Folks, we're taking a Closing Time-by-committee approach over the next few days. Scott is on tour with his Sheila E cover band, rocking the Midwest college circuit. It's the Picador in Iowa City on Friday, then Kam's in Champaign on Saturday ($5 in advance or $10 at the door). Tonight you're stuck with me. On Sunday, Funston checks in. Let's get to some bulletry...
• Astros closer Jose Valverde (calf) will be out of action for at least another three weeks. In his absence, LaTroy Hawkins is the first option for saves. We all know that Hawk has a spotty history in the ninth, but his stuff is certainly closer-quality. If you put together the best attributes of any two guys in the Nationals bullpen, you still might not have a pitcher as good as Hawkins. Whenever he can't go, Doug Brocail and Chris Sampson enter the discussion.
As for Valverde, an MRI revealed multiple hematomas in his right calf, so he had a little maintenance performed. This from the Houston Chronicle:
Though Valverde had 20 cc’s of fluid drained from the calf, the Astros announced that "Dr. Lintner said that there is still approximately 60 cc’s of fluid remaining, which could not be removed during today’s procedure. On Friday afternoon, the doctors will make a small incision in order to drain the remaining fluid."
Yeah, gross. But I read it, so now you have to. No word on the current whereabouts of all those Valverde drippings. A few cc's in a decorative vial would be quite the collectible for the Astros fan in your household.
• Here's the good news regarding Matt Laporta: He's been called up, and he'll join Cleveland tomorrow. And here's the bad news: According to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince, "[Eric] Wedge said LaPorta will serve as a complement to David Dellucci."
Right on cue, Dellucci went 4-for-5 tonight. Jerk. LaPorta would have the less-interesting side of the platoon. He's among the game's most intriguing power prospects, though, and he was hitting .333/.414/.640 at Triple-A Columbus. LaPorta impressed last year at Double-A, too. If he's available in your league, LaPorta is a fine speculative add right now. We've covered this territory before.
The Tribe also called up Triple-A second baseman Luis Valbuena to fill a utility role. He was hitting .321/.436/.538 for Columbus, and he'll likely audition for an everyday role in 2010. The 23-year-old has respectable power and speed (11 HR, 18 SB in the high minors in '08) and he gets himself on-base at a nice rate (.382 OBP last year). Valbuena is a fair dynasty add. I picked him up in a deep-ish AL-only league, but it was a desperation move.
• Rich Harden lost the strike zone against the Marlins today (86 pitches, 50 strikes, 4 BB), prompting our friends at Baseball Prospectus to wonder if he's hurting, or merely fatigued. Harden has met expectations so far (3.86 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 35 Ks in 21 IP), and it's worth noting that his velocity actually dipped a few times last season, leading to Roto Arcade freakout. Still, it would be nice if the Cubs could skip a Harden start sometimes soon. Next week is booked (no off-days), but the following week presents an opportunity.
Both of the injured Ramirezes, Hanley and Aramis, made cameo appearances today, and they each went 0-for-1. Kevin Gregg recorded his second save of the season, and he's delivered the same line in both games: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
• Ex-closer Joel Hanrahan has now pitched in non-save situations in back-to-back losses to St. Louis. Today he worked a perfect ninth, striking out two batters. It would be no great shock if that job eventually came back around to him. Or to Rocky Biddle.
"I will hit. I'm that confident," he said. "It's not a slump because I'm not striking out and I'm hitting the ball hard. A slump is when you go 0-for-20 with 12 strikeouts and don't hit the ball hard."
• White Sox leadoff man Chris Getz (broken finger) returned to the lineup and picked up right where he left off, going 2-for-5 with an RBI triple in the seventh inning.
Check out the clip of Jim Thome's bases-clearing, game-tying double off Derek Holland. Unexpected proof that Thome can still hit a mid-90s fastball -- and from a lefty, too.
• In LA, struggling starters Jake Peavy and Clayton Kershaw both pitched well, combining for 15 scoreless frames and allowing only six hits between them. Both walked away with no-decisions in the Dodgers 1-0 win.
• Chris Iannetta has now homered in back-to-back games for the Rockies, but no one did any damage against Randy Johnson. The Unit had nine Ks in seven scoreless innings, earning his 297th career win. Pablo Sandoval (swine groin) was in the lineup, and he went 2-for-4. You know he's OK because the big man tripled.
• As expected, Clint Hurdle removed Manuel Corpas from the closer's role, and handed the keys to the ninth back to Huston Street. Hurdle is an amusing fellow:
"It's another month, so I want to change closers once a month," Hurdle said with a smile. "It's May 1, so I think it's appropriate. Just kidding. Huston has made progress, Manny has not."
I'm sure that's funnier if you don't own Manny Corpas. According to the Denver Post, he won't be pitching many important innings for a while:
"It’s not the eighth inning," Hurdle said of Corpas' role. "He’s not pitching well enough to be the eighth inning guy right now. We're going to try to get him more right-handers than left-handers. We're going to try to maybe go double innings with him from time to time for like a volume of pitches, kind of the way we brought him up, and see where that takes us."
Abreu singled and walked twice, departing with what was described as lower back tightness after stealing his second base of the night -- he's 11-for-11 in thefts -- in the sixth.
There's no cause for alarm just yet; Abreu doesn't miss many games.
Brian Fuentes failed to retire a batter in the ninth against New York, allowing a walk and three consecutive singles. Jorge Posada hit a lifeless 90 mph fastball into left for the game-winner. Fuentes' ERA soared to 7.88, though he had only allowed one run in his previous five innings. Hurdle probably would have demoted him twice already.
Photos via Getty Images