Closing Time: Temp for hire in Tampa

There are 1,000 stories in the Rotisserie City on any given night. I'll get to as many of them as I can . . .

By now you probably know about Troy Percival's right knee sprain, though the verdict on his status won't come down until at least Friday. The Rays' official team site is reporting that a DL trip is likely; Percival was wearing a brace Thursday night, and had crutches in his locker. Joe Maddon has shown full-fledged committee tendencies when Percival has been unavailable this year, so look for Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour to both get chances. Balfour's glittering stat line would make him my first pick if I had one roster spot to play with, but I'm not expecting Maddon to go with a dedicated replacement.

Jose Valverde has rallied nicely since his six-run explosion against the Pirates back on July 21. He's allowed just one run over his last nine appearances, pounding the strike zone and getting ahead in the count more consistently. He recorded his 30th save of the year Thursday, and while no one expects much from this Houston team, the Astros have won 16 out of 20. They're still 7.5 games out of the Wild Card, however, and behind four clubs.

Jesse Litsch was effective in his return to the majors, shutting out the Tigers for seven innings Thursday. But it's hard to take it too seriously when you see a mere three strikeouts at the end of the column, and keep in mind Litsch had just seven whiffs in his four starts prior to his demotion. He's kept the ball on the ground fairly well and he doesn't walk many batters, but mix in 17 homers and the AL hitting environment and I can't justify going to Litsch in any mixed league.

Recently-recalled outfielder Chris Dickerson carried the Cincinnati offense on Thursday, collecting three hits (two doubles, one triple) and figuring in a couple of runs. He's got wheels (26 steals in minors) and will hit near the top of the order when he plays, but keep in mind Dusty Baker is often reluctant to play rookies (it matters not that Dickerson is 26), and Dickerson struggles against left-handed pitching and could easily fall into a platoon.

For some guys, a .295 average, 24 homers and 92 RBIs are great numbers by mid-August. For Miguel Cabrera, it's a disappointing year. Cut the big cat some slack, however: he's got an outstanding line since the All-Star break (.327/.309/.618, eight homers, 35 RBIs), and there's always some sort of adjustment period when you switch leagues.

It's been a tale of two months for Chase Headley, the highly-touted rookie with the Padres. He basically hacked at any pitch he saw over his first three weeks with the big club - he didn't draw any walks over his first 22 games - but he's taken a different approach since then. His .261 run over the last month might not sound like much, but he's drawn 16 walks over that span and trimmed his strikeouts. In deeper leagues, he's a legitimate person of interest over the final quarter of the year. Headley didn't look too shabby against Ben Sheets Thursday, rapping out a couple of hits.

Injury Lap: Aramis Ramirez left Thursday's game with a sore hip after an awkward slide, but he's not too worried about it. He homered before he left the game . . . Jhonny Peralta is considered day-to-day after taking a pitch on the left hand . . . Brad Penny's shoulder isn't right and he's back on the disabled list . . . Tough times for the Texas catchers: Gerald Laird is sitting with a sore back, while Jarrod Saltalmacchia has been playing with a small fracture in his right foot . . . Yorvit Torrealba has a torn meniscus in his left knee, which should lead to more playing time down the stretch for intriguing Chris Iannetta . . . Cristian Guzman (thumb) was a scratch Thursday and figures to miss a few games. Ronnie Belliard is the temporary replacement, though the Nats are trying to work out a waiver deal involving him (reportedly with the Dodgers) . . . David DeJesus is battling a sore back, not to mention a 1-for-16 slump . . . Billy Wagner's first Double-A rehab outing was a success: 1-2-3 inning, strikes on 11 of 16 pitches . . . Jacoby Ellsbury (tailbone) sat for the third straight night, while his teammates continued to hammer the Texas staff without him . . . Ryan Braun (ribs) hit off a tee Thursday and hopes to play some in Los Angeles . . . Shane Victorino (stiff back) missed his second straight start, though he was able to pinch hit . . . San Diego's Chris Young (forearm) hit the DL and is probably done for the year.

The Orioles placed a host of their roster on waivers (a fairly routine thing in August), and Aubrey Huff was one notable player who passed through, according to the Baltimore Sun. This frees up the Orioles to trade Huff to a contender before the Aug. 31 deadline, with Huff maintaining post-season eligibility. The Orioles also were able to pass Jay Payton, Jamie Walker and Kevin Millar through, according to the report, but George Sherrill was exposed, claimed, and then pulled back - so he'll be sticking with the club.

And speaking of waivers, the window has closed and the Mariners will be keeping Raul Ibanez (crowd cheers) and Jarrod Washburn (crowd boos). If Ibanez refuses arbitration and becomes a free agent over the winter, the Mariners will get picks when he leaves. Washburn's terrible contract remains on the Seattle books for another year, however.

Speed Round: Ty Wigginton started his fourth game of the year in left field Thursday, so he's closing in on a fourth position of eligibility. He kept the bat going, with two hits and a run scored . . . If you want to rattle Jake Peavy, try to do it away from Petco Park (1.42 ERA). He threw seven superb innings against Milwaukee Thursday and moved ahead of Tim Lincecum in the ERA race . . . I don't care if you're a White Sox fan or not, it's pretty cool when four guys go deep in a row . . . Dan Haren now pitched well in both of his Colorado starts, not that it's any great surprise . . . Todd Wellemeyer wasn't overpowering but he was effective at Florida (7.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 3 K). Tony La Russa got cute for the last four outs (three different pitchers) so there was no save for the 3-0 win . . . Rocco Baldelli didn't start Thursday, but he wound up playing eight innings, and he made a dynamite catch in right field . . . Oliver Perez really has the slider biting right now, and served up another tasty line at Washington (6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 8 K) . . . For all of Johnny Cueto's missteps this season, there is something intriguing about 136 strikeouts over 145 innings. He allowed one run over five innings Thursday and grabbed his eighth win . . . Carlos Pena is slugging .620 with nine homers since the break, and he hit two game-deciding bombs in the Oakland series.

Hiroki Kuroda is another pitcher who loves the home cooking. He dominated the Phillies over seven innings Thursday (2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K) and picked up his seventh win of the year. He's carrying a 3.10 ERA and 0.94 WHIP at Chavez Ravine, but the numbers inflate to 4.75 and 1.54 on the road. Hong-Chih Kuo worked the last two frames for the save; he's been sharing the late-inning work with Jonathan Broxton over the last week (in part because LA has had so many leads to protect).

Three left-over handshakes and then we're shipping it out: Trevor Hoffman (26), Francisco Cordero (23), Trever Miller (1; not many guys were left for Maddon to call on). Ice down those arms and shoulders and we'll catch you Friday.

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