|CLOSER HOT SEAT
|COLORADO ROCKIES RED HOT
1st Chair: Chin-Hui Tsao
2nd Chair: Ryan Speier, Byung-Hyun Kim
Skinny: The Denver Post reported Sunday that Speier and Kim would split closer duties until the arrival of Tsao, which is tentatively slated for Tuesday. Tsao is hardly a household name, but he was the organization's top prospect as a starting pitcher in 2003. He is currently with Class-A Modesto rehabbing a shoulder injury that forced him to start the season on the disabled list.
|CLEVELAND INDIANS RED HOT
1st Chair: Bob Wickman
2nd Chair: Bobby Howry, David Riske
Skinny: After a disastrous start to the season had his fantasy owners sweating bullets, Wickman settled down to close out Detroit twice during the weekend. He's coming off a strong spring, but his age and injury history have him planted firmly on the front burner for now. Should he falter, a crowded bullpen that includes Howry, Riske and Rafael Betancourt will fight over save chances.
|CHICAGO CUBS RED HOT
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Chad Fox, Joe Borowski
Skinny: "He has the stuff," says manager Dusty Baker, who again reaffirmed his confidence in Hawkins during the weekend. This is not news for those who have followed Hawkins. He does have the pitches, but he doesn't appear to relish the role of closer. His blown save on Friday was his sixth in his last 12 regular-season chances. Fox looked like a budding star in 2001, but has been troubled by injuries since.
|MILWAUKEE BREWERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Mike Adams
2nd Chair: Derrick Turnbow
Skinny: Manager Ned Yost thought Adams was too tentative in spring training, so he refused to hand him the job outright as the team broke camp. Tentativeness was hardly an issue on Thursday as Adams retired Todd Walker, Aramis Ramirez and Derrick Lee to earn his first save of the season. A popular fantasy pickup during opening week, Turnbow was saddled with a loss Sunday against the Cubs.
|WASHINGTON NATIONALS HOT
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Luis Ayala
Skinny: Nursing a one-run lead on Thursday, Cordero shut down Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome and Pat Burrell in order to close out Philadelphia and earn a win. Two nights later his challenge was Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Delgado and Mike Lowell. Talk about trial by fire. Delgado got the best of him with a game-tying homer, but Cordero held together to earn a win in the 10th inning. This was nearly a closer-by-committee situation. So far, Cordero has proven himself worthy of Frank Robinson's confidence.
|ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS WARM
1st Chair: Brandon Lyon
2nd Chair: Mike Koplove
Skinny: Lyon nailed down his second save in three chances Sunday. His fantasy value was further boosted by news that Greg Aquino has been placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Diamondbacks. Jose Valverde is still a ways away, so right now Lyon is running unopposed after a solid spring.
|NEW YORK METS WARM
1st Chair: Braden Looper
2nd Chair: Mike DeJean, Ugueth Urbina?
Skinny: It didn't take long for the "Will They Ever Win?" headlines to surface in New York. Sunday's victory put those fears to rest, but the heat is still on Looper after he botched Pedro Martinez' gem by surrendering two homers on Opening Day. He wasn't much sharper in a non-save role on Friday. Rumors abound that the Mets are interested in Ugueth Urbina. The arrival of Detroit's setup man would almost certainly signal the end of Looper's reign as the Mets closer.
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX WARM
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Dustin Hermanson, Damaso Marte
Skinny: Takatsu allowed three Cleveland homers on Thursday, prompting manager Ozzie Guillen to say he might not use him in the future against the Indians and their lefty-heavy lineup. This is hardly a demotion, but do you think Joe Torre would ever entertain the notion of switching closers against the Red Sox? Guillen did his share of tinkering last year with Takatsu and Marte, so you can expect Shingo to lose a chance or two to his manager's whims as the season continues.
