Closing Time: Hey CJ, everything OK?

Scott Pianowski
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C.J. Wilson is battling some mechanical problems. C.J. Wilson is dealing with an undisclosed injury. And C.J. Wilson doesn't really want to talk about it.

The Rangers have two-game winning streak and a new pitching coach (Andy Hawkins took over on the weekend), but according to manager Ron Washington, they do not have a new closer. The team is looking to get Wilson's mechanics cleaned up, and then there's that mystery ailment, but apparently Washington isn't ready to pull the trigger on a role change yet. Put on your 10-gallon hat and let's survey the situation in Arlington.

"We're trying to see what we can do to get (Wilson) back on track," Washington told the team's official site before Monday's game. "He's my closer. If I put someone else out there, that doesn't mean he's not my closer."

"I don't like talking about my health issues in the media," said Wilson, who has a 9.35 ERA over his last 10 appearances (15 hits, seven walks). "Some of you have seen me at 100 percent, some of you have seen me at less than 100 percent. Use your deductive reasoning. Sometimes you have to do what's best for the team."

Wilson threw a 25-pitch session with Hawkins before Monday's game, which likely meant he wasn't available for the Yankees. Wilson's two understudies both worked against New York, as it turned out: Frank Francisco allowed an opposite-field homer to Xavier Nady in the eighth inning, tying the game, and Eddie Guardado escaped with a scoreless ninth (despite 22 pitches and some sharply-hit balls). Texas won the game in the bottom of the inning, on Marlon Byrd's grand slam off Damaso Marte.

Conclusion: It looks like Wilson will get the ninth inning back soon enough, assuming his injury (likely a tired arm) isn't too serious. But the leash will probably be a short one; Guardado and Francisco both have been effective of late, and the rally-happy Rangers are just five games out in the Wild Card race.

Rafael Perez has the look of a closer and the stuff of a closer. The numbers are in line, too. Maybe Eric Wedge will eventually see the light.

Perez got a two-inning save Monday at Tampa Bay, needing just 15 pitches to get the final six outs. "He was so efficient in the eighth, that I sent him out for the ninth with the lefties coming up," Wedge told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, though Masa Kobayashi was also warming in the bullpen. You get the idea Kobayashi will get the next ninth-inning save chance that isn't filled with left-handed hitters, but it might take just one more misstep for the pecking order to get reversed. Then again, it's possible Wedge could decide that Perez is more valuable working out of jams in the seventh and eighth, and he doesn't want to lose him in that role. We'll continue to monitor this one closely.

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Prince Fielder and Manny Parra got into an argument and brief physical exchange in the Milwaukee dugout Monday - Fielder shoved Parra twice, according to the AP report - but the club is downplaying the incident. "It's not a big deal," manager Ned Yost told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "For eight months a year, we're a family. At times things happen, flare up, but it's between the family." With the club battling for a playoff spot, it's doubtful it will overreact to this dugout dustup.

The dreaded "inning of work, non-save situation" took down three relievers of note in the Arizona desert Monday. Tyler Yates started the carnival ride by allowing five runs in a disastrous third-of-an-inning; there's a reason Andy Behrens referred to this guy as "America's most dangerous closer." Yates found the strike zone on just 9-of-23 pitches, and that's the biggest reason why he's not cut out for this closing thing. John Grabow's stint to follow wasn't much better: he walked two, allowed one hit and uncorked a wild pitch before getting the final two outs of the inning. Hurry with your rehab, Matt Capps.

Brandon Lyon was the third victim of the night, asked to close up shop with an eight-run lead. He was rocked for four hits and two runs, and he also walked a batter. It's not going to cost Lyon his closer spot (he's converted his last four chances, without allowing a run), but the timing could have been better; consider that Jon Rauch worked a tidy eighth inning Monday, needing just 11 pitches to go 1-2-3.

The Joba Chamberlain story hit a snag Monday in Texas, as a shoulder injury forced the phenom out of the game in the fifth inning. Given Chamberlain's value to the organization, look for the Yankees to be very careful with this situation. "We believe it's muscular," Joe Girardi told the AP. "We'll see what the tests reveal. I don't think it's serious. I don't think he'll be shut down a long time." To be continued.

