|CLOSER HOT SEAT
|COLORADO ROCKIES RED HOT
1st Chair: Shawn Chacon
2nd Chair: Brian Fuentes
Skinny: After Chacon blew his third straight save Friday, manager Clint Hurdle told the Rocky Mountain News that he is confident his closer can, "pull out of it." If Chacon does reverse the course of this nosedive, it will be a maneuver worthy of a distinguished flying cross. Fuentes was a fill-in closer in 2003 and remains the club's best alternative to Chacon, but he's on the DL for at least another two weeks with a back strain.
|OAKLAND ATHLETICS RED HOT
1st Chair: Arthur Rhodes
2nd Chair: Jim Mecir, Justin Duchscherer
Skinny: Rhodes blew his fifth save of the season Saturday to break a string of three consecutive effective outings. Duchscerer was heating up in the pen the last time Rhodes closed out a save, so he looks like the second option. Of course, after being unhittable for nearly a month, he's allowed eight baserunners in his last three outings. Back on the farm, prospect Justin Lehr leads Triple-A Sacramento with 12 saves and a 1.80 ERA.
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX RED HOT
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Billy Koch, Damaso Marte
Skinny: The Skinny thought Silicon Valley had the market on bad buzz words cornered. That was before manager Ozzie Guillen introduced us to the concept of "closer by situation." Well, the situation Saturday called for Takatsu, and Japan's all-time saves leader got the job done. Takatsu hasn't allowed an earned run since April 20, so you have to assume that he'll be the guy unless the situation begs for a walk (Koch: 6 BB/last 2 IP) or a base hit (Marte: 4 H/last 2.1 IP).
|MONTREAL EXPOS RED HOT
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Luis Ayala, Rocky Biddle
Skinny: Wednesday's Montreal Gazette reported that the long-rumored demotion of Biddle was official. The new man for now is 22-year-old Chad Cordero. He hasn't inherited a save chance since the promotion, which may be a good thing considering his ERA in June is 7.94. He was nearly unhittabe for the first two months of the season. Given his atrocious track record in non-save situations, Biddle owners should consider cutting him lose.
|CLEVELAND INDIANS HOT
1st Chair: Jose Jimenez
2nd Chair: David Riske, Rafael Betancourt
Skinny: Jimenez would have pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning Saturday had a misjudged line drive not opened the door for a two-run rally. Still, you get the feeling that no lead is secure when Jimenez is handed the ball. Riske's numbers have improved dramatically every month, so he's back in the mix here. He has two wins and a .136 opponent's batting average in June.
|ANAHEIM ANGELS WARM
1st Chair: Francisco Rodriguez
2nd Chair: Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly
Skinny: K-Rod's transformation into Save-Rod may last through the end of June, according to recent reports on MLB.com. He's already converted three of four save chances and stands to get the bulk of the late-inning work with Troy Percival on the DL. Shields is matching Rodriguez in the strikeout department with 10 punchouts in seven scoreless June innings. Donnelly may return to the bullpen as early as June 15 against Pittsburgh.
|CHICAGO CUBS WARM
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Mike Remlinger, Kyle Farnsworth
Skinny: Control problems led to his downfall in Minnesota, so Hawkins owners have to be encouraged by the fact that he has issued just one free pass since May 2. Don't forget - this was his job before Joe Borowski was placed on the DL. His last two saves involved protecting leads of three and five runs - so The Skinny is concerned by the fact that he blew a save Sunday when inheriting a one-run lead. Hawkins did rebound for a scoreless 12th in a game Chicago eventually won.
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jason Frasor
2nd Chair: Justin Speier
Skinny: Frasor blew a save Friday and in the process saw his consecutive scoreless innings streak stopped at 20. After the game, manager Carlos Tosca told the Toronto Star, "I haven't lost any confidence in him." It was Frasor's first blown save since he pitched for Single-A Vero Beach. Speier has pitched two scoreless innings since his return from the DL and is a better fit for a second option than Terry Adams while Kerry Ligtenberg is on the shelf.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jorge Julio
2nd Chair: B.J. Ryan
Skinny: Since recording his seventh save of the season on May 19, Julio has allowed nine earned runs in 8.1 innings with one loss and a blown save. Worse, he's walked eight in the same span. After watching his closer allow four runs in the opener of a doubleheader Saturday, manager Lee Mazzilli told the Baltimore Sun that Julio would have to "work out of it." He then gave him a chance in the nightcap and Julio responded with 1.1 scoreless innings. Ryan has allowed an earned run in only five of 28 appearances.
|ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jose Valverde
2nd Chair: Scott Service
Skinny: Since being reinstated as closer, Valverde is 5-for-5 in save opportunities with seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings. Nobody in the Arizona bullpen has Valverde's explosive stuff, so his fantasy owners can relax for now. Service was stripped of his closer duties without inheriting a single save situation. The veteran remains in the picture as those around him - notably Elmer Dessens and Stephen Randolph - battle through recent struggles.
