April 11, 2010
The Rangers had no need for a ninth-inning relief hero in its Sunday afternoon rout of the sinking Mariners, but had they required the services of a closer, that man would have been 21-year-old Neftali Feliz(notes). The fireballer with the 96 mph average fastball has been appointed the team's temporary closer while Frank Francisco(notes) works through his generosity issues – 7 H, 2 BB, 6 ER allowed in his past 1 IP.
Feliz was two-for-three in save opps and whiffed 39 batters in 31 IP in his two-month Texas debut last season. Simply put, he has the makings of a fantastic closer. But Rangers manager Ron Washington went out of his way to emphasize the fact that this will only be a temporary gig for Feliz.
"He’s our closer until I get Frankie back there," said Washington before Sunday's game. "Frankie will be the closer of the Texas Rangers. We’re just giving him a chance to get himself together."
Washington actually explains in greater detail than you typically get from a manager his expectations for a Francisco return in this AP story.
In terms of actionable fantasy advice, the obvious point here is to grab Feliz, if he is available. But he entered the day rostered in 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and you can count on that gap having closed considerably throughout the course of the day.
As for Francisco owners, you should probably keep him around in competitve leagues of 12 teams or more. If we're to believe that Washington won't end up falling in love with Feliz as the ninth-inning option, then Francisco may only be a couple weeks, or a handful of quality outings, away from getting his job back.
• Cleveland's Chris Perez(notes) hoped to close out Detroit on Sunday, but instead he walked three batters, allowed a single and a double along the way and let the Tigers' winning run score from third on a wild pitch to rookie Scott Sizemore(notes) with two outs. After a seamless two saves in as many opportunities coming into Sunday, we finally got to see the dark side of Perez. Control issues have been his bugaboo during his short career – 53 walks in 101.2 IP. If he's going to Wally Pipp the injured Kerry Wood(notes), his control lapses have to be at a much more manageable level. He could have survived a couple hits and a walk on Sunday. But instead, after he walked Ramon Santiago(notes) to load the bases with two outs, he let the situation consume him. The next batter, pinch hitter Johnny Damon(notes), was walked on four pitches and then the wild pitch to Sizemore followed to end things.
"I can’t walk Santiago in that situation," Perez said. "He’s a bench player, and I’ve got to make him hit the ball with two out, but everything was leaking away from me, and I just couldn’t make the right adjustment. The same thing happened with Damon."
In reality, Perez could afford to walk Santiago in that situation – first base was open and the lead was still in tact. His comment about Santiago being a bench player leads me to question his focus. Bench players end up hurting opposing teams on a daily basis in the majors. He shouldn't be dwelling on the fact that he let a "bench" player get the better of him. His sole purpose is to preserve a lead, and he still had it even after walking Santiago. But it seemed clear that the walk to Santiago messed Perez up in a big way.
• Drew Stubbs(notes) is a thing of beauty on the base paths. He stole two bases against Cubs lefty Tom Gorzelanny(notes) on Sunday. In doing so, he displayed excellent timing on his jumps, a smooth stride and little wasted motion from start to finish. Oh, and I should mention that the dude can flat out fly. He's a special base stealing talent, no doubt. Unfortunately, his ability to make consistent contact is not so special. He whiffed three times on Sunday, his second straight game with a K hat trick.
• Reds manager Dusty Baker opted to go with Jay Bruce(notes) as a pinch-hitter in a 1-1 tie, one-out, bases loaded situation in the bottom of seventh inning against Cubs lefty Sean Marshall(notes). Consider this just more fuel for the fire for all the Baker second-guessers – and, let's be honest, isn't that pretty much everybody? Bruce is a career sub-Mendoza Line hitter against southpaws and he stepped into the box on Sunday with an 0-for-3 line against lefties this season. The Reds announcers speculated that Baker might have been trying to get Bruce's confidence going considering that if Bruce ended up putting wood on the ball, there was a very good chance he'd drive in a run even if he got out. Of course, Marshall ended up striking Bruce out, and the way Bruce was seen muttering to himself and pacing when he got back to the dugout, you have to think that his confidence against lefties has sunk even lower.
• Gorzelanny put forth a nice effort in the Cubs' 3-1 loss to the Reds, striking out seven and not allowing an earned run in 6.2 innings of work. He did allow an unearned run when left fielder Alfonso Soriano(notes) let what should have been an easily-caught fly ball by Jonny Gomes(notes) bounce out of his glove with one out, two-on in the seventh inning. Said one of the Reds announcers of Soriano's glove work, "That's just embarrasing." Soriano also struck out twice and went hitless to lower his season average to .143.
• Not to belabor the Reds-Cubs affair, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Reds starter Mike Leake's(notes) major league debut – the Reds' top draft pick last year became the first pitcher since Darren Dreifort in 1994 to make his MLB debut without having played in the minors. Among other things, Leake is lauded for his composure, no doubt one of the main reasons the Reds felt he could handle bypassing the minor leagues. He showed that cool under pressure by pithing out of multiple jams on Sunday to finish with just one run allowed in 6.2 innings. But he walked seven batters and, from my way of thinking, he spent way too much time and energy trying to nibble the outside corner on Sunday. Leake's a control pitcher with a deep bag of tricks but he's not overpowering, and it might not be an unreasonable approach for him to try to live on the outside. But I'd feel a lot better about how he pitched today if he had shown an ability to work inside on ocassion.
