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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Kerry Wood can't flip Cleveland's karma

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You've got to feel for the Cleveland sports fan these days. The Cavaliers punched the city in the gut, LeBron James Paranoia is going to last into the summer, and now it's the Indians putting bad news on the doorstep: the franchise player is hurt, the shortstop is injured as well, and there's the ninth inning to worry about. If you're from Northeast Ohio and want to skip this entire blog post, feel free.

Indians reliever Kerry Wood(notes) entered 2010 as a closer on the brink and that theme has stayed with him every step of the way. A back injury from spring training cost him six weeks; his hefty contract makes him a constant trade candidate; and his performance on the field hasn't been a treat either.

Wednesday night Wood blew a save in bombastic fashion, allowing four hits and five runs to the Royals of all teams. There was nothing cheap about the rally – Kansas City collected two doubles and a triple, and most of the balls were hit sharply. Wood was still getting decent velocity on his fastball – routinely in the 95-to-97 range – but the pitches were straight and the Royals were connecting.

Wood saved his best throw for last – as he was removed from the game, he chucked his glove into the stands, where it was caught by an Indians fan. Perfect mechanics, perfect location – it was just seven batters too late.

Maybe this rocky outing was just a blip on the Wood radar, but given his history of physical problems we have to at least put him under the microscope. If you're hedging the Indians bullpen behind Wood, consider that lefty Tony Sipp(notes) hasn't allowed a run over his last 13 appearances and Chris Perez(notes) hasn't given up an earned run over his last 12 games. They did their jobs Wednesday – Perez worked a scoreless seventh, while Sipp posted a bagel in the eighth – and they're both widely available in mixed leagues. Your speculation needs will vary; the save chase is different for all of us.

The Cleveland faithful will get over this Wood collapse, but the Grady Sizemore(notes) injury is enough to send the entire city into a depression. Sizemore has a left knee bone bruise and hit the disabled list Wednesday; it's possible he might need surgery to fix the knee. It's going to be a while before we know what the timetable is here. Post-hype outfielder Trevor Crowe(notes) is getting time in Sizemore's absence and deserves consideration from the AL-only and deep mixed-league players; he's off to a 7-for-20 start with a couple of steals, and he's getting a look in the leadoff spot.

Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) had surgery on his broken left arm Wednesday and will be out 8-10 weeks. Jason Donald(notes) joined the team Tuesday and is 2-for-7 through two games, batting in the bottom third of the order. Donald was hitting .277 with two homers and 10 steals when he was promoted from Triple-A.

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The Marlins and Red Sox made a notable six-player trade back in November of 2005; you no doubt remember it. And, interestingly enough, the four most prominent players from that deal have been in the news this week.

Let's get this Hanley Ramirez(notes) business settled first. He apologized to his team Wednesday and got back into action, going 3-for-5 with an RBI at St. Louis. Crisis averted, everyone's happy now, let's play ball.

Anibal Sanchez(notes) got the win for the Marlins, posting his best line of the year (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K). Very quietly Sanchez is turning into a bankable fantasy option: he's worked six innings or more in seven of his eight starts, he's allowed just nine runs over his last six turns, and he's allowed just one home run all year. Use him next week at home against the Braves.

Josh Beckett(notes) won't be in our plans for a while; his back issue pushed him to the disabled list Wednesday. The way he's been pitching lately, it's probably best that he get some time off - and now you have a DL spot to play with.

Mike Lowell(notes) remains in limbo, a frequent bench option these days now that David Ortiz(notes) has heated up (.358 May, seven homers). "I think it's one of those unfortunate things where it's painfully evident I don't have a role on the team," Lowell said earlier in the week.

Let's hear it for the Pirates bullpen, which has been outstanding of late. You know all about Evan Meek's(notes) emergence, but he's unlikely to get a shot at closing anytime soon because the two men ahead of him on the depth chart have rallied nicely. Start with closer Octavio Dotel(notes), who's been on point with his slider this month (8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 12 K, six saves). And then there's Joel Hanrahan(notes), who's got a run of nine straight scoreless appearances working. He's piled up 24 strikeouts (against just six walks) over 16 innings.

Will Venable(notes) might not be roster-worthy in shallow mixed leagues, and his .248 average probably scares off a lot of investors, but there's some category juice here (11 steals, four homers). He got his first shot at the leadoff position Wednesday and came through nicely, posting a 5-4-4-1 line with two doubles, a triple and a stolen base. I'm curious to see if Venable can hold this lineup spot for a while against right-handed pitching, but he might not be there (or even play) when the Padres face Clayton Kershaw(notes) and Cliff Lee(notes) the next two nights. Here's the bottom line and the fantasy takeaway: you can be somewhat forgiving of a mediocre average if the other categories are being filled up (call it the Jose Bautista(notes) Principle).

We've explored several names as possible successors to the Trevor Hoffman(notes) throne in Milwaukee, and it's time for one more: John Axford(notes). The tall right-hander had 19 strikeouts in 13.1 Triple-A innings before getting recalled on the weekend, and he looked the part in Wednesday's mop-up appearance, working a scoreless inning and striking out two.

Injury Blog: Jorge Posada(notes) has a hairline fracture in his right foot and is down for 3-4 weeks. Francisco Cervelli(notes) will get regular time while Posada rests, but hopefully you can find a better backstop on the waiver wire. … Kyle Blanks(notes) is still dealing with a tendon strain in his right elbow. … Kenshin Kawakami(notes) was effective against the Reds Wednesday despite a sore back and a foot blister. It's possible he could be skipped next week. … Magglio Ordonez(notes) (heel) was a late scratch at Oakland and Jim Leyland didn't want to muck up his entire lineup, so Casper Wells(notes) batted third and knocked in a couple of runs. … Marco Scutaro(notes) is dealing with a sore elbow and got the day off. He also made a couple of errors in the Tuesday win at New York, so he's clearing his head as well. … Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) is seeing a sports psychologist as he tries to get over his throwing block. … Tom Gorzelanny(notes) was superb at Philadelphia (6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K) but had to leave after taking a line drive off his pitching hand. X-rays came back negative.

Speed Round: Justin Verlander(notes) was dominant at Oakland, allowing just four hits and one run in a complete-game victory. He needed just 115 pitches to get through the night, and 62 of those offerings were 95 mph or more. … The Brewers will give Trevor Hoffman a couple of days off so he can work on his mechanics. It's always the mechanics, amigos. … The Astros finally walked away from Kazuo Matsui(notes) Wednesday, placing him on waivers. Jeff Keppinger(notes), for better or for worse, becomes a full-time player with this news. … Carlos Zambrano(notes) will pitch in a simulated game Monday as he works on getting his arm stretched out and ready for the rotation again. … Joe Saunders(notes) has allowed just one run over his last 16.2 innings, to the disbelief of all of us. … The running Rays are up to 45 steals on the year after swiping six bags at New York. Evan Longoria(notes) and B.J. Upton(notes) had two steals each, and Ben Zobrist(notes) (at least he's running) and Hank Blalock(notes) also got in on the fun. … It's been a tidy week for Daniel Bard(notes), picking up a win, a save and a hold over the last three days (h/t, Matt M). Bard got the ninth-inning call Wednesday because Jonathan Papelbon(notes) needed a night off. … Angel Pagan(notes) had a crazy night to remember, hitting an inside-the-park homer at Washington and also starting a triple play. Alas, it wasn't enough to stop the law firm of Hernandez, Storen, Clippard and Capps; the Nats took the game.

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