The Skinny reached several conclusions in the last seven days. Sidney Ponson
is not good. Richard Hidalgo
is also not good. Rob Mackowiak
, it appears, may not be the answer. We bid farewell to Billy Koch and Joe Borowski and welcomed Shingo Takatsu and Ryan Madson
. It took less than one inning to conclude that the Madson addition may have been ill timed. Such is the life of an Experts League team owner. Oh well, the season is young and The Unit is clicking, so The Skinny presses on with optimism.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Don't look now, but Dontrelle Willis is returning to form. A miserable May (5.10 ERA, .309 opponents average) had some fantasy owners predicting a Fidrych-like return to obscurity for this funky 2003 phenom. Not so fast. Willis went the distance Sunday to beat Detroit and is now 1-0 in June with a 1.64 ERA. Better yet, he has 18 strikeouts and just two walks in 22 innings.
- Barry Bonds owners must love interleague play. Apparently, American League managers are not aware that pitching around Bonds is a way of life – not a situational decision. Bonds was walked once in San Francisco's two wins over the O's and responded by going 5-for-10 with two home runs and five RBIs. It's no coincidence that Baltimore's only win in the series came after issuing Bonds five free passes. Also of note in San Francisco: Michael Tucker now has 11 RBIs in June.
- Anaheim finally got some good news on the injury front as Garret Anderson returned after missing more than a month due to arthritis. Anderson hit safely in all four games through the weekend, capping off his comeback with three hits, a homer and two RBIs Sunday. Anderson might be the most underrated fantasy performer of the past five seasons, and his return should boost more than a few fantasy rosters. Not all the news was good, of course. Sunday's Orange County Register reported that Raul Mondesi expects to be out 7-8 weeks with a torn right quadriceps.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Damian Miller, Oak, C – If all else fails in fantasy sports, ride the hot hand. At the catcher position, nobody is hotter than Miller. Between June 6 and June 11, Miller collected nine hits, two homers and 17 RBI. With only 43 games under his belt, he's well over halfway to matching his career-high of 47 RBIs. There is no reason to think he can maintain his current run-production pace, but a .280 average and 45 RBIs the rest of the way is certainly within reach.
- Gary Knotts, Det, SP – Yahoo! Sports' Mike Harmon turned The Skinny on to Knotts prior to his win over Florida Friday. In six games as a starter, Knotts has recorded four wins while allowing only 31 hits in 34.1 innings. Opponents are batting just .167 against him in June. He merits an immediate look in AL-only leagues. Otherwise, don't pull the trigger until you see how he fares at Philadelphia this week.
SPEED-O-METER: Checking the latest movements on the basepaths
- Juan Pierre, Fla (Fighting the "bust" tag) – If he doesn't steal 50 bases, that's exactly what he'll be. Steals Saturday and Sunday - his first of the month - were a step in the right direction.
- Ryan Freel, Cin (Free to run) – Freel attempted three steals over the weekend and was successful twice. With Austin Kearns ailing, more at bats and green lights are on the way.
- Tony Graffanino, KC (4 steals/last 9 games) – He's batting just .167 in June through Sunday. His recent speed surge is intriguing for a guy who has never stolen 10 bases in a single season.
- Chone Figgins, Ana (Streaking at plate and on paths) – Figgins stole his fourth base of the month Sunday while extending his hitting streak to 12 games. Overall, he has nine steals in Anaheim's last 18 games.
- Jeff DaVanon, Ana (6 steals/last 7 games) – DaVanon has proven to be a valuable short-term investment. Long-team value depends on how he fits in with Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson back from injury.
- Cesar Izturis, LA (3 steals/last 4 games) – Izturis now has five steals in his past 14 games and is batting .356 with 10 runs scored over the same span.
- Eric Byrnes, Oak (Steals are just a bonus) – Byrnes stole two bases last week, but the real surprise is the fact that he now has six homers in 20 games as a leadoff hitter.
- Coco Crisp, Cle (4 steals/last 11 games) – Crisp is another guy getting it done at the plate. His weekend included one steal, seven hits and seven RBI.
- Gary Sheffield, NY (0-for-5 on SB attempts) – We expected this kind of slowdown from Vlad, not Sheffield. Thankfully, the bat has come alive in June (14 RBI/11 games).
- Carlos Beltran, KC (Drought finally over?) – Stolen base Saturday snapped a streak of 15 games without a steal. Hopefully a bruised knee suffered on Sunday won't cause another dry spell.
PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm
- Dallas McPherson, ANA, 3B (Double-A) – ETA: September 1
Even before he took the field for Thursday's doubleheader, McPherson was considered Anaheim's third baseman of the future. Collecting six hits, four home runs and eight RBIs before the night was out only brought that future a little closer. How did the rest of his weekend go? Well, things tapered off a little bit, as McPherson was 3-for-8 with two homers and seven RBI in his next two games. In his last 23 games entering play Sunday, McPherson had an eye-popping 14 homers and 42 RBIs.
- Joe Blanton, Oak, SP (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
Should the A's move Rich Harden to the bullpen or ship Barry Zito out of town, they have yet another blue chip pitching prospect waiting in the wings. Blanton is the 43rd best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. Saturday he showed why -striking out 11 and carrying a shutout into the ninth inning in a 7-4 win over Salt Lake. Blanton, who throws a fastball in the mid-90s, is now 4-2 on the season with 60 strikeouts and only 20 walks in 82.1 innings.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
1 – Number of hits opposing hitters have in their last 47 at bats against Armando Benitez. An afterthought on draft day, Benetiz didn't even crack the top 10 for average draft position amongst relievers.