It's a casual Friday, all bullets, all the time.
• Rick Porcello was one of the spring training stars back in March, and maybe that small sample wasn't lying to us after all. He's been useful in eight of his last nine turns, with the latest success a seven-inning bagel stroll through Minnesota (3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K). If we hash together Porcello's run since the end of April, we're looking at this line: 2.84 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 10 walks and 56 strikeouts over 57 innings. That makes him a Top 12 fantasy starter over that time.
It's encouraging to see Porcello missing more bats; that's what can push him into fantasy relevance for good. For all the waiting we've done on this stock, he's still just 24 and someone tied to a first-round pedigree. The dreamy ground-ball rate has always been there: it's at 56 percent for 2013.
A tweak to the back of his repertoire (more curves, less sliders) has helped, though he still throws his fastball 61 percent of the time. Better command and confidence with the change-up has also come in handy. Porcello is at home for the Orioles and Angels over the next two weeks, and is unclaimed in 74 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• The Mariners are looking at a closing committee while Tom Wilhelmsen takes a time out, and the spinner pointed to Oliver Perez at the end of Friday's victory at Oakland. The well-traveled lefty did the job admirably, working around a Josh Reddick single and posting a scoreless inning. Perez's funky mechanics almost seem to change from pitch-to-pitch and a 1.11 ERA isn't supported by a 1.32 WHIP, but nonetheless there's a respectable line here (24.1 IP, 33 K, 12 BB).
Perez got the ball Friday over a rested Carter Capps, which might mean something, too. How badly did you say you needed saves?
• Put the Brandon Beachy reunion tour on hold for now: he's dealing with elbow tenderness and won't be able to start next week, as the club was hoping. It's being termed a minor setback. Here's how GM Frank Wren spun the news to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“We had hoped he could make this start on the doubleheader, but it wasn’t a make-or-break start obviously,” Wren said. “The most important thing is to get him healthy long term and we feel like pushing him back a little bit, giving him a little more time is the prudent thing to do.”
Beachy struggled with his command in three innings for Triple-A Gwinnett Thursday night in Rochester, walking four and allowing three runs (two earned) while throwing only 38 strikes in 69 pitches. He was examined by Braves team doctors on Friday evening at Turner Field.
Wren said doctors characterized the problem as inflammation and said there were no immediate plans for Beachy to undergo an MRI.
"We’re going to continue to watch it,” Wren said. “He was as little tender after the last start and this time he was a little more tender. It’s just the smart thing to do just to slow it down and give him time because he’s had a really unremarkable rehab until this point. So we feel like everything is going to be fine. We’ve just got to slow down.”
Beachy made five minor-league rehab starts and showed a mix of dominance and rustiness. Over 22 innings, he collected 24 strikeouts and walked 12, allowing eight earned runs. He had Tommy John surgery in late June of last year.
• Perhaps the timing is right for a buy-low on Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The lefty swinger entered Friday's game in a 5-for-37 slump and was dropped two slots in the batting order; he took the move in stride, rapping out three hits and scoring twice. It's a curious time for a lineup adjustment, given that Rizzo has 12 walks against six strikeouts for the month. He's been heavy on the ground balls in June (54.3 percent), which explains a power dip but doesn't justify a .195 average. Much better days are likely ahead.
• You can do some fun things with arbitrary endpoints; twist them the right way and you'll talk yourself into Marlon Byrd. The Mets journeyman has posted a reasonable .253-21-10-31 line since the beginning of May, which puts him into the OF4-5 conversation for deeper leagues. Byrd's best work has come on the road (seven homers, 1.036 OPS), so it's convenient to note the Mets start an 11-game trip on Monday. Byrd awaits your temporary contract in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• So much for the Jake Westbrook stream assignment against Miami: the comebacking righty didn't show much over five messy innings (8 H, 3 H, 1 BB, 0 K). We're trained to distrust a low ERA without additional support, and that's the story with Westbrook's 2.05 number: note the 19 walks against 19 strikeouts, the bloated 1.50 WHIP. He's not going to be stuck on zero homers allowed forever. You need to shoot higher in your mixed leagues.
• The Pirates aren't sure when Starling Marte (oblique) will be available; he's set to miss his third straight game Saturday. That opens up a spot for Alex Presley, a potential deep-league consideration in our fake baseball world. Presley's career .259/.299/.420 slash in the majors doesn't excite anyone, but he has collected 15 homers and 19 steals (on a whopping 31 attempts) through 609 at-bats. Presley also showed decent category juice in Triple-A this spring (four homers, 10 steals), and he's the de-facto leadoff man at the moment.
Speed Round: The Brewers finally put Ryan Braun (thumb) on the disabled list, backdating the move to June 9 . . . Ian Kinsler is good to go, leading off Saturday against Toronto. David Murphy slides down to No. 7 in the order, while Jurickson Profar (who was not demoted) moves to the bench. The Rangers might have Profar do some work in the outfield . . . Aaron Hill (hand) starts his rehab assignment Saturday . . . Logan Morrison (back) is considered day-to-day, not that your hopes and dreams are tied to him . . . Mike Napoli is still battling an undisclosed illness, which means more Mike Carp for the rest of us . . . Chris Sale collected 14 strikeouts against Houston, but some crummy defense cost him a win . . . Huston Street (calf) looked sharp in rehab work and is active again for the Padres . . . Kevin Gregg picked up his eighth save, but might need a day off after three straight days of work. I'm not sure when the Faustian Pact expires . . . Austin Jackson (hamstring) is back with the Tigers, going 0-for-3 with a walk and a run on Friday . . . Josh Rutledge went 1-for-5 with a homer in his Colorado return, batting leadoff . . . Ubaldo Jimenez went through the schedule of hell for a while, facing the Tigers three times over seven starts (along with the Rangers and Reds). Next week things lighten up: Royals, Twins. Curious to see what becomes of it . . . Johnny Cueto (lat) has been cleared to start Sunday against Milwaukee. Tony Cingrani will remain with the club in a bullpen role . . . Tyler Colvin had another productive day (hit, walk, two runs) and a series at Toronto next week will likely protect his at-bats (though he might sit against Mark Buehrle on Wednesday) . . . It's an interesting time for the Padres staff, with two straight weeks of pitcher-favoring parks. San Diego has seven home games for the period that begins Monday, along with trips to San Francisco and Miami. Perhaps this is enough to push you to an Andrew Cashner or even an Eric Stults play in some mixers . . . The Orioles face a week of six righties, securing Nate McLouth's spot atop the lineup. The Oakland lefties also like their slate: seven straight northpaws come calling for the fresh week.