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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Martin and Furcal, the Dodger dilemmas

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Casual Friday, no rules, just some roto-related baseball thoughts as they fall off the keys. Stumble in from your evening and read them now, or nuke them in the morning on your way to brunch.

There's not much I enjoy more in baseball than a walk-off win for the Dodgers. "I Love LA" cranks through the stadium, Vin Scully spins his gentle poetry, the beautiful people rattle their jewelry and head for the exits, smiling. All these elements were in play Friday, when the hosts rallied for two unearned runs in the ninth and snuck past Brad Lidge(notes) and the Phillies, 4-3.

But if you've read this column through the last year, you know a rant is going to come out sooner or later. How about fixing that ridiculous batting lineup, Joe Torre?

Rafael Furcal(notes) continues to hit second for the Dodgers and Russell Martin(notes) is a staple in the 5-6 area, and that's ridiculous – especially when you consider that Matt Kemp(notes) has been hitting in the bottom three all year. Furcal's stumbling around at .239/.301/.299 for the season and Martin is at .257 with no homers (just three over his last 406 at-bats); meanwhile, Kemp (.312, six homers, 13 steals) languishes near the bottom of the order. I know you're winning plenty of ballgames, Torre, but it's time to let the better offensive performers have a bigger role in influencing the outcome.

You have to wonder if the crazy catching workload is what's holding Martin's power back. You're not going to find any comfort in a deeper statistical survey – he's got a .306 slugging percentage, a puny .050 isolated power and he's hitting more ground balls than ever. His seven steals cushion the blow a little bit, but I'll be surprised if Martin's bat wins anyone a fantasy title this year. As for Furcal, his dip is partially explained by a collapsing line-drive rate. On my team, he'd be batting eighth until we see some signs of life.

Full disclosure, I don't have a personal stake in this trio. I sold low on Furcal earlier this week in the Friends & Family League (Brad Evans sent me David Ortiz(notes); his problem for my problem), I'm not the type of guy to pay for a designer catcher, and Kemp was a little too pricy for me in the spring. But watching a team waste its resources like this, well, it's frustrating.

How far can Carl Pavano(notes) go with this improved change-up and a fastball topping out in the high-80s? It's a rhetorical question, but there's a lot to like about the current run he's on, which kept rolling along Friday at Chicago (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K). The Indians supported him with six runs and Pavano relaxed after that, pounding the strike zone and being economical with pitches (101 for the game). The Royals are next up on the Pavano reinvention tour.

Just a gut feel, I have a hunch Howie Kendrick(notes) is going to be in Triple-A at some point this summer. The Angels don't have time to fool around, and it's hard to ignore what Sean Rodriguez(notes) is doing in the minors (18 homers, .637 slugging). In deeper leagues, it's the right time to stash-and-hope.

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The Giants have scored just 27 runs in Barry Zito's(notes) 11 starts and he ran up his pitches too quickly Friday (95 in five innings at Florida), but nonetheless he was able to escape with a 2-1 victory. The one-run outing trimmed Zito's ERA to 3.86, and even with a road trip to Arizona looming on the schedule, I'm not afraid to stream him into next week. Florida's home attendance continues to be a downright joke – they sold 12,841 tickets, apparently, for Friday's game, but it was hard to find the fans anytime the cameras panned to the stands.

Carlos Zambrano(notes) mowed down the Reds, throwing 6.2 scoreless innings and adding a homer, then outlined the blueprint for the rest of his career. Big Z isn't fashioning a run at 300 wins, let's put it that way. "I'll be out of here in five years," Zambrano told the media around his locker, and after the laugher died down, he backed up his point. "No, believe me. After this contract I'm done. I'm serious. Because I don't want to play anymore."

Brad Penny(notes) continues to show up in trade rumors, but he's not helping his trade value; the Rangers knocked him around Friday and pushed his ERA up to 5.85. For the love of all things holy, what would it take to free Clay Buchholz(notes)?

