If you've been abused by Colorado's interim closers all year and you just want the pain to end, then we've got some good news: Huston Street(notes) is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment at Double-A Tulsa on Thursday. If all goes according to plan, he'll return to the Rockies on May 25, and we can put this ugly chapter in saves-chasing behind us.
Here are the details on Street's schedule via the Denver Post:
Tulsa: Thursday, Saturday, Tuesday (he will throw 2 innings on Tuesday).
Springs: Friday, Saturday.
At that point he will be re-evaluated. If there are no setbacks, he should be activated.
At the moment, Street does not sound like a man who expects a setback:
“My arm feels better than at anytime in spring. In hindsight, just playing catch now compared to then isn’t even comparable,” Street said. “I am not going to count my chickens until they hatch. But I am looking forward to getting back here soon.”
You know, if he did count his chickens, he might find that he has enough of 'em saved to pay for a shoulder exam in Nevada. Just something to consider.
In any case, Manuel Corpas(notes) could very well get the next save opportunity for the Rockies, even though he was a wreck on Monday night (L, 1.0 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, BB, K, HR, WP, HBP). Franklin Morales(notes) has picked up three saves in Street's absence, but he's dealing with shoulder inflammation and was unavailable on Monday.
Update No. 1 (May 12): Morales has landed on the DL due to the shoulder issue. According to the Denver Post, "The closer role will fall to Manny Corpas, though Tracy reserves the right to piece it together."
It should be clear that no one in the Rockies' bullpen has done enough to seriously challenge for Street's job. While Corpas' ratios have been solid (3.18 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 6.75 K/9), he's given up runs in three of his last four appearances. His placement on the grid below should not be interpreted as a vote of confidence…
• Brad Lidge(notes) is dealing with "stiffness" in his surgically repaired right elbow, so he wasn't available to pitch on Monday at Colorado. Jose Contreras(notes) shut the door on the Rox in a non-save situation. Here's Lidge discussing his recent stiffening, via MLB.com:
"Today it didn't feel great," Lidge said. "I'm not worried. It's some of the things hopefully we won't have to deal with for very long. Out of surgery, here and there, there might be something like that. I guess it's pretty normal. That's what they told me. Hopefully I'll be ready to go tomorrow."
Contreras has pitched in three straight, so he may not be able to pitch again on Tuesday. (Unless Charlie Manuel has him on the Brett Myers(notes) program, in which case he'll be available every day, indefinitely). On Monday night, Manuel told reporters, "Lidge can pitch and more than likely he'll be ready tomorrow. He's OK."
Update No. 2: Lidge was reportedly frustrated following a Tuesday throwing session; the Phils-Rockies game was postponed, so Contreras got the day of rest he probably needed. He's clearly your Phillies closer if Lidge can't go.
• White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has openly talked about taking the ninth inning away from struggling closer Bobby Jenks(notes), at least for a game or two. Jenks' velocity is just fine (95-96), but location-wise he's a disaster. Matt Thornton(notes) is Chicago's most dominant high-leverage reliever, though he's also the team's only respectable lefty. (The Sox just signed Alan Embree(notes) to a minor league deal, which could be interpreted as part of a wheel-play involving Thornton to the ninth). JJ Putz(notes) can play the experience card; Sergio Santos(notes) has out-pitched everyone thus far.
Ultimately, this could be the buy-low moment on Jenks. While threatening to remove him from the closer's role, the waffling Guillen also said, "You might see Bobby back." Jenks has been the subject of endless trade rumors over the past year; if/when his game-saving responsibilities are taken away, his value drops.
Update No. 3: When asked who would close prior to Tuesday's game, Guillen told reporters, "Depends who is the hitter." He then added, "If we have a situation comes up with (Michael) Cuddyer and righties, [Bobby] is going to be out there. But it depends who is out there." As it turned out, Thornton was needed to navigate the lefty-heavy heart of Minnesota's batting order on Tuesday; Jenks worked the ninth because a pair of right-handers (and Punto) were due up. He retired the first batter on a line-out, then allowed a pinch-hit double to Jim Thome(notes). Jenks then advanced the runner to third on a wild pitch, but he K'd Punto and recorded the final out on a grounder, earning the save. In his postgame comments, he urged you to chill:
"Everyone is hitting the panic button in April, so chill out. I don't want to say everything I want to say. But it was one bad game [on Sunday]. In the game before, I gave up a solo home run when the wind was blowing out at 20 mph. What are you going to do?
"I don't want to comment too much because I don't want to start anything," Jenks said. "But it was one game, and things happen."
• Neftali Feliz(notes) has strung together six consecutive scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and no walks since April 30. Meanwhile, Frank Francisco(notes) has given up three earned runs over his last two appearances (1.1 innings). Francisco's average fastball is two mph's slower than it was back in 2008, when he inherited the Texas closing gig. Never a good sign.
Update No. 4: Apologies for jinxing Feliz like that. Naturally, he blew a save opportunity on Tuesday night; the A's singled their way to a run, like cowards.
• By now you've heard that Kerry Wood(notes) has reclaimed the closer's chair for the Tribe. Chris Perez(notes) is clearly worth holding; Wood wasn't really lights-out in his short rehab stint, and he was a mess in his 2010 MLB debut (0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, K). Everyone knows that Wood is a trade chip, althought there's quite a price-tag attached ($10.5 million, plus a vesting option).
• For those still holding out hope for Michael Gonzalez(notes), here's an update on his status: He's throwing from 60-feet off flat ground, but there's been no mound activity yet. Alfredo Simon(notes) will not go quietly. He keeps getting late-inning outs for Baltimore.
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