• Florida closer Leo Nunez(notes) managed to close out the Dodgers with a scoreless ninth to preserve a 6-5 lead. He allowed a hit and walk to make things interesting, but he knuckled down when things got tight and relied on seven straight change-ups to finish out the game unscathed. In the process, he got the benefit of some questionable calls from the home plate umpire. But there's nothing that says a save has to be pretty.
• Speaking of knuckling down, Dodgers starter Charlie Haeger(notes), a knuckleballer, fanned seven of the first 10 Marlins he faced and finished with 12 strikeouts, and three earned runs allowed, in a six-inning no-decision. I watched a couple innings of his outing and he definitely had his floater jumping – twice he allowed batters to reach first base after a swinging Strike 3 because the catcher wasn't able to hang on to the ball. Haeger also flashed the ocassional mid-80s fastball, which is a notch above your average knuckler's fastball velocity, so it's at least something for hitters to think about. But Haeger has less than 60 IP at the major league level and his minor league track record is a bit spotty (control-wise), so don't consider him much more than a curiosity yet.
• After a diving catch by left fielder Willie Harris(notes) bailed out Washington closer Matt Capps(notes) from a bases loaded situation on Saturday, Capps worked a perfect ninth Sunday to pick up his third save of the season. Capps was roughed up last season and this spring, marking him as an early-exit closer by many in the fantasy community. And, man, did you see teammate Tyler Clippard(notes) blow away seven Mets in three innings of relief on Saturday to set up Capps? It's easy to envision Clippard's high heat filling a ninth-inning role for the Nats. But give Capps credit. He hasn't allowed a run in four outings this season and, for now, there's no closer controversy in Washington.
• Bobby Jenks(notes) avoided a blown save against Minnesota on Sunday, thanks to negligent base running by J.J. Hardy(notes). With Hardy on first base with two outs in the ninth and Chicago protecting a 5-4 lead, Twins pinch hitter Jim Thome(notes) drilled a two-strike offering by Jenks into the left-centerfield gap. But Sox left fielder Juan Piere got the ball in to cutoff man Mark Teahen(notes) quickly – in fact Teahen got the ball just a beat after Hardy hit third base. Hardy, who didn't think third baseman Teahen, or any other Sox infielder for that matter, would be in position to cut the ball off because of the big shift put on for Thome, continued home as the throw to catcher A.J. Pierzynski(notes) beat him by roughly half a baseline.
"It just turned out that Teahen goes back out there as the relay guy. It’s probably a play that no one’s ever practiced it and it worked out for them," Hardy said.
• Tip of the cap to old school ace Roy Halladay(notes), who became the first pitcher to record a complete game this season. In the 2-1 victory over the Astros, Halladay needed just 111 pitches (0 walks). In addition, he yielded 11 ground balls to just 5 fly balls and Houston did not record an extra-base hit.
• How bad is the Houston offense? Well, consider this: The Arizona Diamondbacks scored as many runs (13) in one inning against Pittsburgh on Sunday as the Astros have scored all season. You could argue that a better question would be, how bad is the Pirates pitching? Pittsburgh now sports a jumbo-jet sized 7.47 ERA after its 15-6 shellacking on Sunday.
• Albert Pujols(notes) and Matt Holliday(notes) hit back-to-back, two-out ninth inning home runs off Milwaukee closer Trevor Hoffman(notes) to erase a three-run deficit and tie up the score with the Brewers at 7-7. I was tempted to push this Closing Time live before the conclusion of this last game of the day, but I knew better than to assume any lead is safe when Pujols is involved. Casey McGehee(notes) bailed Hoffman out with a walk-off shot in the bottom of the ninth, but after blowing a save on Friday to the Cards, Hoffman surely can't head out to Chicago for the next series fast enough.
Quick hits: Colleague Andy Behrens called Aroldis Chapman's(notes) Triple-A debut on Sunday "dazzling." But a blunder by Chapman cost him the win, as Behrens explains … You might also be interested in Behren's take on another mega-hyped pitcher making his Double-A debut on Sunday … outfielder Jose Guillen(notes) was one of Sunday's top hitting stars, banging out two home runs and driving in four runs in a loss to Boston. If Guillen gets bumped back up into a clean-up role, he becomes a very interesting waiver wire commodity, if he hasn't already. He battled injuries last season but he had back-to-back seasons of 20-plus home runs and 97-plus RBIs prior to '09. He's healthy now at a not-yet-over-the-hill 33 years of age and he's in a contract year … Good day for owners of Arizona's Chris Young (HR, 4 RBI). Bad day for owners of San Diego's Chris Young (DL – shoulder tightness) … Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez(notes) had to leave Sunday's 4-2 victory over San Diego after three innings because of tightness in his hammy. Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) left Sunday's victory over Kansas City in the ninth inning after taking an Adrian Beltre(notes) knee to the ribs after the two collided while chasing a fly ball. While both are likely minor injuries, as a fantasy owner, I'll take the bruised ribs over hamstring tightness any day.
Before I turn things over to y'all, I've got to give props to Phil Mickelson, who outplayed Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and a host of others on Sunday to win his third Masters title. I'm not a huge fan of watching golf, but that changes for the majors and especially The Masters. And I'm always willing to stop and watch Mickelson anytime I happen to catch him on the tube. To me, he's the most exciting golfer in the game. Sure, when Tiger is on, he's an unrelenting machine and his intimidation factor is off the charts. But there's an unpredictability to Mickelson's game – his ability to shoot a ball into an impossibly bad situation without warning and an equal ability to make an unbelievable rescue shot to save himself – that makes him more interesting to watch than anyone else out there.
Alright, I've had my say. What say you?
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