Closing Time: Downs takes off, Frasor takes over

The maddening Scott Downs(notes) slump of the last four weeks isn't so mysterious now. It's hard to pitch effectively when your left foot is in constant pain.

The other cleat dropped with the Toronto closer Sunday as he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. The club feels Downs might have come back from his previous foot injury too soon and it's anyone's guess as to when Downs will be back this season. The Blue Jays, as you probably know, are buried under 15 feet of snow in the AL East and they're 11.5 games out of the wild card (and behind six clubs). It's time to think about 2010, when hopefully someone else is in charge of this rudderless ship.

Alas, fantasy owners still need to negotiate 2009. "We want him to make sure [Downs] is healthy this time he comes back," Cito Gaston told the team's official site. "I'm not sure [when he'll be back]. It won't be anytime soon."

Jason Frasor(notes) steps into the ninth-inning void with Downs out, and the right-handed Frasor should be owned in any self-respecting league. Frasor's stat profile (2.09 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .207 BAA) obviously justifies work in high-leverage situations. On the days where Frasor isn't available, Brandon League(notes) looks like the favorite for saves (Gaston said as much Sunday).

Albert Pujols(notes) hit .185 on the recent Cardinals home stand with a mere seven total bases and although he says he's not injured, Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Pujols is dealing with a "barking" elbow. That said, La Russa also mentioned that the elbow was "barking when he had 34 [homers] too." La Russa was willing to give Pujols a day off Sunday but the first sacker talked him out of it.

So much for the recent Corey Hart(notes) resurgence; the Brewers outfielder had his appendix removed Sunday and is probably down for the rest of the month. Right field looks like a time share in Milwaukee while Hart is out; Bill Hall(notes) is headed back from the minors, but Frank Catalanotto's(notes) left-handed bat will see most of the time. Neither guy is going to move the needle in a mixed league.

Ian Snell(notes) didn't get an easy assignment in his AL debut but he was up to the challenge, throwing six strong innings against the Rangers in Arlington (3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 4 K, video evidence here). The Rangers hit a pair of solo homers for their runs off Snell, but that's going to happen sometimes in Texas (Snell allowed just seven homers in his 15 NL starts this year). Snell looks like an intriguing skim option for his Seattle turns and in certain road games; I'm curious to see how he'll fare in his Safeco debut against Tampa Bay next week.

Bud Norris(notes) forced his way onto our radar with a snappy Triple-A season, and he's shown plenty of moxie in two major league appearances. His first start for the Astros was a seven-inning gem Sunday at Busch Stadium of all places (2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 5 K), outdueling Adam Wainwright(notes) and helping Houston avoid the sweep. Grab the video here and watch Norris and Pudge Rodriguez guide through the game, mixing a slider, fastball and changeup. Even if Roy Oswalt(notes) (back) returns to the Houston rotation next weekend as expected, you have to assume Cecil Cooper will find a spot for Norris to do his thing.

Day-to-day finally turned into disabled list for Ian Kinsler(notes); he took his balky hamstring and popped on the 15-day DL Sunday. It's just another frustrating example of how a team and a player can whistle an optimistic tune about an injury, the ultimate misleading smokescreen for the fantasy public. Kinsler's DL trip cleared a roster spot for pitcher Neftali Feliz(notes), who's been solid in Triple-A since shifting to the bullpen (3.49 ERA overall, 2.16 in relief). Omar Vizquel(notes) will continue to start while Kinsler is out; Vizquel went 6-for-20 over the last five games and he'll steal the occasional base, if you're desperate for bags in your AL-only world.

Injury Blog: The M's like how Adrian Beltre(notes) (elbow) has been swinging in batting practice and he'll likely come off the disabled list Tuesday in Kansas City. … Frank Francisco(notes) (pneumonia) returned to action Sunday and worked a scoreless eight inning against the Mariners. C.J. Wilson(notes) had a rocky save conversion in the ninth but otherwise has been great of later; it will be interesting to see how Ron Washington balances the duo going forward. … Francisco Liriano(notes) (forearm) had a bullpen session Sunday and should be able to start Wednesday at Cleveland, not that you want any part of this circus. … Brandon Webb's(notes) season is officially over, finally; he's going to have arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder, getting some "general cleanup" done. … Kevin Millwood(notes) (gluteus) is penciled in to start Saturday against the surging Angels. Might want to pass on that one . … Yunel Escobar(notes) (wrist) took some indoor batting practice Sunday but didn't get on the field against the Dodgers. He's iffy for Monday's game at San Diego. … Although the X-rays on Casey Blake's(notes) hand came back negative, he was held out Sunday night. Blake doesn't seem too worried about the nick, as he tried to take batting practice with the team. … Erik Bedard(notes) (shoulder) did some throwing Sunday and will do so again Tuesday.

Speed Round: Kevin Gregg(notes) had another bombastic save Sunday (allowing ninth-inning homers to Dan Uggla(notes) and Cody Ross(notes)), so make sure Carlos Marmol(notes) isn't sitting free on your waiver wire. Gregg allowed three homers in this series and has been pounded for seven runs in his last four innings. … Chad Billingsley(notes) toyed with the Braves over five innings (0 R, 9 K), then left with a cramp in his right hamstring. Nice to see Billingsley back on track, as his command was all over the place for most of July. Matt Kemp(notes) paced the offense with a homer and five RBIs, marking his territory as the new No. 5 hitter. … I don't run the Tigers but if I did, Ryan Raburn(notes) wouldn't be allowed to take his glove anywhere near the ballpark. Good grief. … You might have missed that Elijah Dukes(notes) is back in Washington; he was recalled after Friday's game and went 1-for-7 with a walk over the next two nights. Dukes had a zesty .288/.397/.545 line over three weeks of Triple-A ball, along with five steals. … Matt Lindstrom got back on the mound Sunday and retired three of four men in the eighth inning of a tie game. Leo Nunez(notes) did a reasonable job while Lindstrom was out, but he also was scored on in four of his last seven appearances. Your move, Fredi Gonzalez.

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