Closing Time: Felipe Paulino is worth your time (honest)

It feels a little empty to be discussing fantasy baseball on a night where Stephen Strasburg(notes) didn't pitch, but that's the world we live in these days. Let's try to get through the 13 games that were played on the sandlots Wednesday night.

There are several convenient reasons you might want to ignore Felipe Paulino(notes). He's on a crummy Astros team, he's got a 1-7 record, his seasonal stats (3.82 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) are nothing special. But he's been fairly reliable over the last month and it's time to start taking him seriously, even in mixed leagues.

Paulino's latest audition came Wednesday at Coors Field; he held the Rockies to two runs over eight innings but had to settle for a no decision. Paulino collected seven strikeouts against just two walks and the strikeouts are the best case for him going forward; he's rung up 45 whiffs (against 20 walks) over his last seven turns. And if you want to just look at the out-the-door numbers, he's only given up seven runs over his last 36 innings.

The schedule is willing to play along; Paulino gets a start at Kansas City to open next week (favorable) and then a home turn against the Rangers (okay, at least it's not in Arlington). Paulino's available in 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues as we go to press. It's time to fix that number.

A pair of fresh, shiny Pirates took the center stage Wednesday, with left fielder Jose Tabata(notes) and starting pitcher Brad Lincoln(notes) making their debuts. Tabata was immediately installed into the leadoff spot and impressed, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a steal, but he also suffered cramping in his hamstring and left the game after seven innings. Look for him to get Thursday off, but he's still a great addition for any make-believe team in need of a speed merchant.

Lincoln struggled early in his start and had to battle to make it through six innings (6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K), but he didn't look overmatched in the assignment. Ten of his 17 batted-ball outs came through the air. He's looking at two home starts next week against a pair of American League opponents (White Sox, Indians), so if you're in a deeper mixed league and looking for a starter to kick the tires on, Lincoln at least deserves an audit. There's also a pedigree here, as Lincoln was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft.

Wednesday night belonged to the Chicago sports fan for obvious reasons, and the Cubs and White Sox were happy to play along. Carlos Zambrano(notes) didn't have his best stuff in his start at Milwaukee (5 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 2 K) but he picked up a victory anyway as his mates took batting practice on Randy Wolf(notes) (five homers allowed). The forever-underrated Marlon Byrd(notes) hit two of the homers, Geovany Soto(notes) also added two, and Derrek Lee(notes) clubbed one, just to get fantasy owners off his back. One other Cub to keep an eye on – rookie right-hander Andrew Cashner(notes) has been solid in relief since getting the call two weeks ago (five scoreless innings, four strikeouts).

The White Sox offense hasn't done much to make us happy in 2010 but there were smiles all over the South Side Wednesday as the Pale Hose threw 16 hits and 15 runs at the Tigers. Every Chicago starter had at least one hit and one run (yes, even Gordon Beckham(notes)), and the efficient Sox only stranded two runners on the night. Freddy Garcia(notes) wasn't exactly dominant on the mound for Chicago (7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K) but he's quietly collected six wins (and six quality starts) in his last seven turns. If you want to give Garcia a try next week, he's on the road at Pittsburgh and Washington.

Rick Porcello's(notes) crummy outing is the dark side of the White Sox romp; Porcello allowed eight runs over 3.1 innings, pushing his ERA over 6.09. I understand why a fair amount of fantasy owners were patient with Porcello through his initial struggles this year, but it's time to accept reality and move forward.

Sure, the righty has been somewhat unlucky if you look under the hood (consider the high BABIP and low strand rate), but let's keep it in perspective – maybe he deserves an ERA in the 5s or high 4s, but he's not pitching well right now. And more than anything, this isn't someone who misses a lot of bats – Porcello has just 29 strikeouts on the year against 21 walks. if you want to try to make a go of it with that sort of walk/strikeout ratio, be my guest. If I ran the Tigers, I'd consider giving Porcello a short Triple-A tuneup, similar to what the club did with Max Scherzer(notes) in the middle of May.

Sean Rodriguez(notes) is quietly producing for the Rays, putting up nine runs and nine RBIs over his last 11 games. He's got 14 hits in his last 34 at-bats and he also carries two positions of eligibility (second base, outfield). Why not take a piece of the third-best offense in the majors if you can get it? Rodriguez is owned in just two percent of Yahoo! leagues at the moment.

Rodriguez was just one of the producers in Wednesday's laugher over Toronto – the Rays rolled up 15 hits and 10 runs in the lopsided affair. Carlos Pena(notes) went deep for the fourth time in three games and B.J. Upton(notes) posted a 4-2-2-0 line with his 18th stolen base. David Price(notes) didn't have his best stuff on the mound (five walks against four strikeouts) but he made it through six innings allowing just one run.

