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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Power outage in the outfield

Let's play a little West Coast Bias and focus on the clubs that played the only late game Thursday, the Tigers and Angels. If you'd prefer some bullets that don't originate from Orange County, catch up with us after the jump.

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Magglio Ordonez is off to a respectable .298 start with 10 walks against 11 strikeouts. That's good. But we're almost through three weeks of the season and he's yet to stroke an extra-base hit. That's bad. Keep in mind his slugging percentage dropped 101 points last year and that's not the type of trend that flips at age 35 (unless you've got a lab working on your case). If you're holding onto Ordonez, I'd wait for the inevitable homer or two to come, then shift into a sneaky little sell mode. Don't be surprised if his career path mirrors that of Todd Helton from here on out (and that's a problem).

The lack of power has also been a problem with LA's Bobby Abreu, but the plan of attack is much different; because Mike Scioscia is letting Abreu run at will (eight steals), it doesn't matter that the home runs aren't coming. The Angels play a National League brand of baseball, bunting regularly, forcing the issue on the bases, and taking advantage of their very quick infield surface. Abreu fits perfectly in the middle of all that, and he's proven to be one of the discounts of the MLB season (one year, $5 million). Even if Abreu doesn't get to 12-15 homers, he very capable of keeping you happy in the other four categories.

Another longball from Brandon Inge and while he's unlikely to hit anywhere close to the current .315, he's got a viable chance to give us .265-25-80 when it's all said and done. Those numbers definitely play as a fantasy catcher, and I'm not afraid to dial up Inge as a substitute third baseman or outfielder when we're looking at a thin slate of games.

Josh Anderson swiped his fourth base Thursday and offers some short-term value in Motown while Marcus Thames is on the shelf. It might be a while before the Tigers trust Ryan Raburn in the outfield again; he got the assignment Wednesday night and was horrendous, misplaying a couple of routine fly balls into base hits (unfortunately for Justin Verlander, the official scorer was in a hit-friendly mood for the balance of the night).

Kendry Morales finished the Detroit series with five hits and five RBIs, no doubt enough to mark his territory at first base after a slow start. It remains to be seen if he'll be able to handle left-handed pitching long-term, but I still like him as a two-position sleeper for medium and deep mixed groups.

Let's tip our caps to Joe Torre, who once again used Jonathan Broxton for a hard-working save (five outs in Houston). That's how high-leverage situations should be handled; the moment you feel the game is in the balance, get your best reliever into the game. Broxy's emphatic finish made a winner out of Chad Billingsley, who was dominant in his own right (7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K). There's no doubt in my mind the Dodgers currently look like the best team in the National League.

The Astros only managed six base runners for the night and continue to look like one of the worst offensive teams in the majors; while Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee will eventually come around, there are plenty of issues with this ballclub. I know it's not a cure-all but perhaps it's time to give Michael Bourn another look in the leadoff spot; he had a walk and an infield single, stole his third base, and looks more respectable at the dish this season, using a shorter stroke.

Speaking of hat tips, let's give one to colleague Andy Behrens for his box-to-wire coverage of the B.J. Ryan situation over the past 24 hours. Ryan's now resting his shoulder and back on the 15-day disabled list (it's safe to come back to the dome, YYZ fans), while Scott Downs takes over the closing gig. Downs marked his territory nicely on Thursday night, dispatching the Rangers in order on just 10 pitches, and his glittering resume so far this season (0.93 ERA, 0 BB, 14 K) suggests that he might be able to keep the job even when Ryan comes back.

Unheralded starter Scott Richmond picked up his second consecutive win, allowing a couple of solo homers over six innings and striking out eight. Richmond didn't have much leash to work with at the beginning of the year, but the Jays are absolutely relying on him now that Jesse Litsch and Ricky Romero are on the disabled list. I generally don't pay a lot of attention to Lyle Overbay, but he's got something going for the moment: .342 average, three homers, 11 walks against six strikeouts, .611 slugging. Do what you like with that story.

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Give a cheer to Dave Bush for his no-hit bid in Philadelphia, but there's too much of a negative back story here for me to make a mixed-league grab. He's made a career out of underperforming his peripherals (said another way: "fantasy tease"), and the success against the Phillies was more about dodging bullets than it was about having great stuff. Keep in mind he struck out just four, and he put his fair share of men on base (three walks, two batters plunked). I expect the Pirates to knock him around next week.

Felix Hernandez (seven scoreless) and James Shields (seven innings, one run) hooked up in a beauty at Safeco, with the only run coming on an Ichiro Suzuki homer. The suddenly reliable Mariners bullpen locked things up, with David Aardsma (0.00 ERA) working the eighth and Brandon Morrow (five saves) handling the ninth. Given all the issues the Angels are having thus far in 2009, I don't think it's impossible to imagine the Mariners being in the race for the balance of the season. Feel free to discuss the wisdom or folly of this statement in the comments.

Not an Injury Blog: Cole Hamels left Thursday's start after taking a line drive off the shoulder, but it looks like the Phils are just playing it safe and he'll be okay. "Oh yeah," Hamels said after the game. "I'll be fine." … Alex Rodriguez (hip) took BP and ran the bases Thursday. … Lou Piniella says slumping Milton Bradley (groin) won't play again until he's 100 percent. "It's been frustrating," Bradley said of his 2009 start. "You come in here and all they want to talk about is how often you get hurt and your attitude and everything. I've given them an example right off the bat. I just don't feel like getting caught up in all the negativity." … Josh Hamilton (ribs) got back at it Thursday and rapped out two hits, including a homer. … Kyle Lohse tweaked his knee at the end of his sneaky-effective outing Thursday, and he's scheduled to have an MRI. … Mike Pelfrey (forearm) did some throwing in the bullpen and remains on target to start Sunday against the Nationals. … Joel Zumaya (shoulder) is ready to rejoin the Tigers, but there's no need for the team to press him into high-leverage situations right away. … Carlos Quentin took a pitch off the left hand but it's not expected to be anything serious. We'll see what the club offers Friday.

Speed Round: Things are coming around for Chris Getz: five multiple-hit games in six starts, and a couple of steals this week. He'll get a long look as Chicago's leadoff man. … Chien-Ming Wang had a heck of a start in an extended spring training game (would you believe 11 strikeouts?), but he won't be able to import those minor league hitters to the Bronx for his next turn. If I ran the Yanks, I'd use this Wang slump as a good excuse to give Phil Hughes a test-run in the rotation. … Rick Ankiel finally did something of note in 2009, stroking three hits (including his first homer) against the Mets. … Carlos Beltran went 3-for-5 with a homer in his first start out of the No. 3 slot, so look for that arrangement to continue. … Aaron Harang only struck out two at Wrigley but nonetheless he turned in his third strong effort of the year (allowing just one run, unearned). Joey Votto supported the cause with a homer and four hits. … A late rally against Gil Meche carried the Indians to a matinee win. Jensen Lewis got the victory with two scoreless relief innings, and Kerry Wood worked a 1-2-3 ninth, with two punchouts. … It's been a while since I tossed a musical recco your way – give this 2:47 firecracker a listen, as loud as possible. Back on the closing beat Friday night.

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