Closing Time: Zimmermann impresses, Kershaw struggles, and another Cub breaks

The world needs another Yankees-Red Sox national broadcast about as much as Brian Scalabrine needs a tighter jersey. My original intention was to ignore the late game altogether, but, well … there's no way we can avoid linking to the highlight of Jacoby Ellsbury's straight steal of home. That was thrilling. Now let's please move on …

Nats rookie Jordan Zimmermann was excellent again. The 22-year-old beat the Mets in a five-strikeout effort, and he established ownership of David Wright in the process (0-for-4, three Ks). And this on a day when Manny Acta said of Zimmermann, "He didn't have his usual command."

He did, however, have the usual 94-95 mph fastball, plus the curve and the slider. Follow the link, play the video, and appreciate some of the nastiness – especially the curve that finished off Wright for the third time. The well-hyped Zimmermann had a terrific spring (14.1 IP, 3.14 ERA, 20 K, 2 BB) yet he remains available in 38 percent of PLUS leagues. He's not a bad trade chip right now while the ERA is low (2.38). He'll get the Cardinals and Dodgers next.

Outfielder Cody Ross pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Marlins, who trailed Philadelphia 13-1 at the time. Let's hope Matt Lindstrom felt shame. (He's still the closer, by the way). Ross also went 3-for-4 at the plate, bumping his average to .258. After homering in consecutive games, Dan Uggla went 2-for-4. The buy-low window has closed.

Let's just say that this was not a productive week for those of us who started Clayton Kershaw. He's given us nine innings of pure bad: 16 H, 15 ER, 6 BB, 7 K. As's Ken Gurnick points out, that's more earned runs in one week than Kershaw allowed at Double-A last season. After the mauling at Coors, Kershaw retreated to the comfort of sports clichés:

"You've got to put it behind you. You come to the field tomorrow and do your work and move on and look to your next opponent. It's not easy. You're disappointed you let the team down and lost the game. It's something you've got to get over. By the time the fifth day rolls around, you've got to be ready."

Kershaw's next two starts should be against the Padres and Nats, so don't completely lose hope.

You're a few days late to add and/or activate the 48 percent owned Justin Upton. The 21-year-old hit a first inning bomb off Randy Johnson on Saturday, and he reached base in four of his five plate appearances on Sunday (2-for-2, 1 HR, 2 BB). His game-tying homer off Brian Wilson in the ninth certainly made it over the wall in a hurry.

Upton struggled this spring, then opened the season 0-for-12. But today's effort finally nudged his batting average over .200.

Early in the game, Arizona broadcaster Daron Sutton offered this Upton-related nugget: "He has the green light [to steal]. He is free to go." Upton swiped 36 bases in 231 minor league games, but he's only attempted seven steals in the big leagues.

Aaron Laffey is a favorite of ground ball fetishists, and he delivered his third straight respectable start today (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 12 GB). But those three starts have been against Kansas City (twice) and Minnesota, two of the AL's weaker lineups. The problem with Laffey, at least in 5X5 roto leagues, is that he won't offer Ks, and you can't devote many innings to pitchers with low strikeout rates (career 4.40 K/9). Laffey faces Detroit next week.

With Brian McCann on the DL, David Ross has some appeal for power purposes, though only in the deepest formats. Ross homered off Micah Owings on Sunday, and he's on a mini-binge.

Jose Valverde earned a mostly uneventful save, one day after a blown save against Milwaukee. Doug Brocail (shoulder) and Valverde (ankle/calf) are both back in action for Houston, so maybe LaTroy Hawkins can finally get a day off.

Update, 4/27: It was an uneventful save, except for the part where he he had to hop over to first base because he was in pain. Video here. Expect a few more off-days. We'll have more on this later in Closing Thoughts.

Milwaukee activated closer Trevor Hoffman from the DL, but he didn't make an appearance on Sunday.

White Sox second baseman Chris Getz fractured the tip of his right middle finger on Saturday, but according to the team's website, he insists that he's just "day-to-day." Obviously a DL trip can't be ruled out. When asked if top prospect Gordon Beckham could potentially get a call-up, this was Ozzie Guillen's reaction:

"I don't think so," Guillen said. "This kid should play a full season down there [in Double-A]. If you see Beckham in the big leagues, we are in trouble. I want this kid to be a real big league player. I don't want him to come here and fill up a spot and then go back to the Minor Leagues. If we have to do that, we will do that. But I don't think we should."

Mike Aviles finally hit his first homer of 2009. Tigers closer Fernando Rodney served it up, but Detroit held on for a 3-2 win. Ryan Perry lowered his ERA to 1.42 with a scoreless eighth, and he hit 98 mph on the gun.

Joakim Soria did a little throwing on Sunday, but nothing stressful. Trey Hillman revealed little about his closer's timetable. Juan Cruz has now pitched in back-to-back games (and he wasn't protecting leads), so he may not be available on Monday.

The Cubs are really not the healthiest team right now. Aramis Ramirez (calf), Carlos Marmol (knee) and Milton Bradley (groin) have been sidelined lately, although both Ramirez and Marmol could return during this week's Arizona series. Derrek Lee left today's game with neck spasms, but it's not considered a DL situation just yet. Micah Hoffpauir, who had been filling in for Bradley, can now fill in for Lee.

Howie Kendrick owners should relax. He's fine. The Angels second baseman went 3-for-5 with a homer on Sunday against the apparently not unhittable Jarrod Washburn (5.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 0 K).

Adam LaRoche had some oddly candid comments about Jake Peavy following the Pirates 8-3 win. This from

"I've never seen Peavy pitch like that. I've faced him a ton and I've never seen him pick or nibble at the corners the way he did," Adam LaRoche said. "When I've seen him really dominate, he's pitching off that fastball. For some reason today, he must have really not been feeling it. He went to that slider a lot and fell behind quite a bit."

That's two rough outings in a row from Peavy. But velocity wasn't an issue on Sunday, and Peavy later said, "The numbers say I'm struggling. In my mind I am not far off where I want to be." This is not the time to sell.

Homer Bailey refuses to simply go away. He struck out 15 Toledo Mud Hens in 6.1 innings on Sunday, though it was his first truly impressive stat line of the season. Elsewhere in Triple-A, David Price was ineffective for the first time this year (3.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K). Price was working with a 75-pitch limit.


Photos via Getty Images

What to Read Next