• Mike Aviles(notes) was the Closing Time mascot for 2008 and it's time to welcome him back into our lives; he's returned from his elbow injury and is hitting frozen ropes again. A ridiculous spring training (.471/.517/.725) didn't get Aviles into the Royals lineup right away (these are the Royals, after all), but he's back with the big club and is 5-for-10 over the last two games, with a homer. It's been a messy year for fantasy shortstops, why not take a chance here?
Brad Evans is on board, Brandon Funston is on board, several of our readers are on board, let's hope Trey Hillman joins the party too (once we get 100 percent on this, I'll start leaning on the one dentist who doesn't endorse Trident). We've all seen enough of the Yuniesky Betancourt(notes) experience.
• With Jair Jurrjens(notes) (hamstring) headed to the disabled list, Kris Medlen(notes) gets a chance to show what he can do in the Atlanta rotation. Medlen's pretty relief stats (2.70 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 15:3 K:BB rate) probably won't come along for the ride as a starter – they're two radically different environments – but nonetheless this is someone we want to audit immediately. Unfortunately the schedule isn't playing along with this story; Medlen's first turn comes Saturday in Philadelphia, probably the toughest assignment in the National League.
• Chris Perez's(notes) blown save against Toronto wasn't entirely his fault; Luis Valbuena(notes) made a game-extending error with two outs in the ninth and the Cleveland closer was asked to get five outs in the first place. Of course we can't let Perez off the hook for allowing the clinching Adam Lind(notes) homer later in the ninth. Valbuena made two errors in the ninth and is hitting just .175 at the dish, not that anyone in the Cleveland infield is much of a treat these days.
• Ian Desmond(notes) homered for the second straight night. Do the right thing Jim Riggleman. Nyjer Morgan(notes) collected three hits for the Nats but he's been a little lost on the bases, just 6-of-12 on the year.
• The Pittsburgh bullpen dominated against the Cubs, working three scoreless innings and rolling up four strikeouts. I'd love to see Evan Meek(notes) (0.53 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) get a shot at a meatier role later in the year, but right now he's just the seventh-inning option, working in front of Octavio Dotel(notes) and Joel Hanrahan(notes). Dotel has momentarily righted the ship with a couple of saves, striking out three.
• Brett Myers(notes) worked seven strong innings against Arizona (6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 6 K) and although his WHIP is a little scary, he's got just enough juice to be considered streamable in most leagues. I wouldn't use him next week at St. Louis, but after that he gets a good spot at San Francisco. You typically worry about the long ball with Myers, but he's getting almost three strikeouts for every walk and there are plenty of soft spots to consider in the National League.
• Toronto is giving Fred Lewis(notes) a shot in the leadoff role and so far, so good; he's on a 9-for-21 binge over the last five games, with a homer, four doubles, a steal and three walks. Lewis was a free-agent find for a lot of us back in 2008, maybe he can rekindle some of that mojo.
• Is the glass half empty or half full with Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley(notes)? He had another so-so outing Wednesday against Milwaukee, allowing four runs in the first inning before settling down and posting five scoreless frames. The finish is encouraging, but we're still looking at a 5.06 ERA, he's yet to record an out in the seventh inning this year, and he's got this mediocre set of results despite a modest set of opponents to this point (he's already seen Pittsburgh twice and Washington once, which offsets Arizona, Milwaukee and a neutral Cincinnati). If Billingsley isn't dominating this overall slate, what's going to happen when the soft spots go away?
Billingsley at least has 26 strikeouts over his 32 innings, so it's not like his stuff has vanished, albeit his control and command have been spotty (14 walks). There's no drop off in velocity, either, so we can probably rule out an injury. Perhaps the answer lies with his secondary pitches; Billingsley hasn't had the feel of his curve all year, and he's not getting results from his cutter, either. Add it all up I can't recommend him at Arizona next Monday, but perhaps something good will happen in his subsequent start at San Diego.
Injury Blog: Jason Heyward(notes) left Wednesday's game with a strained groin and probably won't play Thursday. … Huston Street(notes) (shoulder) will work in an extended spring training game Friday, and might be ready for a rehab assignment next week. With Franklin Morales(notes) struggling (two walks, no outs Wednesday), the Rockies need to get back to Street as soon as possible. … Justin Duchscherer(notes) hasn't been placed on the disabled list yet but he did have a cortisone shot Wednesday. … Johnny Damon(notes) departed Wednesday afternoon with a sore calf, a problem he blamed on dehydration (and a few too many Red Bulls). He should be fine. … Edgar Renteria(notes) (groin) might be able to go Thursday. … There's no timetable on Joe Mauer(notes) (heel) as of yet, though he did some baseball activities Wednesday. … Mike Pelfrey(notes) (shoulder) remains on pace to make his start Friday at home against the Giants. … Andy Pettitte(notes) left his start with mild elbow inflammation. … Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) (quad) is hoping to get back on the field Friday. … Mark Lowe(notes) (back) hit the DL, which makes Brandon League(notes) the clear eighth-inning bridge to David Aardsma(notes) in Seattle.
Speed Round: Drew Stubbs(notes) went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and might be in danger of losing his leadoff position. … Hisanori Takahashi(notes) worked three perfect innings at Cincinnati, with four strikeouts. He's piled up 26 whiffs over 18.1 innings. … The struggling Chris Coghlan(notes) (.182) hit the bench Wednesday in favor of journeyman Brett Carroll(notes). We're all just biding our time until Mike Stanton gets the call. … Miguel Olivo(notes) has just one hit in his last 18 at-bats, dropping his average to .246. … Barry Zito(notes) moved to 5-0 with a strong turn at Florida. He cruised into the eighth, then left after allowing four singles (two of the infield variety). This comeback looks legit to me. … David Ortiz(notes) got the critics off his back for one night at least, collecting two hits including a homer against the slumping Angels. I can't imagine that he'll play Thursday, though, against lefty Scott Kazmir(notes). … Nick Johnson(notes) finally did something to justify his fantasy existence, breaking out against the Orioles (3-for-3, homer, two walks).
Aramis Ramirez(notes) dropped to sixth in the Chicago order Wednesday. He responded with a 1-for-3 day, along with a sacrifice fly. … Carlos Marmol(notes) is having a fantastic year with modest fanfare. He's only allowed one run over 13.2 innings, along with a ridiculous 27 strikeouts. … Carlos Lee(notes), nice of you to join us. … Brad Penny(notes) wasn't great in his loss at Philly (6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K) but in a sense it validates how trustable he is; not bad for an off night. … Cameron Maybin(notes) has cooled after a hot start (6-for-42 slump), and the Marlins actually pinch-hit Wes Helms(notes) for Maybin Wednesday, not much of an endorsement. … The Orioles weren't able to win a game in the New York series, but they did get three homers Wednesday, two from the kids (Wieters, Reimold) and one from The Wiggy. … Alcides Escobar(notes) finally attempted a steal but was thrown out at second. Whenever you see a speed merchant batting seventh or eighth in the NL, run the other way.