Closing Thoughts: Kevin Gregg, the embedded Marlin

Over the weekend, Kevin Gregg(notes) blew a pair of save opportunities against Florida, his former employer. Sunday's collapse felt like it may have been the signature loss for the '09 Cubs. This was Gregg's two-day line: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 2 K. That's not really an ideal K/HR ratio.

Is Gregg at risk of losing his job? Lou Piniella defiantly says no. But of course it would be foolish for a manager to take shots publicly. While Carlos Marmol(notes) hasn't exactly been a clinic this year (48 BB in 51 IP), he did manage to earn seven holds in July while allowing hits in just five of his 14 appearances. Marmol is outperforming Gregg in terms of ERA and BAA. He's also working the eighth, ahead of Angel Guzman(notes) and John Grabow(notes) in the relief hierarchy. For those speculating, Carlos is the play. If there's a BJ Ryan(notes) revival, I'll have no part of it. He and his 86 mph heat are currently on display at Triple-A Iowa.

OK, let's watch the bullpen dust settle after a week of injuries, trades and near-trades...

As Scott discussed at length in Sunday's Closing Time, Jays closer Scott Downs(notes) hit the DL after aggravating his left foot injury. Jason Frasor(notes) will take over the ninth inning role for Toronto. There's no precise rehab/recovering timetable, but we know Downs won't return too quickly. This from

Gaston feels Downs came back too soon the last time he hurt his foot. This time, the manager isn't sure how long it will be before the pitcher returns.

"We want to make sure he's healthy this time when he comes back," Gaston said. "I'm not sure [when he'll be back]. It won't be any time soon."

Following the George Sherrill trade, Jim Johnson(notes) is the leading candidate for saves in Baltimore according to the Sun (and everybody else). Johnson has the traditional closer's arsenal, but (incredibly) he's allowed at least one hit in each of his last 17 appearances. His year-to-date numbers are just fine, however: 3.28 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 6.4 K/9.

We've heard little about Jonathan Broxton's(notes) toe issues lately, but the Sherrill acquisition and all the Heath Bell-to-LA rumors should raise a few red flags. Consider Sherrill the appropriate handcuff, ahead of overused Ramon Troncoso(notes).

Frank Francisco(notes) (pneumonia) was activated from the DL on Sunday and he promptly tossed a perfect eighth inning against the Mariners, striking out two (Rob Johnson(notes), Ichiro(notes)). CJ Wilson(notes) pitched the ninth to earn his 13th save. Francisco won't immediately return to closing duties, but it's not far off. Here's Ron Washington, via the Dallas Morning News:

"I don't think you're going to see him jump back in the closing role," Washington said. "Only Superman could do that – getting outs in the ninth after [a DL stint]."

Keep Wilson rostered. He's been outstanding in recent weeks. These are the numbers since July 12: 9.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 17 K, 6 SV. Texas has also called up elite prospect Neftali Feliz(notes) and his 99 mph fastball. He'll work from the 'pen and could emerge as a sneaky SP-eligible play in holds leagues.

Like Feliz, the Phillies' Brett Myers(notes) (hip) also has a chance to finish the year as a holds candidate with starter-eligibility. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, a September return is entirely possible, "although the Phillies have avoided placing any such expectation on [Myers]."

Bobby Jenks(notes) (kidney stones) returned to action on Saturday, pitching a perfect ninth in a non-save situation against the Yankees.

Justin Masterson(notes) is just on loan to Cleveland's 'pen; he should transition to the starting rotation after a few more multi-inning appearances.

Florida's Matt Lindstrom(notes) returned from the DL over the weekend, and he immediately pitched a meaningful frame (eighth inning, top of the order, tied 1-1). He wasn't perfect -- one hit, no runs, no Ks -- but he did his job. The Miami Herald's Clark Spencer suggests that Lindstrom is "being eased back and the ninth inning will belong to Nunez for now."

Still, according to, Lindstrom is not out of the closing picture. This from Fredi Gonzalez:

"We want to see how [Lindstrom] reacts to pitching in a Major League stadium to Major League hitters again. We'll do that a couple times before we throw him back out there in the closer's spot again."

Time for the minty freshness you crave, still with zero calories...


Photos via AP Images

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