Casual Friday all the way, bullets ready to go, read them as you come back home tonight or reheat these tasty fantasy nuggets for Saturday Brunch. Let's get to it.
• It wasn't hard to see that Brandon Morrow(notes) was on the outs as Seattle's closer; he's been dreadful in three appearances since his DL stint and he flat-out lost two games in the Texas series. The other cleat dropped before Friday's game when Don Wakamatsu officially demoted Morrow out of the closer role. Time to see what you can do, David Aardsma(notes).
The well-traveled Aardsma entered the weekend with closing credentials (high-90s fastball, better than a strikeout per inning, 1.62 ERA, three saves as the No. 2), and as luck would have it, the Mariners had a one-run lead to protect in the ninth against the Red Sox. Audition time. Aardsma walked the tight-rope in his appearance, allowing one hit and getting two outs on deep fly balls, but nonetheless it was a scoreless inning and it delivered a much-needed victory to the Ms after two gut-wrenching losses. Mark up save No. 4 for the former first-round pick, and although Wakamatsu didn't explicitly name Aardsma as the new closer, he's probably going to get a chance to take the job and run with it for a while.
Obviously Aardsma is the play for anyone chasing saves for the time being, but what do we make of Morrow's future? Wakamatsu knows how talented Morrow is and the hope is that the Mariners can get the young righty straightened out in middle relief. "What we're going to do is put him in the bullpen – not in the closer role, but get him some innings," Wakamatsu told the Seattle Times. "Get him to where he feels he can command the baseball a little bit better."
In deeper mixed leagues I can see the case for holding onto Morrow and giving him some time to work this out, and even if Morrow turns into a drop in shallow mixed leagues, he's the type of player you want to be ready to jump back on at a moment's notice – he's still the most talented member of this bullpen, it's just a matter of fixing some mechanical things and getting his confidence back. I don't imagine Morrow seeing the ninth inning for a long time to come, but I think there's a fair chance he's back in the closing chair at some point in 2009.
• Joel Hanrahan(notes) continues to be the only man worth monitoring in the Washington bullpen; he worked two scoreless innings against the Phillies (1 H, 1 BB, 3 K) while his teammates struggled (Joe Beimel(notes) was knocked around in the seventh, and Kip Wells(notes) was hammered in the 12th). It's only a matter of time before Hanrahan gets an extended chance to be the man in this bullpen again.
On the other side of the diamond, we have to talk about Brad Lidge(notes), who has "likely DL trip" written all over him. He blew another save Friday, he's been scored on in six straight appearances, the league is hitting .324 against him, and his strikeout numbers have plummeted in recent outings. Ryan Madson(notes) (2.16 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) is the handcuff here and should be owned in anything resembling a competitive league.
• How do you fix a slumping David Ortiz(notes)? If you're the Red Sox, you give him a few days off. Ortiz didn't play Friday at Seattle and Terry Francona doesn't plan to use Papi again until the Red Sox return home Tuesday against Toronto. "Sometimes stepping back can help," Francona told the Boston Herald. "Maybe I'm too late in doing this. I hope not. I just think he needs to take a deep breath. Even when he's struggling, we love his presence. This is the time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and help us in the long run."
• Josh Johnson(notes) had some interesting, almost cryptic, comments about his shoulder situation Friday. He came out of Thursday's start early, albeit Fredi Gonzalez said at the time it was no big deal. "It [the shoulder] just doesn't feel great," Johnson told the Miami Herald. "I wanted to go back out there. It's not tight. Almost weak. But then I came in here and did all the strength stuff, and they told me it's not weak. I've heard stories of people leaving Colorado [where Johnson pitched last week] and feeling absolutely awful their next start." It's going to take a while before we figure out what's what on this one.
• Poor Paul Maholm(notes) pitched another gem (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K), then watched the result go poof when Matt Capps(notes) blew up in the ninth (five hits, three runs). Capps hasn't seen a 1-2-3 inning since the middle of April and he's been rocked in three different appearances this month, which makes you wonder if his elbow is 100 percent right now.
