Closing Time: Catching up with Derek Norris and Yasmani Grandal

I've always been somewhat sympathetic to catchers — maybe it's the Johnny Bench Effect, a result of watching The Baseball Bunch during my formative years. With that in mind, our opening bullets will be tied to the catcher position, and then we'll eventually meander our way around the rest of the diamond.

On the surface Derek Norris didn't do anything special Friday at Arlington: 2-for-4, one strikeout. Both of his hits were singles. But I love how Norris was in the lineup at DH — this shows the Athletics realize his offensive potential and are looking for creative ways to keep him in the lineup. Norris caught Thursday's game and went 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk. Although Norris is best known for his on-base skills and his power — he's still a work in progress behind the plate — it's only a matter of time before he shoves Kurt Suzuki out of the way.

Watch the rest of the Arlington series, see what you make of the kid. Norris is a great name to know for two-catcher leagues and he might eventually be worth grabbing in one-backstop pools. He's also unowned in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

We've already been through the Yasmani Grandal business once, but this time the Padres appear serious. The highly-regarded catching prospect will join the team Saturday and he's obviously slated to play a lot because Nick Hundley is going to Triple-A. Grandal posted a nifty .330/.438/.515 slash at Triple-A, with six homers over 194 at-bats. And you always love seeing a player who has more walks than strikeouts. In deeper leagues, you might want to take a flier with Grandal as your second catcher.

Petco Park is no fun for hitters, sure, but Grandal's first hacks will come in Coors Field this weekend. While it's not clear if he'll play in both games, there might be deep-league streaming potential here. Grandal, like Norris, is ready to go in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues. (Saturday Update: Grandal homered twice at Coors, once from each side of the plate, as the Friars dispatched the Rockies. Well done, rookie.)

Salvador Perez has never been a patient man at the plate — see the ball, hit the ball — but his approach has worked nicely in the majors. He quietly posted a .331 average through his 39-game trial last year, and he's off to a 7-for-20 start with a couple of homers this season, rebounding nicely from his knee surgery. Perez would be a Top 10 catcher if I were shuffling the position at this moment, and he's still unclaimed freight (it's great) in 86 percent of the Yahoo! world. Maybe the Royals can really hang in this AL Central race after all.

Thirty-five year old catchers aren't supposed to stumble into career years, but apparently A.J. Pierzynski didn't get the memo. AJP slugged a couple of homers in Friday's rout at Yankee Stadium, and for the year he's posted a terrific .285-36-14-45 line. Pierzynski is currently slugging .517, easily a career high and 91 points better than his career average. The thicker part of his production has come against right-handed pitching and at home, but he hasn't been worthless on the flip side of things.

Generally it's impossible to sell high on this type of player — your opponents are unlikely to buy into this binge in any way — so Pierzynski becomes a forced hold for most of his owners. With a warm Chicago summer on the way, that's not the worst thing in the world.

If you were ever going to predict a no-hitter, R.A. Dickey's turn against the Dodgers on Friday was the place to call your shot. The hapless LA lineup had no chance against the butterfly ball, managing just three hits (one of them an outfield miscommunication) through eight scoreless innings. Dickey walked one, struck out 10. The Dodgers lineup is such a mess right now, Carlos Lee is viewed as a potential solution. Is El Caballo willing to go to the City of Angels?

Underrated Dillon Gee becomes a legitimate streaming target against this scuffling club, though he has to face Clayton Kershaw on Sunday night. Surging Mike Leake is a definite go Wednesday in LA, and maybe some of us will fall into the Homer Bailey trap on Monday. Take +EV wherever and whenever you find it.

I've been a Carlos Beltran fan from way back and his surprise season with the Cardinals (.311, 20 homers) has been a blast to watch. And here's a tip of the cap to Beltran for collecting his 2,000th hit, a single against the Pirates on Friday. But I can't help but be concerned about where the story might be headed; Beltran was gingerly meandering through the outfield for most of Friday's game, and he didn't seem to run full-out during an infield grounder that turned into a close play at first.

It's not my knee and I'm no one's doctor, but I can't help but wonder if Beltran's knee is still bothering him. He's passed on stolen-base attempts in 25 of his last 26 games, and he only has two successful swipes since April. Maybe it won't affect his batting, but I'd be careful here. Beltran is 35, of course, and he's been a regular injury concern since 2009.

Good lord, how big are the offensive problems in Seattle? We talked about the Safeco Effect a little bit in Friday's Closing Time, but I don't think anyone expected journeyman Aaron Cook to throw a two-hit shutout at the M's. The Mariners have a .197/.275/.291 slash at home, with just 101 runs over 36 dates (all four of those stats are worst in the majors). Again, I pose the question: anyone feel like a Felix Doubront start for Sunday?

Speed Round: I'll be honest, The Cycle does nothing for me. I love seeing a player produce, but fitting it into a 1-2-3-4 box doesn't produce a chill moment. Anyway, tip of the cap to Aaron Hill for his second cycle of 2012, though what roto owners really care about is the 5-2-4-3 line, with a homer and a steal. Something's working for Hill in the desert; he's rocking a .306/.370/.511 line since joining the Snakes late last year. … Everyone will have to share the pine tar going forward, as Joel Peralta has rejoined the Rays bullpen. It's all about setting up Fernando Rodney under the catwalk; Joe Maddon made it clear a few days ago that Kyle Farnsworth will have to accept a non-closing role when he returns. … Michael Morse homered at the end of the Colorado series and he backed that up with another clout in Friday's win over Atlanta. Here it comes. … Lonnie Chisenhall needs forearm surgery, so scrap him for a couple of months. … The Cardinals haven't ruled out potential surgery on Chris Carpenter's shoulder. … It's possible Quintin Berry might stick in the Detroit lineup even when Andy Dirks returns. It's a moot point for now, as Dirks's rehab is progressing at a snail's pace. … Evan Longoria (hamstring) has been cleared for baseball activities. Anyone for a game of Pepper? … Desmond Jennings clocked a couple of homers off Justin Verlander, and he also made two excellent defensive plays in left field. So much for that buy-low window. … Terry Collins says Frank Francisco (oblique) will get the closing role back when he's activated. In the meantime, Bobby Parnell is your Handshake Huckleberry. … I'm not eager to forgive Adam Lind for past transgressions, but he did knock a couple of homers in Toronto's win. He'll have to settle for a low slot in the order, as the top half is raking. … I welcome your theories on Cliff Lee's puzzling slump. We're all searching on this one. … Happy 39th birthday, Chan Ho Park. You crushed me in 1999, but I'm over it now.

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