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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Tossing the dice on Andruw Jones

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Frankly, I thought we had seen the last of Andruw Jones, fantasy participant. His 2007 flameout in Atlanta was ugly, his 2008 crash-and-burn in LA was downright grotesque (.158/.256/.249), and he didn't really look like someone who wanted to be playing baseball anymore. He put on weight. He flailed away at bad pitches. He looked like a zombie, all too often, on the diamond.

Maybe I'm too quick to pass judgment at times, but in this case I had several general managers backing me up; only a few teams were willing to offer even a bare-bones contract after the Dodgers dumped Jones in January. The proud veteran waited until February before he had to accept reality – a make-good deal with the Rangers was the best chance he was going to get. The market was dead for him.

Ah, but in America we love a good re-invention story, and that's what Jones has cooking so far in Arlington. He came to camp humble, not to mention 25 pounds lighter. He made the club and accepted a fourth-outfielder role. And now, as we hit May 1, I have to admit I'm officially curious about Jones as a fantasy prospect again.

Mind you we still don't have a lot of data to go on – he's only batted 32 times thus far, a very small sample. But what's not to like about a .344/.523/.781 start, with three homers? He's striking out a bunch, sure (nine whiffs), but he's also been selective at the dish (11 walks, nine of them unintentional). He's been effective against lefties and he's finally getting a shot against righties, too (his third homer Thursday came against a right-handed reliever). Maybe the Rangers panned for gold here and came up with something shiny.

This weekend is as good a time as any to give Jones a test drive – it's a homestand, the Rangers pretty much need to start him while Josh Hamilton (rib cage) is out, and it's very possible Hamilton will go on the disabled list at some point over the next few days. Even if Hamilton skips the DL altogether, it's doubtful we'll see him play until Monday or Tuesday. Dr. Jones, show us what you can do. I know some fantasy owners who are ready to go double-or-nothing . . . after going double-or-nothing on you last year.

Pick your story from the Boston-Tampa game – should we be talking about Matt Garza's brilliance (he took a perfect game into the seventh inning and struck out 10) or Josh Beckett's second consecutive blow-up (4.2 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 8 K)? Both pitchers are universally owned in any competitive fantasy environment, so I'm not sure what we can really say here that will have a lot of utility. Yeah, Garza's good, really good, and it's hard to believe the Rays got him for Delmon Young. Sure, Beckett's inconsistency is maddening, though the Rays haven't had bad luck against him, and at least he missed a few bats along the way. Carl Crawford has very quietly stolen nine straight bases, albeit the rest of his fantasy line is rather pedestrian right now.

Easy come, easy go for Julian Tavarez, I guess. One night after his triumphant save in Philadelphia (he left the mound like it was a scene from Rocky), the journeyman right-hander blew up against the Cardinals, allowing five of six men to reach and basically burying a game that had been tied entering the ninth. The two hits Tavarez allowed weren't particularly scorched, but it's hard to have sympathy for any hurler who walks two batters and plunks another – all while recording one measly out.

Joel Hanrahan relieved Tavarez and was shaky yet again – he probably isn't ready for the next Washington save chance that comes down the pike. Maybe Kip Wells (1 IP, 2 BB, 0 R) will get a run at it, why the heck not at this point? And as we've discussed all week, Joe Beimel will almost certainly get a look in the ninth when he comes off the disabled list next week.

Kyle Davies was able to record his second win, but it's hard to get excited about the performance between the lines (5.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 0 K). He did help himself with 13 ground-ball outs and some timely double plays (the Jays hit into a whopping six for the game), but until we see the strikeouts come back, he looks like too much of a reach as a mixed-league starter. Juan Cruz grabbed the save with a 1-2-3 ninth, but he might be back to a setup role on the weekend, as Joakim Soria (shoulder) might be ready for the Minnesota series.

Someone seems to struggle in the Angels bullpen every night, and Thursday it was Justin Speier's turn to walk the plank. He retired just one of the seven men he faced in the bottom of the seventh, allowing the Yankees to break open a tie game and gain some ground in the division. Howie Kendrick (2-for-3, steal) and Mike Napoli (fourth homer, .283 average) would like your mixed-league attention; it's encouraging to see Napoli hitting because he looked lost in March. Congrats if you saw the Nick Swisher revival coming (2-2-1-0, two walks), he looks like one of the bargains of the season.

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Dallas Braden walked the tightrope in Texas and got away with it, scattering nine baserunners over five scoreless innings. He also struck out six, a season high, but ultimately this looks like one of those arms that won't work deep into games, and won't strike out enough men to consistently make it worth your while. Plus the Oakland offense is probably the worst in the AL right now, Thursday's four-run outburst to the side.

Congratulations if you had April 30 in the Matt Holliday homer pool, you win. With Brad Ziegler unavailable for an undisclosed reason, Michael Wuertz got a shaky save (two hits, including the Jones homer), albeit he's had a solid push-off with the club. Andrew Bailey worked in middle relief, retiring six of seven men he faced (two more strikeouts).

I'm not sure what we make out of Mark DiFelice, a middle-relief hero in Milwaukee, but it's a story worth telling. The 32-year-old journeyman junkballer tops out in the mid-80s and never made it to the majors until last year, putting in three strong stints with the Brewers (2.84 ERA, 4 BB, 20 K in 19 IP). He's been even better this time around (11.2 IP, 1 R, 3 BB, 13 K), grabbing a couple of wins in the process, but keep in mind, he's not throwing the ball by people here, he's carefully maneuvering his way around by changing speeds and locations. It's a nifty story when it works, but finesse pitchers like this usually crash hard eventually – if their location isn't letter-perfect, look out below. It's your call, Bernie Brewer.

Max Scherzer had his best turn of the year at Milwaukee (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K), but he only received one run of support, a leadoff tater from Felipe Lopez. Mark Reynolds and Chad Tracy have shown some pop for the Snakes, and Lopez has been good all year, but otherwise there's not a thing to like about this Arizona offense right now.

Speed Round: Aramis Ramirez (calf) got good news on his MRI and should be able to play at some point this weekend. … The waiting continues on Hanley Ramirez (hand), who sat again and remains day-to-day. Ramirez took some swings in a batting cage out of view; when asked how the hitting went, he told MLB.com "not good." … Somehow Daniel Cabrera lasted six innings and allowed just three runs despite walking five batters and uncorking four wild pitches. How many tickets to get into that carnival?. … Elijah Dukes went 0-for-3 and had his weekly brain cramp, getting picked off second base. … Brad Evans would want you to know that Billy Butler had another productive day (3-2-2-1, with a walk). … Another collar for J.J. Hardy, though at least he put the ball in play in all four at-bats. He closed out April with a .156 average. … Yep, that really was Jeff Weaver, throwing four scoreless relief innings for the Dodgers. Maybe something develops there, but let's see more evidence, please. … Chris Carpenter says most of the pain in his oblique is gone. Lisa Winston reports that Carpenter will see a team doctor Monday and might be cleared for catch soon after that. Given that the Cardinals are off to a 16-7 start, there's certainly no urgency to rush Carpenter back … In addition to the two saves discussed above, let's offer a handshake to Mariano Rivera (5), Trevor Hoffman (2) and Jonathan Broxton (7), experienced closers who know how to protect a three-run lead in the ninth. We tip our caps, and we love a stress-free ninth inning.

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