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Closing Time: J.J. Putz, closer on the brink

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How many handshakes does J.J. Putz have left? (USAT)

In the middle of a draft, those secondary closers can start to look the same. I'm not going to bag on anyone who decided to take a ride with J.J. Putz. If you're down with JJP, it probably made sense in March.

That said, let's keep both eyes open and be proactive as needed. Putz is a closer on the brink right now, and it's time to audit the Diamondbacks bullpen.

The Arizona closer let another game slip away Tuesday, allowing a game-flipping home run to Pablo Sandoval in the top of the ninth. Nothing cheap about the homer; it landed somewhere around Flagstaff. Putz inherited a scant one-run lead and a runner on first; this giveaway doesn't grade a 10 on the Slocumb Scale. But when you're getting beat in the ninth inning and with the long ball, it leaves a scar on your clubhouse. It's the fourth blown save for Putz and the third homer allowed. He's carrying a 4.26 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.

To be fair, it's not like Putz's stuff has completely flown out the window: he does have 17 strikeouts in 12.2 innings. But seven unintentional walks over a month of play is asking for trouble, not to mention the gopher problem. And the Snakes have some intriguing relievers percolating behind their struggling closer.

Let's start with David Hernandez, the eighth-inning bridge. He posted a snappy 2.50 ERA and 1.02 WHIP last year, with 98 strikeouts (against 22 walks) over 68.1 innings. That's a closer profile. Don't hassle me about his six blown saves - they were all leads handed away in the eighth inning, a situation where the reliever inherits blown-save risk without a chance at the reward. Hernandez is doing his normal fine work this year, albeit the ratios have crept up (2.84/1.34). He has 14 strikeouts against four walks over 12.2 innings. He's widely available, and looks like the logical first stop for Arizona hedging.

If manager Kirk Gibson wants to play the "proven closer" card, Heath Bell is around. Bell's 4.50 ERA and 1.60 WHIP push you off the scent, but he doers have 15 strikeouts (and just one walk) over 10 innings. He's allowed a couple of homers. I'd prefer to stay away from this guy once and for all, but I don't run the bullpen phone in the desert.

Left-hander Matt Reynolds also deserves a mention, albeit he'd have to fight through the bias against southpaw closers. He's been the lockdown guy in this bullpen: 13 innings, six hits, zero runs, one walk, eight strikeouts. He didn't show this type of ability in Colorado the last two years, but you can't take those thin-air samples seriously. And Reynolds doesn't need to be pigeonholed as a left specialist; righties are slashing .120/.120/.160 against him. Sure, it's a small sample, but still - that's ridiculous.

You'll recall Reynolds picked up two extra-inning saves in the San Francisco series last week, (Putz had a meltdown there, too). But his career strikeout profile is ordinary for a reliever, and the brilliant April could go down as batted-ball luck more than anything. Not dissing the guy or dismissing him out of hand, just trying to keep both cleats firmly on the ground.

So there you have it, something for everyone. Place your bets, save chasers. Four reasonable options are on the board. Will the Snakes stick with Putz (or try to fix him)? Will Hernandez get the call, a nod to usage patterns? Will Bell be pressed into the ninth, given his ninth-inning resume? Will Reynolds get some chances at handshakes, or do the Diamondbacks view him too valuable in the earlier innings?

Share your slants and pickup ideas (and logs) in the comments.

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Slow and Easy (B. Funston)

If you go very deep into the Roto Arcade archives, you'll surely come across some Kevin Slowey propaganda. He was considered Brad Radke 2.0 once upon a time (that was actually meant as a compliment), a yearly sleeper along with Scott Baker. Alas, Slowey crashed hard in 2009-2011, and he didn't even pitch in the majors last year (a rib-cage injury wiped out his season). He's been off the radar for a while.

Slowey is coming back from the dead in 2013, though one month anyway (2.15 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, six walks, 29 strikeouts over 37.2 innings). He turns 29 later this week; still young enough for a career rejuvenation. Here's some scouting video to consider, have a look. The Mets looked overmatched Tuesday. Slowey's luck-rate stats look, well, lucky – but you can say that about anyone with his stellar ratios. The big home park and zippy K/BB rate provide a reason to believe.

