That's Matt Thornton(notes) pictured over on the right, in obvious discomfort. He relieved Jake Peavy(notes) with one out in the ninth inning on Saturday with the White Sox leading the Royals, 5-4. Despite suffering spasms in his left triceps, Thornton ultimately earned the save while Bobby Jenks(notes) looked on, unneeded.
The decision to use the left-handed Thornton can be viewed as a matchup move — switch-hitter Alberto Callaspo(notes) was due up, followed by lefty-hitting Mitch Maier(notes) — but it's hardly a ringing endorsement of Jenks.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had previously threatened to use different combinations in the late innings, presumably based on L/R splits and the margin for error in a given situation. On Saturday, with the tying run on base, he preferred a spasming Thornton to a healthy Jenks. That should tell you something about Guillen's confidence (or lack thereof) in his putative closer.
We don't yet know his specific malfunction, but here's a scary paragraph from the MiLB.com recap of Double-A Tulsa's win over Arkansas:
Chris Malone, who had worked two scoreless relief innings, gave way to Huston Street in the bottom of the eighth for the Drillers. Street, who is on an injury rehabilitation assignment because of shoulder inflammation, struck out Carlos Colmenares before throwing two balls to Abel Nieves. After the second pitch, Street motioned to the Tulsa dugout. He was promptly removed and taken to the Tulsa clubhouse by trainer Austin O'Shea. There was no immediate word on what forced Street to leave the game.
Just when it seemed as if Street was set to restore order in the Colorado bullpen, he re-breaks. Drat. Interim Rockies closer Manuel Corpas(notes) earned his first save of the season on Saturday, pitching a clean (if K-less) inning against the Nats. Corpas' fantasy ratios are outstanding — 2.84 ERA, 0.87 WHIP — yet he still terrifies me. I wish it weren't so. His batting average on balls in play is an unsustainable .168, his K/BB is 1.89, his flyball percentage is uncharacteristically high (47.1), and his average fastball velocity is just 89.8 mph (although it was a bit better on Saturday).
And yet if you're chasing saves, you pretty much have to add the 13 percent-owned Corpas. He's the man in Street's absence. Again: Drat.
Update: Street suffered a groin strain, not an aggravation of the shoulder issue. The "His latest injury isn't believed to be serious," reports the Denver Post's Jim Armstrong. It obviously changes the timeline on his return, though. He was expected back on May 25; now we can't reasonably hope to see him until June.
Right elbow inflammation has forced Lidge to the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 10. There's no timetable here, and the Phillies have apparently not yet decided how to proceed. This from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
On Monday, Lidge will visit with doctors to decide if they will administer a cortisone shot or joint lubricant injection, or simply prescribe rest.
Lidge has already had a cortisone shot this season, at the end of spring training.
"There are treatments we can give for it, hopefully, exactly what we need," Lidge said. "It's frustrating it didn't go away on its own."
A recent MRI showed no structural damage in the elbow, but Lidge clearly has no business taking the mound in high-leverage situations if he's not at full strength. (He's no Matt Thornton).
Jose Contreras(notes) picked up the first save of his career on Saturday at Milwaukee, entering the game with runners at second and third and the tying run on-deck. Both of the outs recorded by Contreras were on strikeouts. He's been utterly dominant this season, striking out 18 batters and walking just two in 13.1 innings. The relief role clearly suits him, as his velocity has increased substantially on every pitch in the arsenal. (Details here via FanGraphs). Add him wherever possible. He has SP-eligibility and a clear opportunity to take over the ninth.
Well, it had to happen at some point. Simon finally allowed his first earned run of the season on Saturday — and then he gave up his second, third and fourth ERs on this no-doubt bomb by Austin Kearns(notes). That pitch was a gift. If he'd thrown a splitter like that in Wii, you'd see a little red exclamation point above his head. Here's Baltimore manager Dave Trembley discussing Simon on Sunday, via MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroldi (via Twitter):
Simon is available today if needed. "I can't say hes our closer the next 10x out there," Trembley said.
For those who are speculating, Koji Uehara(notes) figures to be next in line to close for the O's. Like Simon, he's SP-eligible. We should also note that Michael Gonzalez(notes) (shoulder) has made progress recently, finally throwing off a mound.
Photos via AP Images