Closing Time: Clay Buchholz bounces back; another Huston Street advisory

I didn't have any problem burying Clay Buchholz in April. He turned in five horrendous starts (8.69 ERA, 15 walks against 16 strikeouts) and the AL East is full of land mines to begin with. He's also the slowest worker in the game today, so I had no problem keeping this young righty off my television for a few months.

Alas, I've missed a nice comeback story. Buchholz has turned into the only reliable big name in Boston's rotation this summer.

Buchholz was on top of his game in Friday's win at Cleveland, going the route in a tidy 104-pitch performance (2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K). He's fashioned a 1.15 ERA over his last five turns, despite a tricky stretch of opponents (White Sox, Tigers, Rangers in Arlington). The rally has been sparked by a resurgent change-up and a hybrid splitter that's working. The change is especially important for Buchholz, as left-handed batters were hammering him back in the spring; you need a path to get outs when you don't hold the platoon advantage. 

If you back up Buchholz's results to the middle of May, he's posted a 2.80 ERA over his last 13 turns. The rough-and-tumble division doesn't offer any soft landing spots, but at least he misses the next series against the Yanks. I'll be open minded for next week's start at Baltimore, and I'll watch with interest when Mike Trout and Co. head into Fenway the following week.

To be clear, Buchholz isn't going in the Circle of Trust yet. That's life in this division, life in a mixed-league world. But I'm willing to consider him a preferred streamer until further notice, and I'll use him on a few of my own teams until it burns me. Buchholz is unclaimed freight in about 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

When you watch Huston Street, you figure everything should come easy. Smooth delivery, dominant ratios, clean saves, everyone's happy in the end. But Street's proven to be one of those high-maintenance pitchers, someone with an unfortunate knack of falling into consistent injuries, often of the fluke variety.

The latest hit came Friday in Pittsburgh, at the very end of Street's 21st handshake. Street strained his calf while covering first base for the final out, and it sounds like a DL stint is imminent.

"We got some ice on it," manager Bud Black told The Chicken the club's official site after the victory. "We don't know the significance of it. As always, we'll see how it sets up overnight. But my early premonition is that it's going to put him out for a while. Hopefully I'm wrong."

These bumps in the road are common with Shakedown Street. Look at his innings pitched, dating back from 2008: 70, 61.2, 47.1, 58.1, 36 this year. We live with the medical history because he's still a sound pitcher, especially this season (perfect on saves, 0.75 ERA, 0.53 WHIP). But when we draft Street in March, we know reinforcements will be needed somewhere down the line.

If talent were the sole factor in picking a ninth-inning substitute, Luke Gregerson becomes the obvious Padre of interest. He's rolling through another sound year (2.56 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 15 walks, 55 strikeouts) and he's the primary set-up man here. A natural ascent to the ninth would probably be painless.

But there's always a chance Black will decide to keep Gregerson in that eighth-inning role; sometimes managers like to do that sort of thing. Journeyman Dale Thayer was a temporary closer earlier in the year (five saves), though his ratios (3.60 ERA, 1.15 WHP, about three strikeouts per every walk) aren't as good as Gregerson's. Thayer has settled into the seventh-inning role of late.

Both arms are widely available (free in 95 percent of Yahoo! leagues), so head to the wire and take your pick. If I had just one grab at this saves situation, I'd go with Gregerson. We'll see what the skipper has in mind, if and when a replacement is needed.

The Brewers closing situation became more clear during Friday's giveaway in Houston. John Axford blew a ninth-inning save in ugly fashion, recording just one out and missing the zone on 12 of 22 pitches. Flavour of the Month Jim Henderson watched the damage from the bullpen — he was warming up during the inning as well — but after Axford's latest misstep, the Brewers will probably hand the reigns to the 29-year-old journeyman, see if he can handle it. If you haven't already sworn off this bullpen wildfire, you'll find Henderson ready to go in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Eventually Manny Machado is going to be challenged at the big league level, but it hasn't happened in the first two days of his career. He collected two hits against Will Smith on Thursday, then blasted a pair of homers off meatball artist Luke Hochevar on Friday. Someone tell the kid that AL East pitchers are, by and large, a lot better than this.

Every logical part of my roto sense encourages me to stay grounded on Machado, who just turned 20 and was solid-not-great in Double-A this year. And everyone knows an eight at-bat sample isn't indicative of anything. But maybe this will be a rare instance where a precocious prospect, with a star pedigree, hits the ground running in the majors. You can still take a spin on Machado in 75 percent of Yahoo! pools.

There's one other market element to consider with Machado: a sell-high ticket. If you took a what-the-heck flier on him a few days ago but don't need him as an immediate starter, maybe it's a good idea to shop him today. Yes, I said those same words back when he was recalled, but it doesn't make the angle any less worthwhile. Baseball is hard. Everyone hits a rough patch eventually. Discuss your Machado plans and expectations in the comments, por favor.

I've tried to be patient with James McDonald, but eventually you have to cut the cord when the results get messy. There's a lot of fish in the mixed-league sea. McDonald couldn't hold a 7-1 lead against the Padres on Friday, ultimately adding seven more runs to his ledger. He's been a hot mess in the second half (8.71 ERA, 2.03 WHIP, 21 walks against 26 strikeouts), and that's despite a reasonable schedule (the Astros also beat him).

Another home start comes next week (against LA), and then it's a road start against the Padres. A strong outing against the Dodgers might push McDonald back into the streaming pool the following week, in theory. But you can't help but wonder if he's simply wearing down in the dog days of August. I've cut all of my McDonald shares; he'll have to force his way back into the circle.

The other unhappy cut of the day lands on Will Middlebrooks. The Boston rookie suffered a broken wrist at Cleveland and I'll be shocked if he plays again this year.

If you need to pick up a new corner, here are some names to consider: Garrett Jones (25 percent), Yonder Alonso (18 percent), Brandon Belt (16 percent), Todd Frazier (get real, 14 percent), Tyler Colvin (13 percent) and Eric Chavez (10 percent, fun until he breaks). The first five players on this list offer dual-position eligibility, too.

For those digging super-deep on this one, Jeff Keppinger (four percent), Jordan Pacheco (three percent) and Steve Lombardozzi (three percent) have their positive points. And who knows, maybe Danny Valencia (three percent) will do something as the Middlebrooks stand-in.

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