Bronson Arroyo's ERA has been much higher all season than the peripherals suggest it should be, making him an interesting buy-low target for much of the year. That said, after he bottomed out at Toronto on June 24 (getting rocked for 11 hits and 10 runs), you couldn't blame anyone who washed their hands of the crafty right-hander once and for all.
A funny thing has happened since that horrible outing - Arroyo is turnng his season around. He captured his fifth straight win Wednesday over San Diego (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 7 K), and while he hasn't been dominant by any means over this stretch, it is encouraging that he's getting more ground balls and pounding the strike zone consistently. The buy-low window is long gone by now, but there's enough comfort in his full profile to believe in the turnaround and hold with confidence. He's still going to allow his fair share of homers, but Arroyo should be trusted fully in NL-only leagues and rostered in just about all mixed leagues, seasonal numbers be damned.
Plus, it's always nice to have a guitarist in the rotation. Plug and play with Arroyo next week, when he goes to Houston and Washington, and turn the amp up loud.
• Billy Wagner answered the call Wednesday, throwing a clean inning and picking up a save against the Phillies. He had extensive treatment on his shoulder before the game. His availability for today's series finale? "If I can go out there and lift my arm and throw and it don't fall off, I'll be out there," Wagner told Newsday.
• Another smooth save for Damaso Marte (5), who several contending clubs would love to get their hands on (southpaws who can retire both lefties and righties are very valuable, indeed). Tyler Yates made a mess of the seventh inning but John Grabow was solid in relief of him (1.1 IP, 1 BB, 0 R). Nothing is guaranteed, but if you need to preemptively speculate on a closer here after Marte, Grabow is my best guess.
• The Braves got a pretty good scare Wednesday when Tim Hudson (elbow) and Chipper Jones (hamstring) both left prematurely. Hudson didn't sound worried at all after the game and feels confident he'll make his next turn, but things are much more cloudy with Jones. "It's sore right now," Jones told the Braves official site. "I don't know what the timetable is going to be. Hamstrings are a little more delicate than [quadriceps muscles] or groins. They really affect you when you do any kind of running."
• I was looking forward to seeing Joel Hanrahan in the closer's chair at San Francisco, but Luis Ayala basically pitched underhand for the eighth inning and the Giants took control of the game. Hanrahan has only one appearance in the last nine days, so look for him to get into Thursday's game, even if it's the dreaded "inning of work" in a non-critical situation.
• I know you guys laugh when I promote Willie Harris, but the gnat-sized Nat is getting it done. He rapped out two more hits Wednesday (missing a third on a scoring decision that could have gone either way), making it his seventh multi-hit game in eight starts. He's reached base 20 times over that span, along with three homers and a bag (on three attempts), and he carries three-position eligibility (2B, 3B, OF) in Y! leagues. You could do a lot worse with your final roster slot.
• I'm kinda glad CC Sabathia didn't throw a no-hitter Wednesday because there are only so many ways you can say "this cat is good." That said, B-52 has been unreal since he joined the blueshirts, and Wednesday was no exception (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K, just 106 pitches). This is starting to remind me a little bit of the ballistic run Randy Johnson made when he joined Houston in the middle of 1998, albeit without the same pretty strikeout numbers.
• Alfonso Soriano (finger) returned to the mix Wednesday, leading off and going 1-for-5 with an RBI at Arizona. With Soriano back Lou Piniella dropped Kosuke Fukudome (0-for-2, 3 walks) to the No. 6 spot in the order, a curious move given that Fukudome has the second-highest OBP on the club.
• For one night at least John Maine turned things around (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K), logging seven innings for the first time since May 7. It certainly looked like he was trusting his fastball more and going after hitters confidently, although the Phillies also clubbed a couple of home runs off him. He's in line for two turns on the road next week, against Florida and Houston.
