jason Bartlett(notes) (3-0-2-1) batting leadoff, Desmond Jennings(notes) (5-1-2-1) hitting third and Matt Joyce(notes) (3-1-3-0) cleaning up. Bartlett is going to be back with the Rays fairly soon, and Jennings and Joyce would be starting for a lot of major-league clubs right now.

Hellickson didn't get a decision on the other side but he passed the eye test, allowing just two hits and one run over six sharp innings. He walked one, struck out five, and has a glittering set of numbers on the year. It's probably just a matter of time before we see the 23-year-old righty in a Tampa Bay uniform; Wade Davis(notes) hasn't been fooling anyone from the No. 5 slot in the rotation and the Rays know they have a chance to make a deep run in 2010 as they're currently constructed. Eventually, they'll make sure they're putting their best man into that final rotation slot.

The big story at San Diego on Monday was an earthquake that momentary halted play in the eighth inning. The quake graded at 5.7; some players noticed it, others didn't. The Petco Park fans didn't seem too fazed by the events; when the PA announcer asked for everyone to remain calm, the patrons cheered. Toronto wound up taking the game, paced by seven strong innings from Shaun Marcum(notes) and a pair of homers from John Buck(notes) (11, 12). Aaron Hill(notes) (three hits, three RBIs) also got in on the fun.

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A return to the greater Los Angeles area was the right tonic for Randy Wolf(notes), at least for one night. He collected 14 ground-ball outs in Anaheim on Monday, rolling through seven successful innings (3 H, 2 R, 3 BB). Maybe he was inspired by the climate or the pretty girls, or perhaps he had a quick patch-up meeting with his long-lost Uncle Winston. (You might think the world-class fixer is British or something, but 1994's version of The Wolf is based out of Southern California. Move out of the sticks, gentlemen.)

It was a tidy story for one night, but there's no reason to buy into Randy Wolf going forward. He's got a pedestrian 43 strikeouts (against 42 walks) over his last 78 innings of work, and I can't see how anyone can trust him on the weekend in Coors Field. Just be glad you're not on the hook for this guy through 2012, as the Brewers are ($27 million in all).

Injury Blog: Although Brandon Phillips(notes) had an MRI on his hamstring injury and the Reds haven't released details yet, it doesn't look like a DL stint is going to be necessary. GM Walt Jocketty thinks we'll see Phillips back "in the next day or two." … Erick Aybar(notes) left Monday's game with what looked like a nasty knee injury, but the club was more optimistic after the game. He's day-to-day. … Magglio Ordonez(notes) (oblique) should be ready to return for Tuesday's game against Washington. The Tigers are home all week, getting the Nationals and Diamondbacks. … Orlando Hudson(notes) (wrist) might be able to come off the disabled list for the Twins on Tuesday. … Coco Crisp(notes) (ribs) is ready to get going on a rehab assignment. … The Athletics haven't been specific about a Brett Anderson(notes) timetable, but he's expected to do some throwing Friday. He's coming back from elbow tendinitis. … Matt Lindstrom(notes) (back) was available on Sunday had the Astros needed him. Feel free to deploy him as you normally would. … Ian Kinsler(notes) admits that his right ankle is still a problem. He was given the day off Sunday. "Stealing bases and getting out of the box is the biggest thing," he told the team's website on the weekend. … Alfredo Simon(notes) is back off the DL and should get a shot at closing this week – you know, if the Orioles ever get a ninth-inning lead. Look for him to probably see at least one non-closing appearance before Juan Samuel gets Simon back into the ninth. David Hernandez(notes), the other option of interest here, pitched in Monday's blowout loss, retiring one of two men in the eighth (with the game long-since decided).

Speed Round: Adam Lind(notes) was given Monday off, yet another day for him to clear his head. What he was probably thinking on the bench was this: "Hey skip, I can hit Jon Garland(notes). Put me in, coach." To be fair, we also have to consider Lind's limited defensive skills, an issue in a roomy yard like Petco. … Matt Wieters(notes) homered at San Francisco and raised his average to .236. The roto gods sighed. … Adam Wainwright(notes) had a rocky first inning against the Mariners but otherwise was in control (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 6 K). Three of the four Seattle pitchers were knocked around, but we should mention that Chad Cordero(notes) had a scoreless seventh inning (one walk, no whiffs). … Chone Figgins(notes) had a solid night (3-1-2-1, plus a walk) and is quietly coming out of it, hitting .319 in June … The Brewers had two big innings at Anaheim in support of Wolf, posting 12 runs. Ryan Braun started the fun with a grand slam, and Casey McGehee(notes) later homered … Ron Washington wants to see Elvis Andrus(notes) and Julio Borbon(notes) improve their base-stealing percentages, and if they can't do that, they might start seeing the red light. Borbon is 8-for-14 this year, while Andrus is 18-for-27. Maybe Washington should merely be content that Borbon is reaching base with relative frequency these days. … You probably figured the Jason Kendall(notes) story was too good to be true – it was just a matter of when the pretty batting average evaporated. He's in a 1-for-25 slump, and he's carrying a .208/.250/.250 line for June.

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