Victor Martinez (hamstring/elbow) was able to run the bases Monday and might be ready for a rehab assignment at the end of the week. When he eventually gets back to the Tribe, don't be surprised if he's used at first base; Kelly Shoppach has been sizzling the last few weeks, and Cleveland doesn't want to put too many demands on Martinez's body post-rehab.

Carl Crawford sat out Monday due to a nagging hamstring injury; the club will give it another look Tuesday. "I've been playing on it the last three days and it's been sore," Crawford said. "(Sunday) it got to the point where I couldn't deal with it anymore, so (Monday) I decided to rest it."

Speed Round: J.J. Hardy has fallen into a funk; he went 0-for-5 Monday (two strikeouts, nothing out of the infield) and is now hitless over 26 at-bats . . . Three more knocks for Dustin Pedroia, who's batting .401 over his last 43 games . . . Luke Scott is hitting just .181 since the first week of July, and according to the MASN broadcast he's been dealing with discomfort in the foot and ankle area . . . Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez blew a ninth-inning lead courtesy of four unearned runs, but the Angels got the game in the bottom of the ninth against a wild George Sherrill (37 pitches, 17 strikes) . . . Robinson Cano (homer) and Freddy Sanchez (three hits) returned to the starting lineup in style Monday . . . The Rangers believe in Gerald Laird's bat, apparently - he hit second in the lineup Monday as the DH . . . The underrated and versatile Akinori Iwamura kept it going Monday; three hits, two RBIs. Keep in mind he qualifies at both second and third in the Y! game, and he's installed as Tampa Bay's leadoff man . . . Two more steals for Howie Kendrick, who's keeping us happy even if the power hasn't arrived yet . . . Jay Bruce finally hit a homer against a southpaw Monday, taking Parra deep. The Cincinnati star is batting just .195 against lefties over 82 at-bats . . . The Brewers have pulled the plug on the Dave Bush/Seth McClung platoon; Bush will get the call Tuesday at Cincinnati.

Now's the perfect time to give some of those plucky Nationals a test-drive, with Washington settled at Coors Field for three more games. The Nats brought the bats to Monday's series opener, scoring nine runs on 14 hits; table-setters Emilio Bonifacio (5-2-3-1) and Willie Harris (5-2-2-3, ninth homer) are still free in a lot of leagues. If you need proof of Bonifacio's wheels, catch the replay of his sixth-inning triple.

Raul Ibanez's career has been an under-the-radar special, so it's appropos that his seventh-inning explosion Monday (grand slam, later a two-run double) came while your dutiful internet scribe was assembling this column and temporarily away from the set. A tip of the cap to the classy Ibanez; contending clubs are going to regret not making a stronger pitch for this steady pro.

Injury Lap: Mariano Rivera (back spasms) was not live for Monday's game, but the Yankees expect to have him available Tuesday . . . Mike Lowell took a shot for his sore hip and is day-to-day . . . Milton Bradley (quad) missed his sixth consecutive start, though he was able to pinch hit in the ninth . . . Eric Chavez is officially done for the year. He's going to have surgery on his frayed labrum . . . Joe Inglett (knee) was a late scratch Monday . . . Jeff Francis (shoulder) is ready to return and will pitch Wednesday, but I wouldn't go near him until he shows us a decent turn or two . . . Michael Cuddyer (hand) will finally begin his minor-league rehab work Tuesday, and could be back in a week . . . The Cubs might bring Kerry Wood back as soon as Tuesday, though his first few appearances figure to be in middle relief . . . Erik Bedard (shoulder) played catch Sunday and was scheduled to do the same Monday night, according to the Seattle Times. I'm not expecting much here the rest of the season.

Handshakes: Brian Wilson (31); Joakim Soria (32); Francisco Cordero (22; escaped jam by striking out Ryan Braun); LaTroy Hawkins (rain-shortened win over Chicago; blame Bartman or the cow, I guess). And with that, cue the music, we're done for another night.