• Anytime you're ready, Carl Crawford. The Tampa left fielder went 0-for-4 with five left on Wednesday, and he's carrying a sorry .243/.270/.257 line for July. He's also gone 11 games without a stolen base.
• Armando Galarraga baffled the Royals for most of Wednesday afternoon, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning and racking up a season-high seven strikeouts. Perhaps the Royals didn't have their bats adequately prepared? In any event it was KC's first look at the righty, and it will be interesting to see what goes down if they face him again at the end of August. Galarraga's peripherals have been screaming for an ERA correction most of the year, but he's still been a heck of a story at the back of the Detroit rotation.
• I don't know that the Athletics have any grand plans for journeyman submariner Brad Ziegler, but let's at least tip the cap for how he's started his major-league career (23.2 scoreless innings, albeit with just 10 strikeouts). If you need a safe guy for the last spot on your AL-only roster, I'll sign off.
• Speed round: Kudos if you saw this coming from Mike Mussina; I figured he was done entering the year. He was nothing special in April, but he's improved numbers across the board in every month since, en route to 13 wins and a tidy 3.26 ERA . . . Carlos Quentin now leads the AL in homers after clubbing a pair Wednesday. Imagine how good this guy will be when he figures out left-handed pitching . . . Freddy Sanchez found his stroke in Houston, collecting eight hits and a couple of homers (one an inside-the-park job). The former batting champ is in a good spot for production, hitting between Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit . . . Kaz Matsui isn't anywhere close to being universally-owned in fantasy, and that makes no sense. He paid the bills again Wednesday (2-3-1-1, homer, steal, three walks) . . . Ian Stewart looked overmatched with the Rockies earlier in the year, but he's making amends with his current audition (11-for-20, homer, three doubles) . . . The Angels and Indians had a softball game at the Big A, but Chone Figgins wasn't invited to the party (six thousand) . . . J.J. Putz and Brandon Morrow were both throwing pellets over two scoreless innings Wednesday; it will be interesting to see when Jim Riggleman decides it's time to pass the baton back to the vet . . . The only thing that stopped A.J. Burnett Wednesday was the rain (5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K). The timing couldn't be better for the Blue Jays to work out a trade.
• Fantasy owners cut bait on Jesse Litsch and his soft-tossing ways a while ago, and now the Blue Jays have hopped on board. Litsch was demoted to Triple-A Wednesday, and lefty David Purcey will replace him on the roster and in the rotation, beginning with Saturday's turn against Seattle (good draw, kid). Purcey's Triple-A numbers at least make him worth watching (2.69 ERA, 129 strikeouts in 117 innings), though at 26 he's just about at the end of his prospect days. He was the club's first-round pick in 2004.
• Not an injury blog: David Ortiz got through his final rehab game without incident and is on course to rejoin the Red Sox at Fenway Friday (just in time for the Yankees) . . . Roy Oswalt (hip) felt fine during a bullpen session and is aiming for a Monday return against Cincinnati . . . Mark Ellis (shoulder) feels he'll be able to go Friday at home against Texas . . . Rafael Soriano (elbow) is back with the Braves, but Mike Gonzalez has pitched too well to give up the closer gig . . . Aaron Harang is throwing again, but the Reds don't have any timetable yet for his return . . . Jorge Posada wants to hold off on surgery and come back this year, though it would have to be as a first baseman or DH (where the Yankees already are littered with bodies) . . . Orlando Hudson (shin) and Manny Ramirez (knee) both sat Wednesday and are day-to-day.
We're all about the saves in this column, and there were plenty of handshakes Wednesday: Francisco Cordero (21, one-outer); Brian Wilson (27); Troy Percival (20); Mariano Rivera (25, one-outer, thanks LaTroy Hawkins); Bobby Jenks (19); Brian Fuentes (17, two more strikeouts); Craig Hansen (2; Jonathan Papelbon got the win with a scoreless inning prior); and of course, Francisco Rodriguez (42). And with that, I hand it over to you.