The Orioles are unveiling pitching prospect Jake Arrieta(notes) Thursday; good luck against the Yankees, kid. Arrieta posted a 1.85 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 73 innings at Triple-A Norwich, with 64 strikeouts against 34 walks over 73 innings. He'll need to force his way into the mixed-league argument.

The Angels knocked Dallas Braden(notes) around for 11 hits and five runs (four earned), and while Braden's perfect game a month back was one of the stories of the season thus far, it's also likely to go down as one of the major flukes of 2010. Braden is winless since that start, and he's carrying a 4.75 ERA and 1.42 WHIP with him over that span. He's still working the strike zone and forcing batters to beat him, but of late that hasn't been a problem for his opponents.

Justin Masterson(notes) is finally starting to justify the love; he threw a two-hit shutout against his former Red Sox mates Wednesday. If you're willing to take a run with him next week, he gets the Mets and Pirates.Trevor Crowe(notes) paced the Cleveland offense (and made up for his defensive lapses a day earlier), going 2-for-4 with three runs.

Kings of Pain: Jimmy Rollins(notes) (calf) is on pace for a rehab assignment starting Monday. The Phillies obviously will take any offensive reinforcements they can get. … Aramis Ramirez(notes) (thumb) and the disabled list finally met up; he went on the 15-day DL Wednesday. Ramirez admitted that continuing to play through the discomfort wasn't working. The Cubs have a host of fill-in options, between Jeff Baker(notes), Mike Fontenot(notes) and the just-recalled Chad Tracy(notes).Magglio Ordonez(notes) (side) remains day-to-day. Jim Leyland doesn't like to mess up his lineup card, so Ryan Raburn(notes) continues to hit third while Ordonez is out. … Brett Gardner(notes) (thumb) is considered day-to-day; X-rays on the thumb came back negative. … Josh Beckett(notes) (back) is expected to start throwing again Saturday, a step in the right direction. He's still a solid month away. … John Baker(notes) is going to have his elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews. … Derek Holland(notes) was forced to stop a bullpen session Wednesday when his shoulder started barking. … Kendry Morales(notes) is finally having his ankle surgery on Thursday. He's hoping to make a miracle return in 2010, but I wouldn't bother holding a roster spot for him in a non-keeper league. … Mark DeRosa(notes) (wrist) isn't going to have surgery right now but I'll be stunned if he's worth something to roto owners for the rest of 2010. … Rajai Davis(notes) (hamstring) remains day-to-day and obviously this is a troublesome injury for anyone who makes a living with their legs. … Corey Patterson(notes) (groin) was able to pinch-hit against the Yankees Wednesday. it remains to be seen how much longer the rebuilding club will devote at-bats to this guy. … Kris Medlen(notes) has a mild strain of his rotator cuff but for the moment he's still expected to make his next turn on Sunday. … Miguel Montero(notes) (knee) is making excellent progress on his rehab assignment and might be back with the Diamondbacks as soon as Sunday.

Speed Round: Raindrops cost us a pair of games on Wednesday, washing out the Padres-Mets and the Marlins-Phillies. San Diego and New York will play a day-night doubleheader on Thursday, while no makeup date has been set for Florida and Philadelphia. … Strasburg's last 30 pitches Tuesday: 25 strikes, five balls, seven strikeouts. Good grief. … Jose Guillen(notes) played his second game of the year in the outfield Wednesday. The Royals apparently will use him as a position player, at least some of the time, when they start playing in NL parks. … Beckham's double against Porcello was his first extra-base hit since April 29. Think about that for a second. … Buster Posey(notes) went 2-for-4 with a homer at Cincinnati, pushing his average up top .450. I know a 54-percent ownership level is significant already, but that number should be higher. … Matt Capps(notes) desperately needed a good week this week and thus far he's getting it; he recorded his second save in two days Wednesday, putting aside three of four Pirates. … Chad Qualls(notes) locked up Arizona's win and only walked one man in the ninth. Progress, amigos. The Snakes got the lead in the bottom of the eighth on Gerardo Parra's(notes) inside-the-park homer, a fluke play resulting from a scary collision between Atlanta outfielders Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward. A dazed McLouth had to leave the game, while Heyward was okay. … Josh Hamilton(notes) certainly loves the home cooking. He's got a .344/.389/.689 line in Arlington this year (with nine homers, one coming Wednesday), but the slash drops to .257/.307/.381 on the road. Most of the club has the same Jekyll-Hyde thing working; Texas is 22-11 at home and 10-16 on the road in 2010, and the team OPS drops 165 points away from Arlington. … There's my 1700-word take on the evening; feel free to add to the tapestry in the comments.

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