Unfortunately for the comebacking righty, he still has to work along with Miami's horrendous offense. He's winless in 2013, despite six consecutive starts of roto usefulness. Slowey will try to get that first victory this weekend, working against the Phils and Doc Halladay. After that, a trip to Chavez Ravine is on tap. There's deep-league streaming juice here (and maybe it's a temp-to-perm position), but unfortunately Slowey never gets to pitch against his own team.

The Indians have rebounded nicely from their 9-0 loss at Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, rolling to three straight wins (including the Sunday nightcap) by a combined score of 33-5. The Tribe welcomed the Phillies into town Tuesday and served a 14-2 beatdown, garnished with 17 hits and seven homers. Bang the drum slowly. Enjoy your box score. Stop booing Kipnis and Cabrera.

Ryan Raburn is someone to consider as a short-term mixer pickup. He's homered four times in the past 48 hours, seeing time in the outfield. Eventually the Indians are going to welcome Michael Bourn back (it should be in the first half of May) but maybe Raburn can steal some at-bats as a super-utility player; he's not much of a defender but he can, theoretically, play all over the field.

Raburn didn't hit at all in Detroit last year but he was a sneaky power source from 2009-2011, clocking 45 homers on 1019 at-bats. He's currently a 2B/OF option in the Yahoo! game, and ready to grab in 97 percent of leagues. Shallow players can ignore Raburn (or have a good laugh), but the calculus is different in the deeper pools. (I'm not going to recommend Raburn in AL-only. We all know he's long-gone there.)

Over in the NL, the Brewers have their version of Raburn: Yuniesky Betancourt. The much-maligned hacking veteran has a career .290 OBP (it's .299 this year) but when you've got six homers and a .549 slugging percentage in 2013, who cares? Unfortunately for the Wiggy Sympathizers like yours truly, Aramis Ramirez is probably going to be ready Friday - Betancourt's time at third base is just about done. Will the Brewers consider giving Betancourt a super-utility gig at the four infield spots? He's played all of them before. I've got a few deep-league rosters that could use more Betancourt. (Ask and you receive: manager Ron Roenicke made it official Wednesday, saying he'll use Betancourt at first base after Ramirez returns.)

Speed Round: Joel Hanrahan is back off the DL, returning from a hamstring injury, but his ninth-inning baton is long gone. Manager John Farrell is doing the logical thing, sticking with lights-out Andrew Bailey. Hanrahan worked in the eighth inning with a one-run deficit at Toronto on Tuesday, giving up two hits and a run. It's going to take a while to fix that 11.12 ERA. … It's possible the Cubs might go to a bullpen-by-committee approach even when Kyuji Fujikawa returns, Dale Sveum told Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. Just what we all want, six months of fire in Chicago. … With Brett Anderson (ankle) going on the disabled list, we welcome Daniel Straily back into our lives. Straily didn't have it Monday against the Angels but I still like him long-term. That said, if he goes Sunday at Yankee Stadium, that's a spot to avoid. … Hyun-Jin Ryu continues to pass the eye test. He struck out 12 in an easy win over the Rockies on Tuesday. Next up: a date in San Francisco. … Coco Crisp (hamstring) was another casualty for the A's, hitting the DL - but you know the score with him. This is risk you priced into March's ranking. Chris Young, assuming he's hale, could benefit with Crisp out, and Seth Smith is another option. … The Cardinals still haven't made a decision on rehabbing Jason Motte (who did some throwing Tuesday). In the meantime, Edward Mujica had a delicious three-strikeout save against the Reds. … Johnny Cuteto (triceps) will make a rehab start Friday, which means the eventual rotation decision between Tony Cingrani and Mike Leake isn't far off. You'd like to think Cingrani's three ridiculous starts will be rewarded, but organizations sometimes do strange things. … Carl Crawford is battling a sore hamstring and probably won't play Wednesday. … Curtis Granderson is making good progress on his rehab, but things appear to be stalled with Mark Teixeira.

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