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Closer Report: Cookin' in Oakland

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Ryan Cook may have an all-star game in his near future. (Getty)

Perhaps it's still too early to issue a final grade on the five-player deal that sent Trevor Cahill from Oakland to Arizona back in December, but, well ... so far that trade is looking pretty fantastic for the A's.

Jarrod Parker was the headliner in the swap on Oakland's side, and he's been mostly terrific through ten starts. Parker's record is 3-3, his ERA is 2.82, his WHIP is 1.25, and he's whiffed 45 batters over 60.2 innings. Not too shabby, all things considered.

But another pitcher involved in the deal, Ryan Cook, has actually delivered even more eye-popping numbers this season. Cook has posted a ridiculous 0.61 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over 29.2 frames in relief, racking up 31 Ks. Last week, the A's finally gave him a look in the ninth inning — Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes have both fumbled the closer's role — and Cook picked up three saves in as many chances. He's a right-hander with the traditional closing arsenal (slider, mid-to-high-90s fastball), and he's given up only nine hits all season while missing bats at a terrific clip (11.5 swinging-strike percentage). There's no real prospect pedigree here, as the Diamondbacks picked him in the 27th round of the 2008 draft. Cook was a fairly ordinary minor league starter who transitioned to the bullpen in 2011 and immediately began to dominate.

Earlier this year, Cook became the 60th pitcher in major league history to strike out four batters in one inning. (Enjoy the highlights right here. Such a filthy slider). Later this season, he'll probably head to Kauffman Stadium for his first all-star appearance.

Inexplicably, Cook is still available in 58 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so most of you can hit your league's free agent pool and get him. He didn't open the season as anyone's dark horse candidate for saves in Oakland — that guy was Fautino De Los Santos, who's now scuffling in Triple-A (7.66 ERA, 1.75 WHIP). But Cook appears to have seized control of the ninth for the A's, and the fantasy community need to react.

Job Security Index

30. Chicago Cubs — Carlos Marmol, Shawn Camp, James Russell
29. Seattle — Tom Wilhelmsen, Brandon League
28. New York Mets — Frank Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Jon Rauch
27. Toronto — Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver
26. Minnesota — Matt Capps, Glen Perkins
25. Boston — Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla, Mark Melancon
24. Detroit — Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit
23. Chicago White Sox — Addison Reed, Matt Thornton
22. Oakland — Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes
21. New York Yankees — Rafael Soriano, David Robertson
20. Arizona — JJ Putz, David Hernandez
19. Miami — Heath Bell, Edward Mujica, Steve Cishek
18. Houston — Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon
17. Kansas City — Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins
16. Los Angeles Angels — Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs
15. Milwaukee — John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe
14. San Francisco — Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo
13. Tampa Bay — Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta
12. Washington — Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett
11. San Diego — Huston Street, Luke Gregerson
10. Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario
9. Baltimore — Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop
8. Pittsburgh — Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, Juan Cruz
7. Cleveland — Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano
6. St. Louis — Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez
5. Colorado — Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle
4. Cincinnati — Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo
3. Texas — Joe Nathan, Mike Adams
2. Atlanta — Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters
1. Philadelphia — Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo

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John Axford pulled out of his three-game nosedive, earning a save with a clean inning at Minnesota on Friday, then protecting a one-run lead on Monday. Prior to those efforts, Axford had allowed five hits, five walks and seven runs over his previous three appearances. His velocity is actually up a tick this season (96.3 mph average fastball), but his walk rate is up many, many ticks. This is a pitcher who's battled control issues in the past, so it's a concern. Francisco Rodriguez remains the handcuff, though he hasn't exactly been lights-out this year himself.

Wilton Lopez hit the disabled list last week due to elbow soreness, which would seem to leave Brandon Lyon as the unrivaled Plan B in the Astros' bullpen, in the event of a Brett Myers trade. Lyon has had an excellent year thus far, striking out better than a batter per inning and maintaining a 1.29 WHIP. Myers is an obvious trade chip for a team that's 12 games below .500, so speculators should be all over his understudy.

This seems like the appropriate time to mention that Myers allowed eight hits and five runs on Monday, raising his season ERA nearly two runs in the process.

David Robertson returned from his oblique injury with a messy inning against the Nats (2 H, R, K), and he remains firmly in a setup role. Rafael Soriano has allowed just one earned run over his last 14 appearances, dating back to May 14. No one's threatening him at the moment.

Matt Capps gave us a small scare with shoulder soreness (and a lousy performance on Friday), but its sounds like he'll be good to go on Tuesday. "Capps is fine," says Terry Ryan. So we assume it's true.

Does anyone trust Carlos Marmol? No, of course not. But he's closing again, because everyone else in the Cubs' 'pen has wet the bed in the big moments. Marmol is still owned in a greater percentage of Yahoo! leagues than Ryan Cook, which seems silly.

Sean Marshall picked up a rogue save on Sunday, as Aroldis Chapman had pitched on back-to-back days. Nothing to see there. Move along.

Antonio Bastardo has struck out 13 batters over his last 5.2 innings, which ain't easy. I triple-checked the math in that last sentence because it seemed unlikely, but it's true.

Tom Wilhelmsen stubbornly refuses to yield the ninth inning to Brandon League. Wilhelmson hasn't yet allowed an earned run in June, giving up just three hits in 9.2 innings this month while striking out 11. League, meanwhile, has allowed seven hits and two walks over his last three innings. Stephen Pryor is on the DL with a groin strain at the moment, so he's out of the picture for now.

Rays reliever Kyle Fanrsworth was a bit sloppy in a rehab appearance on Monday, allowing a triple and a wild pitch in an inning of work at Single-A Charlotte. But the elbow seems to be holding together, so Farnsworth's return may not be far off. He's obviously not claiming the closing gig from Fernando Rodney, who stubbornly refuses to have anything close to a meltdown. Rodney has walked only five batters in 31.2 innings this season* — not bad for a pitcher with a career 4.64 BB/9.

* OK, I think we all know that he tried like heck to walk Brett Lawrie that one time, but the ump would have none of it. Still, even if you call it six walks this season, that's pretty good.
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