The Boston bullpen was tidy and orderly just a few days ago. Joel Hanrahan was fresh off the disabled list but headed for a non-closing role; Andrew Bailey's electric start to the season (1.46 ERA, 20 strikeouts in 12.1 innings) couldn't be ignored.
But just when Hanrahan seemed out of the picture, he's pulled back into the mix.
Hanrahan worked the ninth inning of Thursday's win at Toronto, dodging one hit and securing his fourth handshake. The surging Red Sox are off to a dazzling 20-8 start, a whopping 10.5 games ahead of the star-crossed Blue Jays. Hanrahan's season numbers are messy (9.45 ERA, five walks, four strikeouts), though he has just one blown save in his five opportunities. Love that dirty water.
Bailey owners wanted Thursday's chippy save chance, but he was held out of the game due to biceps discomfort. Any pitcher injury is something we have to take seriously, but that's especially true when we're talking about someone with Bailey's medical history. He worked 83.1 innings during his brilliant rookie season of 2009; he hasn't gotten to 50 innings in any season since.
The Red Sox are putting a positive spin on the Bailey situation, as you'd expect. Here's the skinny from long-time Boston beat writer Sean McAdam, one of the best in the business:
"I just felt a little something the last time I pitched,'' said Bailey, "and we're just being very cautious with it. We've got a lot of guys down there who can do a lot of different jobs and they want to be smart about it and take the extra time.
"It shouldn't be more than a couple of days. We're just letting it die down.''
Bailey termed the discomfort "very minor, nothing crazy. We want to get out in front of it and be smart about it. It's still very early on and we've got a long season and we have a staff that can handle it.''
Bailey said there were "no plans" to be further exmained over the next few days. Farrell was less definite saying an exam was "to be determined.''
The roto plan is straightforward: we'll hope for the best with Bailey but obviously prepare for the worst. The Red Sox don't have any reason to rush their stopper back, and they don't seem down on Hanrahan despite his poor start to the year. Make sure Hanrahan wasn't dropped in any of your pools earlier this week. And you might want to explore a possible Bailey trade after he returns to action; he's someone you never want to make a six-month assumption on.
• Let's stop for a second and consider how utterly complete Toronto's month-long collapse has been. What's gone right here? J.P. Arencibia, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have clubbed some homers, sure, and the bullpen has a couple of smooth operators (closer Casey Janssen has been terrific). Otherwise, this is the underachiever team of the year thus far, a staggering collection of players doing far less than expected.
I'd still buy low on Bautista if it's out there, and Encarnacion looks like a safe place to park your money. Arencibia's batting eye and contact issues (two walks, 40 strikeouts) present him as an easy cash-out candidate; maybe you can sell his homers and lock in some profits. Forget rabbit Emilio Bonifacio; he's a defensive liability and he's not getting on base much or running at all. You'd have to talk me into any Toronto starting pitcher; I'm worried about all of them forward. And if there's anything good to say about Melky Cabrera's first 29 games (.561 OPS, no homers), I can't think of it. Bad times in the YYZ.
• Time-the-market plays come with obvious caveats; they probably bring pain at least as often as profit. Nonetheless, I'm going to kick the tires on Carlos Pena this weekend. He's established a reputation as a notorious streak hitter, and I like what Pena's shown the last five games (9-for-20, homer, three walks).
Pena went deep in Thursday's loss to Detroit and also had a sharp left-field single off a southpaw; you know he's in a good place at the plate when he's not trying to pull every pitch he sees. The Tigers don't have a lefty in their rotation, so the platoon matchups are in line. Pena is ready for work in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues and the Astros offense has been surprisingly competent (15th in runs scored). Let's have some fun at the rummage sale.
• We can't say it was vintage Dan Haren in Thursday's win at Atlanta - he only struck out four batters against a team of aggressive hackers. But no one is ever going to turn down eight innings of one-run baseball, especially with the W attached. Haren has allowed seven homers on the year and hasn't gone past five strikeouts in any turn, but at least he's making the opponents beat him (just five walks issued). I'm not going to trust him next week against the Tigers; if he's back in your circle of trust, make the case in the comments.
• Predictable things were all over Baltimore's clean 5-1 victory at Anaheim: Joe Blanton took another loss (albeit he didn't pitch poorly); Nate McLouth clouted one to the seats (with a little help from center fielder Mike Trout); the Angels struggled to score. Obviously the Orioles had a ridiculous run of luck last year with all those one-run wins, but this looks like a solid ballclub nonetheless, a six-month contender. Chris Tillman worked eight scoreless innings for the victory, a pitch-to-contact story (two walks, three strikeouts, 12 air outs). He's worth streamer consideration at home next week against Kansas City.
Speed Round: Nasty weather wiped out the Royals again - they're the postponement kings of the league this year. Kansas City and Tampa Bay made it to the bottom of the fourth, in between the raindrops, before the game was delayed and ultimately deleted. Underrated righty Ervin Santana worked four scoreless innings and struck out seven; it's a shame to see those numbers filter down the drain. … Jayson Werth has proven to be a high-attrition player since joining the Nationals, and he's currently dealing with a tight hamstring. Have other plans ready to go for the series at Pittsburgh. … Jake Peavy (back) was a game-day scratch at Texas, but the White Sox hope he'll be able to start on the weekend, with Saturday the new target. … Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown both homered to support Kyle Kendrick's win over Miami. Brown had three hits on the day and is in the midst of a 12-for-31 clip, pushing his average up to .266. … The Mitchell Boggs reign of relief terror is on hold for now. He's been optioned to Triple-A. Edward Mujica has been money as the surprise closer (though he didn't have his best splitter in Thursday's messy save), with Trevor Rosenthal a solid (if overworked) eighth-inning bridge. … Ben Revere is dealing with a finger injury and is considered day-to-day. John Mayberry figures to see time in center field while Revere heals up. … Matt Garza (lat) might be able to come back in two weeks, with the May 17-19 series against the Mets as a target. Garza worked 2.2 innings in his first rehab start at Double-A, allowing one run (2 BB, 0 K). It's a process.