Closing Time: Anthony Reyes, please bend your cap

I hope you were watching baseball Sunday and not that Colts-Bills preseason game that set the NFL back about 47 years. On the off chance you didn't hit the diamond, here are some notes on a scorecard:

Anthony Reyes keeps living right with the Indians, giving up just one run over seven innings in Texas (4 H, 4 BB, 4 K) and lowering the AL ERA to Room 2.22. He's got a mediocre 11 strikeouts against 10 walks in his four Cleveland starts, but we've also seen a ground-ball spike in his 2008 results, small sample and all. If the strikeout rate jumps back up to a moderate level (and Reyes agrees to put a mild crease in his cap), I'll scribble his name near the top of the 2009 sleeper list. I'll also use him for this coming week, at home against Seattle.

It's no secret that Reyes is happy to be out of St. Louis, and away from the powers that be. "I'm able to relax better," Reyes told the AP. "It feels like the pressure's off." Asked what happened with the Cardinals, Reyes said, "I don't want to talk about that any more. I'm looking forward to this now. It's a great team and I'm having fun watching them." Suffice it to say, not everyone feels like celebrating Tony La Russa (and/or Dave Duncan) 24 hours a day.

Tap the keg in Texas and get ready for Nelson Cruz, who's coming up Monday with Jason Ellison headed back to Triple-A. The power-packed Cruz is having a legendary year in Triple-A, with a .344 average and 37 homers. The Rangers have plenty of outfield and DH options, but you have to figure that they'll give Cruz a shot to play. "I wouldn't necessarily say he's going to play every day, but [manager Ron Washington's] plan is to give him playing time," GM Jon Daniels told the team's official site.

It's hard to expect much from Luis Ayala (look at those terrible Washington numbers), but he does have four scoreless innings since he came to New York, including a win and a save. Jerry Manuel is desperate, so Ayala will continue to get high-leverage innings. As for Pedro Feliciano, put him to the back of the line - he coughed up Sunday's game in the tenth inning, allowing homers to Brad Ausmus and Darin Erstad, of all people.

Jimmy Rollins took another collar (0-for-5), making him 4-for-46 since he called the Philadelphia fans "front-runners." Coincidence? You can decide.

Nate McLouth (flu-like symptoms) had a pinch-single Sunday and should be close to returning; Ryan Doumit returned from his bug and went 2-for-6. I'm curious to see if Nyjer Morgan can stick in the Pittsburgh outfield for a bit even when McLouth comes back; Morgan's been frisky over his last four games (eight hits, four runs, two steals).

I can't imagine anyone wants to play this Florida team in the playoffs, unlikely as it may be. Imagine where this club would be today had Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez pitched the entire season. And the best arm in the bunch might just be Ricky Nolasco, who was lights-out yet again Sunday at Arizona (7.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 10 K).

Kevin Slowey held his own against the Angels (6.2 IP, 8H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K) but had to settle for a no-decision. He's got 32 strikeouts against two walks over his last six turns, which is ridiculous. (You want more on Slowey? Well, he was a pyromaniac as a kid, apparently. No, that's not a Def Leppard reference.)

Working behind in the count cost Jonathan Broxton, who allowed a couple of singles and a run at Philadelphia en route to his seventh blown save. The Phillies eventually won the game in the 11th when Pedro Feliz clocked a Jason Johnson pitch out to left-center field. Hiroki Kuroda was excellent again, allowing just one run for the fourth time in five starts.

Speed Round: Jose Lopez is having a nifty under-the-radar year in Seattle (.297, 65 runs, 11 homers, 72 RBIs, five steals) . . . You can laugh all you want, but right now Rich Harden's run reminds me of Pedro Martinez, late 90s. You almost feel sorry for the hitters, don't you? . . . Eddie Guardado took the loss Sunday and was scored on for the fourth time in five appearances. You've seen the red flags with his stat profile all year; get out before the bottom drops . . . Good news if you're a NL hitter - Livan Hernandez might be staying in Colorado. Good times . . . Brandon Morrow gets one more Triple-A start before he joins the Mariners rotation. He's been electric in the new role, with 18 strikeouts over 12.2 innings . . . We'll keep waiting on Matt Wieters - the Orioles don't plan to add the highly-touted catcher to the major-league roster when the limit expands next week . . . Wins are fluke occurances, case No. 10,437: Brandon Duckworth left Sunday's start with a 5.40 ERA, 2.20 WHIP and .350 batting-average against, and two hours later he collected a victory. Duckworth didn't strike any Tigers out, either . . . I don't know that there's reason to be madly optimistic about Rocco Baldelli, but I can't help but root for the guy. He homered Sunday and so far, so good with his return (8-for-26, two homers, .577 slugging).

I almost grabbed Braden Looper in my hometown mixer about a month ago, just because he was getting a two-start week. Alas, Looper's stat profile scared me off the scent. Normally there's safety in the numbers, but in this case Looper's turned in a surprising, almost improbable run (just 12 runs allowed over his last seven turns, including another win Sunday over the pick-on-em Braves). I suppose this probably means I'll stream Looper at Houston next weekend and he'll get hammered.

Injury Lap: Spin the spinner and let's get to tonight's random Milton Bradley ailment: "apparent left leg injury" . . . John Maine wants to pitch through his sore rotator cuff, but the Mets aren't sure it's a good idea. There's a realistic chance Maine could be done for the season . . . Johnny Cueto was putting together a nice second-half run, but a sore right triceps tendon Sunday puts a temporary hold on the story . . . Jonathan Sanchez (shoulder) is on course to return next weekend against the Reds . . . Matt Capps came off the DL Sunday with a scoreless inning, and he was hitting the mid-90s with his fastball, so apparently the shoulder is fine. I can't see why the Pirates wouldn't start closing with him this week . . . Jacoby Ellsbury was pretty banged up after making an outstanding catch Sunday (and crashing into the Toronto fence), but he should be fine after Monday's day off. The Red Sox certainly need all hands on deck in the outfield, with J.D. Drew (back) likely headed to the disabled list.

Jayson Werth hasn't done much with right-handed pitching this year, but he's also a sneaky power/speed guy (click his numbers, they might surprise you) with a keen batting eye, and he's got right field to himself with Geoff Jenkins hitting the DL. Okay, I'll take a shot.

Lots of Sunday Handshakes: Jose Valverde (33); Manny Delcarmen (1; Jonathan Papelbon worked the ninth and tenth for an aggressive, wise Terry Francona); Mariano Rivera (31); Chris Perez (5, a four-outer); J.J. Putz (9, thanks Roy Corcoran); Brian Wilson (35, man has he been a bargain); Kevin Gregg (29); and of course Francisco Rodriguez (50). Regrets came from Salomon Torres and Dan Wheeler, who couldn't hold ninth-inning leads.


Photos via Getty Images

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