Too early to tinker? For the fantasy owner, there's no such thing, so why should The Skinny be immune to a little early-season fine tuning? Back for the 2005 MLB season, you'll notice one slight change to our tried and true format. Gone is the Speed-O-Meter
, replaced in the lineup by a more generic Market Movers
section. We'll continue to focus on the basepaths, but since nobody is stealing anyway, the area will also track position battles, hot players, not players and whatever else comes to mind. Think of it as a utility player. Introductions complete, let's take a look at the on-the-field action from the weekend:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- With closers blowing leads left and right in the opening week, The Skinny kicks off the 2005 season with a look at a different kind of save – the type delivered by a starting pitcher when his team desperately needs a win. We'll start in Philadelphia, where Gavin Floyd took the hill for the Phillies on Saturday trying to stop a three-game skid. How did the rookie fare? Not bad – assuming you're OK with mowing down 19 straight hitters while holding the defending National League champion Cardinals to one run on three hits over seven innings. The fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft is now 3-0 in five career starts.
Floyd struggled with his control after his September call-up last season and didn't show signs of improving his command this spring, walking 13 in 25 innings. Rising to the occasion on Saturday, he did not walk a batter against the Cards. Manager Charlie Manuel may soon have a dilemma on his hands. Floyd secured the final spot in Philadelphia's rotation only because Vicente Padilla was injured. He's scheduled to return in the third week of the season. By then, Floyd may have made three starts. Whether he proves to be indispensable remains to be seen, but fantasy owners should pay close attention.
- As far as stopper starts go, it doesn't get much better than the effort Pedro Martinez put forth in Atlanta on Sunday. New York's ace struck out nine and allowed only two hits and a walk while recording just his second complete game since 2003. In a duel that would be matched in drama and clutch performance only by the Woods/DiMarco showdown at the Masters later in the day, Martinez matched Atlanta starter John Smoltz pitch-for-pitch as the Braves hurler fanned 15. Only one would emerge with a win, but the game was a relief for fantasy owners of both starters.
Martinez proved he's still a top-of-the-rotation guy in fantasy and real life and Smoltz laid to rest any doubt that his return to the rotation was the right move. Of concern, however, may be a lack of run support for Smoltz. The Braves are hitting an MLB-worst .216 with only 16 runs scored in six games. Their new-look outfield of Brian Jordan, Andruw Jones and Raul Mondesi is hitting a combined .226 with one homer and five RBI's. Meanwhile, down on the farm, Andy Marte has three homers in four games for Triple-A Richmond. The Braves aren't dying to move Chipper Jones back to the outfield, but they may need to start exploring ways to get Marte's bat in the lineup.
- It's never too early for injuries to rear their ugly head. Justin Morneau has been absent from the Minnesota lineup ever since he was hit by a pitch on Wednesday against Seattle. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Morneau has asked to see a neurologist as he continues to experience dizziness and headaches. The Tribune reports that this is Morneau's fourth concussion, which raises concerns that the slugger may be sidelined for an extensive stretch. Matthew LeCroy will have a regular spot in the lineup until Morneau returns.
The Twins did get some encouraging news about injured starter Carlos Silva. The team had feared the right-hander would miss the rest of the season with a torn meniscus, but team doctors examined him on Sunday and reported that the injury may not be so severe. He's still due for a long stretch on the DL, so the team promoted David Gassner to take his place in the rotation.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Xavier Nady, SD, OF
Eric Young's injury all but assures Nady the one thing he's been thirsting for since he debuted with the Padres in 2000 – regular big league at-bats. He spent most of the 2004 season in the minors, where he hit a career-best .330 with 22 homers and 70 RBI's in 74 games between trips to San Diego. Despite a torrid spring in which he hit .357 with five more homers, Nady was scheduled to return to a utility role when Dave Roberts was ready to go. That all changed when Young crashed into the center field wall on Thursday. He'll miss at least half the season, though likely more. Nady, a top prospect in the Padres organization since 2000, now has his shot as a regular.
