Tony La Russa has yet to endorse Jason Motte as the full-time closer in St. Louis, but we can read between the lines. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Motte is the man you want under the arch.
Motte collected his third save of the year (and second in four days) in Tuesday's victory over Milwaukee, albeit it came during a messy ninth inning (three hits, one run, no strikeouts). But we'll cut Motte some slack for this appearance — it was the first time he's allowed an earned run since June 23. There were 33 clean appearances in the middle of all that, with 21 strikeouts against two walks. Motte is growing up before our eyes.
Fernando Salas never really had an extended blow up as the Cardinals stopper, but he's been seeing a lot of non-closing work lately. He pitched in the seventh inning Tuesday, retiring two of three batters, and he also saw a seventh-inning assignment on Sept. 1.
La Russa might be in his last season of managing in St. Louis, so he's not too interested in massaging egos or dealing with player development. He's going to use the most trusted arm in the big chair, and right now that's Motte. You can scoop up Motte in 81 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Bobby Parnell's closing hold in New York looks tenuous at best. The experimental stopper blew his second save in three chances Tuesday, and Terry Collins is prepared to give Parnell a day off to clear the cobwebs. Parnell's plus fastball and zesty strikeout rate speak to his potential in this role, but he's also carrying a 4.38 ERA and 1.58 WHIP around, along with a bloated walk rate (24 free passes in 49.1 innings). If Parnell needs an extended time out, Jason Isringhausen would likely step into the ninth, though the Mets have a cast of thousands that could be considered (Pedro Beato, Josh Stinson, Manny Acosta, etc).
• The Stephen Strasburg return lived up to the hype, as he posted five creamy-smooth bagels against the Dodgers in front of a jacked-up home crowd. Roll the film, Gary Gnu. Strasburg hit the high 90s on the gun, threw strikes on 40 of 56 pitches, allowed two hits, fanned four, and didn't walk anyone. It's a shame the bullpen couldn't hold Strasburg's 3-0 lead — he had to settle for a no-decison — but otherwise all the signs were good for the phenom. Look for a deeper appearance on the weekend, when Houston comes calling.
• So much for the Jesus Montero buzz. Joe Girardi gave the young DH the night off Tuesday, and Jorge Posada stepped up with a homer and a walk. Maybe there's something in the water in New York these days, because Francisco Cervelli also went deep for the Yanks. Phil Hughes got through a passable six innings against the scrubby Orioles (5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K) and he's at Seattle next week, if you're feeling frisky.
• The Giants are fighting for their playoff lives, and with that in mind Bruce Bochy managed Tuesday like it was the seventh game of the world series. Six relievers worked in San Francisco's 6-4 victory, including three men in the ninth. Ramon Ramirez was the last Giant standing, striking out Jesus Guzman and recording his fourth save of the year. The bullpen chairman is still free for pickup in 93 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
It's not easy to recommend anyone from the Giants offense these days, but maybe Jeff Keppinger is worth a look for those in need of a deep-league fill-in. Keppinger qualifies at second and short and he's hitting a shade under .300. His run production hasn't been anything great, but he does bat second most of the time for the Giants — in theory, a good spot. He's only owned in 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues, if you're chasing average or stuck at the middle spots.
• If you're living the stream, here are some Thursday arms to consider picking up: Mike Minor (24 percent) at New York, Ivan Nova (59 percent) at Baltimore, Luke Hochevar (10 percent) at Seattle and Julio Teheran (three percent), also at New York. The Braves and Mets also are possible at-bat streams, depending on your league rules and team needs. I'm not endorsing Chris Narveson (seven percent) against the Phillies.
Speed Round: Pedro Alvarez is back with the Pirates, if you want to collect a bunch of strikeouts; he went 0-for-3 Tuesday. He'll probably share time with Josh Harrison. … Mike Stanton (hamstring) pinch hit Tuesday but was immediately removed after drawing a walk. It's not clear when he'll be able to play again. … Rickie Weeks (ankle) should be back with the Brewers this weekend, though he won't be forced into regular action right away. … Francisco Liriano (shoulder) wants to return before the year ends, a crazy idea given where the Twins are in the standings. Hey, it's his shoulder. I'm out on him no matter what. … Carlos Quentin (shoulder) took batting practice Tuesday and hasn't given up on a return this month. Here's hoping Quentin doesn't mess anything up with the Dayan Viciedo story. … Hanley Ramirez (shoulder) will have surgery next week, which makes me leery on him for the beginning of 2012. … Coco Crisp (foot) is day-to-day, something we're all used to. … Gio Gonzalez has been money at home most of the year, but the Royals stung him for seven runs Tuesday. He draws the Angels next week. … David Murphy has taken advantage of the Nelson Cruz injury, going on a 13-for-25 binge in September with two homers and a stolen base. Murphy hasn't walked in that span, but he only has one strikeout. … The Red Sox say Josh Beckett has a sprained ankle and nothing worse — apparently his Achilles is fine. Beckett will miss one or two turns anyway, but he shouldn't be out for an extended period of time. … Jose Tabata has a fractured hand and might be down for the balance of the year. Alex Presley's playing time probably becomes more secure with this news. … Carlos Carrasco is headed for Tommy John surgery, wiping him out of your keeper-league plans. … Nick Hundley wants to help you, gamer. He homered in San Diego's loss, giving him four taters and a .391 average over his last 21 game. He's free for the taking in 89 percent of Yahoo! leagues. … Happy birthday, Wade Davis. Happy birthday, Mark Prior. Happy birthday, Moon.
Images courtesy Associated Press