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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: The NL welcomes back Brad Penny

Scott Pianowski
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The AL-to-NL jump has become a pitcher's best friend in 2009, don't you think? First we had Cliff Lee(notes) making the move; he was solid with Cleveland this year but he's been Warren Spahn for the Phillies. Then John Smoltz(notes) took the trip over the line; forget his terrible run in Boston, he's been super with the Cardinals. And the latest to get in on the gravy train is Brad Penny(notes), another Boston bust who's apparently ready to fix his season working in the less-taxing league.

Let's give Penny his just due for what he accomplished Wednesday – he worked eight scoreless innings in Philadelphia of all places, shutting down the NL's best offense (have a peek here). He wasn't exactly dominant (just two strikeouts) but a lot of good things happen when you collect 14 ground balls and he was consistently in the mid-90s all night. It's going to get easier from here, working half of the time in San Francisco's roomy park; his next assignment comes at home against the unimposing Padres. Forget the mess at Fenway, it's time to invest in this Penny stock.

Michael Young's(notes) hamstring injury is going to keep him down 2-3 weeks and with that Elvis Andrus(notes) gets more responsibility; Ron Washington batted the rookie second Wednesday and Andrus responded with the go-ahead homer against Toronto. Andrus is owned in a scant 32 percent of Y! leagues but now that he's been pushed forward in the order, it's time to make a move on the kid. You want a piece of the Arlington undertow if you can get it, and Andrus has quietly raised his game in the second half (.294/358/.449, three homers, eight steals).

Make it two saves in three days for Juan Gutierrez(notes) and it couldn't have come much easier – eight pitches in a 1-2-3 frame at Los Angeles. A.J. Hinch gave us the "likely committee" talk earlier in the week, but Gutierrez has probably earned some leash with his two clean saves this week. No matter how creative a manager wants to get with his bullpen usage, it's hard to look away from someone that's finishing off close games.

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Huston Street(notes) has been lights out for most of the year as Colorado's ninth-inning stopper but the comeback story finally hit a pothole Wednesday. Street briefly came out for the ninth inning but was unavailable to pitch because of biceps tendinitis; now it looks like he'll probably miss the remainder of the week.

Rafael Betancourt(notes) is generally regarded as the No. 2 in this bullpen, but Jim Tracy threw us a curve Wednesday and decided to let lefty Franklin Morales(notes) finish the game out. Morales retired three straight right-handed hitters to secure the win (two pinch-hitters in the mix); the Rockies had Betancourt and Randy Flores(notes) waiting in the bullpen if things got hairy, but they weren't needed.

Add it all up and it looks like Tracy will probably mix-and-match the ninth while Street is out, which goes along with his managerial style (play the hot hand whenever possible). Morales is capable of getting righties out (they're hitting .231 against him) and he's owned left-handed batters all year, so it's not a stretch to let him work in these situations. Betancourt also has a resume to boast of, posting a 1.98 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in his 13.2 innings with the Rockies. If I had one ticket to punch here I'd probably opt for the momentum play of Morales, but Betancourt isn't a bad pickup either and at the end of the day I'm not confident I can predict Tracy's whims any better than you can.

Streamer's Delight – Friday: I'm torn on Sean West's(notes) assignment at Washington; while Florida deserves to be favored in this spot, West tends to struggle away from the womb of South Florida (5.74 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) and this Nats lineup is better than people realize (okay, new line next time). Let's wait until he returns home. … Barry Zito's(notes) sterling second half (1.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) is one of the most under-reported stories in our make-believe game right now. It makes me nervous to see him up against Milwaukee's lineup but you can't deny two months of success. … Ryan Rowland-Smith(notes) regularly gets a lot of pub in this space and I'm liking his chances at Oakland. … Bet you didn't know Bronson Arroyo(notes) had seven consecutive quality starts, adding up to some tasty numbers (2.26 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). It's been somewhat of a duck-and-run show (just 24 strikeouts in 51.2 IP) but nonetheless, a road assignment at Atlanta doesn't look too daunting.

Injury Blog: Although Alfonso Soriano(notes) says his left knee is improved after a cortisone shot, he was given a day off Wednesday. … There's a decent chance Adam Jones(notes) (ankle) is done for the year. … Pablo Sandoval(notes) (calf) got back at it Thursday, though he took the collar at Philly. … Mariano Rivera(notes) is dealing with a sore groin and will probably need a few days off. Phil Hughes(notes) got a rogue save Wednesday. … Nick Johnson(notes) (hamstring) might be ready to go on the weekend against his old Washington mates. … Nate McLouth(notes) (hamstring) is ready to start a rehab assignment for a couple of days, with the hope of playing with Atlanta on the weekend. … Josh Hamilton's(notes) back has been hurting since last weekend's series on Minnesota's artificial turf and he made things worse with an awkward slide Wednesday; the Rangers pulled him after four innings. Hamilton gets a much-needed day off with the rest of his mates but he's no sure thing to be ready on Friday.

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