- Denny Bautista, KC, SP
Signing Bautista could easily be classified as an overreaction to a hot start. Nevertheless, his season debut on Friday gave fantasy owners a lot to think about. This wasn't a gift win over Pittsburgh or Detroit. This was Los Angeles. And it was on the road. Bautista struck out Darrin Erstad and Vladimir Guerrero twice each in holding the Angles to three hits in eight innings. This was on the heels of a solid spring that saw him strike out 23 in 25.1 innings. He'll get his next start on Thursday at home against Seattle. He might not last the night as a free agent if he holds to form against the M's.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player valuesJoey Gathright
, CF, TB – Oakland catcher Jason Kendall
said watching Gathright run the bases on Saturday was like watching a movie in fast-forward. General Manager Chuck LaMar is giving the act rave reviews, leaving the door open for a position battle between Gathright and the currently suspended Alex Sanchez
, SS, SF – The Bonds-less Giants are now in the business of manufacturing runs, and part of that formula appears to involve giving Vizquel the green light. Through six games, the 37-year-old has four steals.
, CF, WAS – Church, who hit 17 homers at the Triple-A level in 2004, hit a home run and launched another ball to the warning track in his first start of the season on Saturday. He led the Nationals with 10 spring training RBI's.
, CF, HOU – Center field in Houston belongs to Taveras – at least until Lance Berkman
returns from the DL. Taveras stole 10 bases this spring, then started the season with four multi-hit games. He's 1-for-2 on stolen base attempts, so far.
, P, PIT – Solidifying his hold on the No. 5 spot in the Pittsburgh rotation for now, Williams held San Diego to one run on four hits in nearly six innings on Sunday. Top competitor Zach Duke
was so-so in winning his 2005 Triple-A debut.
, OF, SF – Ellison jump-started San Francisco's 11-run attack on Sunday by leading off with a bunt single, stealing second and scoring on a groundout. He stole 27 bases at Triple-A in 2004 and should continue to see regular at-bats with Moises Alou
on the DL.
, OF, KC – After an impressive spring thrust him firmly into Kansas City's outfield mix, Brown started off hot in Week 1, hitting two homers and batting .308 on the week.
, SS, MIN – Will earn shortstop eligibility after one more start there. After hitting .370 this spring, Bartlett has started the season on a 6-for-17 tear.
, 3B, CIN – Randa's hot start (3 homers, 8 RBI's) earned him a shot at batting cleanup on Sunday. Austin Kearns
has yet to get it going.
, 3B, BAL – Mora hit .233 for a full season as recently as 2002, so there's fear that his 3-for-26 start could be more than just a stumble out of the gate.
, 3B, LAA – A .344 hitter a year ago, Quinlan is playing himself out of the lineup with his bat (2-for-16) and glove (2 errors).
Hee Seop Choi
, 1B, LA – Choi has yet to homer as a member of the Dodgers and he's off to a 1-for-15 start in 2005. Rookie Norihiro Nakamura
was recalled after homering in two of his first three games at Triple-A Las Vegas. Choi needs to start hitting to hold him off.
, SS, WAS – Manager Frank Robinson dropped Guzman, off to a 3-for-25 start, to eighth in the batting order on Saturday. Nick Johnson
replaced him in the No. 2 hole.
, 3B/OF, CIN – Freel isn't getting away with anything these days. He was arrested for a DUI following the team's season opener and is now 0-for-3 on stolen base attempts.
, SS, CLE – Peralta already has four errors on the young season. He was forced to the bench Sunday. Good thing the guy he beat out, Brandon Phillips
, is just 2-for-14 at Triple-A Buffalo.
, CF, SEA – First the good news: Reed collected two hits Sunday to raise his average to .182. The bad news: He still hasn't attempted a steal – and we drafted him to run.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
12-0 Roy Oswalt's career record against Cincinnati in 16 career starts. Oswalt beats the Reds Sunday. His next scheduled start? You guessed it – he'll face the Reds this weekend.