Closer on the brink (USAT)
All's well that ends well, especially when you're beating a division opponent on the road. But as the Diamondbacks celebrate their 5-3 victory at Los Angeles on Tuesday night, they also have to ponder the state of their closer situation.
J.J. Putz entered the game in the bottom of the ninth, fresh off his recent vote of confidence, but he wasn't around long. He walked Nick Punto on four pitches and shortly after that sullenly walked off the field, dealing with elbow stiffness (per beat writer Jack Magruder, tests are scheduled for Wednesday). Heath Bell relieved Putz and handled the assignment just fine, setting down Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford and Dee Gordon. Give this one to the Union of the Snakes.
Bell was the closer choice here given David Hernandez had already pitched (scoreless eighth, dodging two base runners). Lefty Matt Reynolds, the man mowing down everyone in 2013, didn't work in the game.
Time for another place-your-bet moment, save chaser. Are you worried by Hernandez's eight walks in 15.2 innings? What about the long ball? Hernandez has served up four already, while Bell is at two. Their ratios don't leave much to be desired: Hernandez trades at 4.02 and 1.47, while Bell is at 4.72 and 1.42. Putz was in this neighborhood, too (4.26/1.58).
Bottom line, if Putz needs DL time, I don't think Reynolds will be the new stopper unless everyone else absolutely craps out. Hernandez has a solid 2012 to point to, while Bell has the silly "closing experience" tag. My guess right this second says Bell handles the baton, as needed, if Putz can't go, but this is nothing more than a dart throw at 2:08 am EST on Wednesday morning. Feel free to share your gut feeling in the comments.
Another day, another bullpen in crisis. We'll get through this together.
• We've been discussing LA's terrible offense all month (28th in runs), and it could be a while before things turn around. Hanley Ramirez won't be back anytime soon; he's expected to miss 4-6 weeks while he rehabs his hamstring injury. Gordon owners won't mind - he'll be around, stealing bases - but feel free to liberally stream pitchers at Chavez Ravine. I'm in on Jose Fernandez and Kevin Slowey this weekend, no matter that they're tied to Miami's mediocre ballclub.
Is the LA bullpen headed for a reshuffling? Only Don Mattingly knows for sure. Brandon League picked up Tuesday's loss, entering in a tie game in the top of the ninth (standard closer work) and allowing a mammoth two-run homer to Dodger-killer Paul Goldschmidt. League's now carrying a 5.40 ERA and 1.28 WHIP on the year, and yet he's also 8-for-9 on save chances. There are two ways to spin this.
Kenley Jansen continues to be money as the eighth-inning bridge: 17 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 21 K. That's a 2.12 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, and it looks even more impressive on-screen. But perhaps the Dodgers recognize Jansen is more valuable not tethered to the ninth-inning role; it might make sense to treat Jansen as the true ace reliever while League collects a bunch of saves, some of them cheap finishing jobs with leads of 2-3 runs. My guess: we'll see the status quo for now, and League isn't on the brink of losing his gig, even as he's clearly not the team's best reliever. But I don't blame Jansen owners for their nonstop campaign.
Hairdresser on fire (USAT)
Hairdresser on fire (USAT)
• The Tampa Bay bullpen continues to be an ugly giveaway, and Tuesday night you couldn't even blame Fernando Rodney. The Rays had a 4-1 lead through six innings, then watched Jake McGee (2 R, 1 HR; he looks awful), Kyle Farnsworth (3 H, 1 R) and Joel Peralta (3 H, 2 R, 1 HR) give the game away. And once you fall behind Toronto late, you're going to lose if Casey Janssen has any say in it (one inning, 10 pitches, handshake No. 9; this is baseball's most underrated reliever).
Peralta still has solid ratios on the year (2.51/1.19), but he's always had a gopher problem. If Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey can fix this burning bullpen, they can fix anything. Rodney remains the best fantasy option simply because he still has the baton, but if he does anything to restore public confidence in the next few weeks, I'd look at that as a window to cash out.
• The Kyle Kendrick music keeps playing, as he posted seven creamy-smooth innings by the bay (6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K), rolling past Tim Lincecum and the Giants. Kendrick's probably pitching a little over his head right now (the lofty strand rate sticks out and the ERA estimators are in the 3s), but let's remember he posted a 2.87 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in the second half of 2012. You can get away with a so-so strikeout rate if you hardly walk anyone and aren't crippled by home runs, and that's the right-hander's game. Maybe Kendrick, Slowey and Kyle Lohse can all go to lunch together someday.
The schedule isn't easy for Kendrick the next two starts: he works at Arizona, then returns home to face the Reds. That said, his 52-percent tag still seems a little light to me. Put the boot to the tires.
• Look at the Cubs, all tidy with their 2-1 victory over St. Louis. Unheralded lefty Travis Wood worked into the seventh (1 R, 8 K) and picked up the win; he's been useful in all seven of his 2013 turns. He's at home against the Rockies and Mets for his next two assignments; it's about time the fantasy community woke up to Wood (35 percent owned).
Carlos Marmol dodged three base runners as the bridge man, and Kevin Gregg was surprisingly clean in the ninth (strike out, pop out, line out). The begoggled Gregg now has five saves and Dale Sveum is impressed: the skipper told beat writer Patrick Mooney that Gregg will remain at closer even after Kyuji Fujikawa returns. We'll see how long that lasts.
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