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Closing Time: A fresh start for Drew Pomeranz

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Drew, the right thing (USAT)

Get out the post-hype sleeper clipboard, amigos. It's time to make another entry.

Not too long ago, Drew Pomeranz was considered a pretty big deal. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, and he quickly moved up the Cleveland system, impressing the scouting folk. But when the Indians pushed all-in for Ubaldo Jimenez in the summer of 2012, Pomeranz turned into the key trading chip. Start again, starter.

More often than not, Colorado's thin air chews up pitching prospects and spits them out. Pomeranz couldn't get anything going in his three partial years with the Rockies, posting a 4-14 record and ugly ratios (5.20 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) over 30 starts. But a life raft floated by at the perfect time; the Oakland A's traded for the 25-year old lefty over the winter.

The A's have been able to restore Pomeranz's confidence, no small feat. I'd follow pitching coach Curt Young into a burning building. Pomeranz was sharp over nine relief appearances (1.98/1.24, 11 K over 13.2 innings) earlier this year, and he's brilliant in two short starting assignments over the last week (10 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 13 K). The A's obviously believe in the reclamation project; they bounced Dan Straily to the minors so Pomeranz would have a dedicated rotation spot.

Don't be thrown by the short length of the appearances – Pomeranz is still in the process of stretching his endurance as a starter. Longer work will come soon enough. He's striking out three men for every walk (and better than a batter per inning), and a 47.5 percent ground-ball clip also keeps him out of trouble. And pitching in Oakland's roomy park is good work if you can get it.

I'm not going to play the cheesy AL-only hedge with Pomeranz; you know he's worth the play there. I think this is a mixed league story, too. Pomeranz gets the Rays next week – a team that can't hit lefties – and then a more challenging test, a visit to Toronto. Even with that second assignment, I'll probably have him in a lofty spot on the Double Dips pitching form. There's still time to kick some tires; he's owned in a modest 22 percent of Yahoo leagues as we go to press.

We're having fun with this Lefties in Oakland series, aren't we? Sean Dolittle on Tuesday, Pomeranz here. Maybe we'll get to Reggie Jackson and Kenny Holtzman by the end of the week.

While Coors Field is an obvious nightmare for pitchers, we're always looking to get a piece of the action for our bats, even through the visiting clubs. The Padres settle in at Colorado this weekend, so it's a good time for a short-term Friar. San Diego Chicken on Line 3.

Seth Smith has been on every pitch this month (19-for-40, .900 slugging), and he kept his No. 3 slot in the order Tuesday, even with Carlos Quentin back in the lineup. The Padres suddenly have a glut of outfielders (enigmatic Cameron Maybin returned two weeks back), but the left-handed Smith figures to play most of the time.

The Padres face just one southpaw over their next eight games, favorable timing for a lefty swinger. You can grab Smith in 86 percent of Yahoo leagues, and if you prefer The Q (before he invariably gets hurt again), he's ready for you in 93 percent of the Y.

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Snake eyes (USAT)

Martin Prado has a winning smile and he qualifies at three positions in most fantasy baseball leagues. Perhaps that's why he's getting a pass from a large chunk of the roto community. I'd like to know when a bad start becomes a bad season.

Prado is hitting a mediocre .253 through the opening quarter of the year, but that's not the big problem. Category juice? The cupboard is bare. Zero homers, zero steals.

The baserunning flatline can't be viewed as a surprise: Prado ran liberally in 2012 (17 bags), but otherwise he's been a mess in that area through his career. And considering his mediocre efficiency rate, he'd help his team more by shutting it down completely.

Prado's always been a contribution guy with homers, never a true slugger, but when the power flies out the window completely, it's time to worry. Consider all the warning signs here: walks are down, strikeouts up; there's also a spike in ground balls and infield pops. I don't see this problem magically fixing itself.

Maybe you can bail out on Prado, depending on how your opponents form their player ranks. I did some searching Tuesday night and found Prado ranked optimistically on at least three different sites. One listing had him priced ahead of two Arcade pets, Charlie Blackmon and Brian Dozier (that's why I tweet angry, kids). The spreadsheet won't defend it, but maybe you can find a Prado sympathizer out there. It might not be too late.

Tommy Hunter's crooked-number tour (6.60 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, .365 BAA) is ready for cancellation, but the Orioles don't have an easy answer for the ninth. Darren O'Day struggles against left-handed batters, like so many sidewinders do. Lefty Zach Britton has a pretty 0.84 ERA, but it comes with a middling strikeout and walk rate. Most teams don't want to play the committee card for an extended period of time, but that's what this situation screams for.

Hunter's latest collapse came against Detroit on Tuesday; Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez took him deep, flipping the game result. It's no shame to lose against those sluggers, but Hunter's been clocked by everyone this month. And keep in mind the Orioles were never all-in on Hunter to begin with; manager Buck Showalter went out of his way not to anoint Hunter before the season. If you drafted Hunter, be happy you somehow cobbled 11 saves out of him. The end is nigh.

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