Sat May 23 02:33am EDT
Here's a glimpse of my Friday night as I bring you Closing Time from the road (central time zone, no less). Cheesecake Factory: C-minus, getting by on reputation. Web connection at Sheraton Suites: A. Desk chair in the same hotel: D-minus. Brass Bonanza on the iPod: A-plus, with a rueful sigh.
Enough about me, you're here for the bulletry:
• Let's thank the Florida Marlins for saving roto owners from themselves with the maddening Ricky Nolasco(notes). After the struggling right-hander got hammered yet again Friday (the Rays threw eight runs at him over two innings), Nolasco and his 9.07 ERA were shipped to Triple-A New Orleans.
Nolasco was a definite buzz player entering this season after a snappy breakthrough 2008 campaign; his second half (0.99 WHIP, 98 Ks in 95.2 IP), in particular, had a lot of fantasy pundits all atwitter (yeah, me too). But for most of 2009 we've been making excuses for Nolasco as he toed the line between fantasy tease and fantasy hell. His strikeout numbers offered reason for hope (7.56 K/9). His ERA was more bad luck than bad pitching (FIP of 4.31 entering Friday night). The Colorado start seemed to set him back a bit. Yada, yada, yada.
The Rays offense turned out to be another bad matchup for Nolasco, imposing its will and turning the game into a blowout early. B.J. Upton(notes) stole a first-inning base, sticking with the mandate that he must run anytime he finds himself on base. Jason Bartlett(notes) ripped a key hit. Andy Sonnanstine(notes) stroked a single. The second inning was even worse (Dioner Navarro(notes) of all people homered; Evan Longoria(notes) roped a double; Carlos Pena(notes) had a three-run jack), and it was a little surprising Fredi Gonzalez didn't lift Nolasco until the end of the inning.
"We've got to get [Nolasco] fixed," Gonzalez said after the game. "Before it gets any worse, let's try to get him better." Ominous words, it almost sounds like we're talking about a physical problem here. But the Marlins apparently feel the only tweak of note is Nolasco's bruised confidence.
• Jake Peavy(notes) toed the rubber for Team Irony Friday night, pitching in an NL-only game while everyone else had interleague play going and sticking it to a Chicago team in the process (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 10 K). The Padres aren't a high-scoring lot by any means, but they've done just enough to cobble together a seven-game winning streak (counts of 4-0, 3-2, 2-1, 2-1, 3-1, 6-5 and 5-3). Kid Gwynn probably won't be a fantasy-relevant story, but he did set the table adequately on this night (4-2-1-0, plus a walk). Whatever you paid for Adrian Gonzalez(notes) (homer No. 16) and Heath Bell(notes) (save No. 12), it's been a profit to this point.
• Daisuke's Matsuzaka's first effort off the disabled list wasn't anything special: he missed the strike zone on 30 of 80 pitches, and he departed with a mediocre line (5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 B, 4 K, 1 HR). The Twins strike me as a tricky matchup for Dice-K next week; I'm not ready to trust him yet.
• Peter Gammons says the Nationals would like to deal some of their "semi-attractive relievers" but he's not naming names. Alrighty then. Kip Wells(notes) probably isn't on that list; he allowed the game-deciding runs against Baltimore in the 11th Friday, bloating the ERA to 6.30. Jordan Zimmermann(notes) turned in one of his better turns of the year (7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K) but unfortunately he gets the Mets and Johan Santana(notes) next time out. Adam Jones(notes) (3-for-5, three RBIs, .372) has officially made the kidney list.
My New England peep Rod MacNeil isn't sure the Red Sox should move Manny Delcarmen(notes) for Nick Johnson(notes); I'm intrigued by the idea of the Sox getting another high-OBP bat near the top of their lineup. You know, before Johnson's inevitable injury hits and all.
• Make it three strong turns in a row for Brett Myers(notes) (8 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K), who got away with three solo homers at Yankee Stadium. I guess we'll take him off the restricted list next week against Florida and go from there. For a guy hitting just .200, that Alex Rodriguez(notes) fellow sure hits a lot of homers (No. 6 Friday night). We all know that average is going to improve, but I'm not bullish on the guys in back of A-Rod; Hideki Matsui(notes) is down to .252, and Nick Swisher(notes) looks lost these days (he's at .123 in May, with 23 strikeouts).
• There's definitely a debate to be engaged over Brandon Inge(notes), who clubbed his 12th homer of the year in Friday's win over Colorado. He's always going to bring batting-average risk to the table, and his critics will readily point to his falling line-drive rate and crazy-lucky HR/FB rate. But on the pro side we have to consider that he's always hit better when not burdened with the catching gig, he's utilizing a new stance this year, his walk rate has spiked, and heck, at some point we have to accept a fast start might just be a good season – it's the end of May for crying out loud. I've got my share of Inge shares out there and I'm holding for the time being; that's partly because I believe he can land at .270-25-85, and partly because the rest of the Roto Nation doesn't seem to be buying the Inge revival.
• My buddy Kevin Payne found this gem for me, another website's parting shot on David Price(notes): "He's worth a flier in AL-only leagues for sure." Okay, fine, but what if I'm in a Florida-only league? Get ready for more rants, I might have to clear the runway next week.
• Derek Holland(notes) gave us five sterling innings at Houston before tiring in the sixth; Lance Berkman(notes) ripped a three-run homer off the kid and knocked him out of the game. The final line for Holland leaves plenty of room for optimism (5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 4 K), but I can't say I'm ready to trust him in Arlington next week against the Yankees.
Speed Round: Chien-Ming Wang(notes) got some relief work with the big club and was knocked around pretty good (3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR). He's a long way from the circle of trust. … Jordan Schafer(notes) took another collar and dropped to .215. Is his snappy defense keeping him in the majors? I'm not too impressed by those 25 walks, given that he's been batting eighth for a NL club most of the year. … Michael Cuddyer(notes) (cycle, five RBIs) would like your attention, mixed-league players. … I'd never wish an injury on anyone, but there's always an air of inevitability tied to bad Rich Harden(notes) news. He's got a strained back and landed on the 15-day DL Friday. … Scott Kazmir's(notes) horrible season is being blamed on a quad strain; as you no doubt heard by now, he's on the shelf and we'll see David Price make his much-anticipated Rays return on Monday. … Kenshin Kawakami(notes) surprised everyone by outdueling Roy Halladay(notes) Friday night (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K); it was the first time all year Kawakami has worked past the sixth inning. Chipper Jones(notes) (toe) sat this one out, and is no guarantee to play in the Toronto series. … Bobby Abreu(notes) (toe) pinch-hit Friday and remains day-to-day.