Handshakes: Mike Scioscia gave Ervin Santana(notes) a chance to go the route in Detroit, but when Santana tired in the ninth, Brian Fuentes(notes) (15) was brought in for the final out, getting Curtis Granderson(notes) to pop up. … Francisco Rodriguez(notes) (15), worth the dough – he hasn't allowed a run since April 24. … Carlos Marmol(notes) and Kevin Gregg(notes) (10) had Lou Piniella in full-pace mode, but Gregg got out of the ninth at Cincinnati, stranding a couple of runners (one of them courtesy of a Gregg wild pitch on strike three). It will be interesting to see if Angel Guzman(notes) slides into a bigger role for the Cubs at some point later this summer. … Wouldn't it be nice if (15) Brian Wilson(notes) started to harness his nasty stuff a little better? He walked the bases full at Florida but escaped with the game intact. … Joe Nathan(notes) (11) has recovered nicely from his mid-May blown save, rolling up seven consecutive scoreless outings and nine strikeouts.

Injury Blog: It's feared that Jose Reyes might need to sit another 4-6 weeks as he deals with his slightly torn hamstring. … Miguel Cabrera(notes) (hamstring) was able to pinch-hit Friday and the Tigers aren't expecting him to be out long. "We caught a big break, I think," Jim Leyland said. "It looks like he's OK." … Michael Cuddyer(notes) (finger) took BP and could return to action Saturday . . . Evan Longoria(notes) (hamstring) is hoping to return Saturday, but it's going to be a pre-game decision. … Casey Kotchman(notes) (shin/calf) isn't recovering quickly and the Braves might have to consider a DL stint. Get your singles somewhere else, gamers. … Jose Valverde(notes) (calf) got through a simulated game with no problems and should be ready for a rehab assignment soon. "My arm's good, my leg's good, everything's good," Valverde told the Houston Chronicle. … Randy Johnson(notes) (shoulder) might have to miss his next turn. … Josh Willingham(notes) (viral and RBI infection) took some batting practice Friday and might be ready to start on the weekend . … Jack Cust(notes) is dealing with a wonky back and didn't play Thursday, but he was back in Thursday's lineup and hit his ninth homer. An MRI earlier in the day didn't reveal any significant damage. … Travis Hafner(notes) (shoulder) came off the DL and hit a homer in four trips.

Speed Round: Luke Hochevar(notes) is back in the Royals rotation Saturday against Toronto, so get any Blue Jays you can into the lineup. … Carlos Gonzalez(notes) was slated to be in Friday's starting lineup, but he got to the ballpark just an hour before game time and was replaced by Seth Smith(notes). Jim Tracy made it clear earlier in the week that Gonzalez is being promoted to start regularly, so look for him to take his cuts on the weekend. … Matt Holliday(notes) quietly got his bat going in May (.291, five homers, 19 walks against 17 whiffs), and he clocked homer No. 8 Friday. … Luke Scott(notes) cleared the fence again, giving him eight homers since he came off the DL in the last week of May. Look up "notorious streak hitter" in the Roto handbook and here's your guy. … Jermaine Dye(notes) lost his suspension appeal and won't be back until Sunday. … The scuffling Fausto Carmona(notes) was demoted to rookie ball, with the recyclable Tomo Ohka(notes) taking his spot in the Cleveland rotation. … Francisco Liriano(notes) needed a good turn after three messy ones and he came through at Seattle, pitching to a 1-1 standoff with Felix Hernandez(notes).Yovani Gallardo(notes) cost a ton in all of my leagues this year, and this far, the chasers are winning. The Braves couldn't do a thing against Gallardo Friday (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 6), and the young righty will have a hefty price attached to him when I reshuffle all of the mixed-worthy starting pitchers later today. … Wandy Rodriguez(notes) thinks he may have been tipping his pitches during his messy start against Colorado this week (four homers allowed).

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