• The Mets kept the blueprint the same as they captured a second straight victory at San Francisco: run the bases aggressively (four steals), get strong relief work and win the game against Giants closer Brian Wilson(notes) (two unearned runs in the ninth). I'm not going to endorse Gary Sheffield(notes) as any kind of a long-term play, but he is 6-for-14 with seven runs scored over the last three games.
• Jon Lester(notes) continues to be an enigma for the Red Sox – with 54 strikeouts against 16 walks over 47 innings, you'd expect the other numbers to fall in line, but AL hitters haven't had any problem making solid contact (.311 average, 10 homers), and that's why the ERA sits at a bloated 6.51. Lester was done in Friday by two Ichiro(notes) Suzuki homers, plus a little wildness.
• It's hard to get too excited over Brett Cecil(notes) on a night where he allows two homers and strikes out only three batters over six innings; if you can sell that pretty 3-0 record and 1.80 ERA, I'd start working it right now. Eventually the Blue Jays are going to hit the AL East portion of the schedule (they've only played six games in-division so far) and the results aren't likely to be pretty.
Not an Injury Blog: No worries on Carl Crawford(notes) (shoulder) – he returned to the starting lineup and grabbed a couple of steals, giving him 24 on the year. … Jose Reyes (thigh) missed his second straight game and remains day-to-day. … Joe Crede(notes) as a tight lower back, crummy timing given how he's been swinging of late. … Elijah Dukes(notes) left Friday's game with a strained hamstring; Willie Harris(notes) took his place. Everyone thinks of the off-the-field stuff holding Dukes back the last couple of years, but he's also had some recurring injury issues. … Joey Votto(notes) (flu) got on the field and homered against the Padres. … Ricky Romero(notes) (oblique) apparently got hurt at the wrong time; he was activated off the DL and optioned to Triple-A.
Handshakes: Francisco Rodriguez(notes) worked for the fourth consecutive day (save No. 11), so look for him to get a day off Saturday no matter where the game situation goes. … Heath Bell(notes) worked hard for the money (four outs) and still hasn't allowed a run all year. … Derek Holland(notes) got bitten by the Arlington undertow in the ninth (giving up four of his five runs), paving the way for a one-out C.J. Wilson(notes) save. … Mike Gonzalez(notes) frittered away Javier Vazquez's(notes) win, then picked up the dubya himself when the Braves pushed a run across on Tony Pena(notes). … Huston Street(notes) struck out the side at Pittsburgh and is in a groove at the moment: nine straight scoreless appearances, two walks, 10 strikeouts. … A rare off night from Joe Nathan(notes) against the Yankees (blown save, five baserunners), but he's the last guy I'd seriously worry about. … Jonathan Broxton(notes) walked a couple of batters but got away with it at Florida.
Speed Round: The buy-low window on B.J. Upton(notes) might be shut for good at this point. He went 3-for-5 with a walk-off homer and a couple of steals Friday as the Rays offset a 7-0 deficit and beat the Indians. … Rain kept the Astros and Cubs from getting started, and the Brewers and Cardinals were washed out after two innings. … I don't have anything new to write about Zack Greinke(notes), Ian Kinsler(notes), Joe Mauer(notes) and Adrian Gonzalez(notes) other than "yeah, they're really good." Celebrate them all you like in the comments. … Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) got back into the lineup Friday after a brief benching, going 0-for-2 (with a surprising two walks). … Jerry Hairston Jr.(notes) stayed in the lineup even with Alex Gonzalez back Friday; Junior got the start at third base, though he went 0-for-4. Gonzalez had a double and a walk in his return and got a vote of confidence from Dusty Baker. … Another messy outing for Scott Kazmir(notes) (3.1 IP, 10 H, 7 R), and I don't see a happy ending on this one. … Edwin Jackson(notes) has been outstanding in five of his eight turns this year, including Friday's breeze against the A's (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K). He lowered his ERA to 2.42 in the process; kudos to anyone who latched on early to this classic post-hype sleeper.
- Don Wakamatsu