I have mixed feelings about Don Mattingly's abilities as a manager, but I give him plenty of credit for how he tried to work the Dodgers' bullpen this year. Of course, Kenley Jansen is a better pitcher than Brandon League. Mattingly knew that was the case, yet he still thought his team was better off with League pitching the ninth and Jansen serving as the bridge. And I firmly believe he was right; Jansen is more valuable working in tie games and coming in to bail out the seventh-inning guys when they struggle than he is while being locked into the ninth.
All that said, League pretty much forced Mattingly's hand when he gave up four runs in a blown save and a loss last Monday against the Diamondbacks. If Mattingly had stuck with League after that, he would have been crucified in the media, and his position probably isn't secure enough to handle it right now.
Unfortunately for Mattingly, Jansen had to go and give up a game-tying homer Saturday in his second save chance after taking over the closer's role. Then League went on to pitch a scoreless 11th inning for his 14th save of the year. Also bad: in the first four games after making the switch, the Dodgers gave up a run in the eighth on three occasions. Previously, Jansen would have been the pitcher of choice in two of those games.
It probably sounds like I'm arguing for the Dodgers to go right back to League as closer, but I'm not saying that. Now that the Dodgers have made the switch, they might as well stick with it. League isn't a Jose Valverde; he doesn't need to be in the closer's role to have value. But the Dodgers do need to get him right no matter what direction they go in from here. Otherwise, they're going to struggle just to get to the ninth inning with a lead.
- The Rays are finally calling up Wil Myers after losing three out of four to his old club, the Royals, over the weekend. Myers was batting .327/.367/.673 with five homers in 55 at-bats for Triple-A Durham this month. He also stole four bases, bringing his season total to seven steals. I think Myers will have some difficulties hitting for average in the majors, and he'll be playing in a park that isn't overly kind to power hitters (though it's better for right-handers like Myers than left-handers). My guess is that he proves to be a fringe outfielder in mixed leagues this year.
With Myers up and playing regularly, Ben Zobrist will play mostly second base going forward, though that's been the case already this year (39 starts at 2B, 22 in RF, 4 at SS). Matt Joyce will man the other outfield corner, leaving Kelly Johnson and Luke Scott to battle for DH at-bats. A couple of weeks ago, that would have been really bad news for Scott. However, he's been better at the plate lately, while Johnson has suddenly gone ice cold. Those relying on Johnson in mixed leagues should consider looking elsewhere.
- Incredibly, it doesn't appear that Alex Cobb (concussion) will miss all that much time after that brutal liner to the head on Saturday. Still, the Rays will need either Jake Odorizzi or Alex Colome to fill in this week. If Cobb and David Price (triceps) both make it back by early July as hoped, it could spell the end of Chris Archer's stint in the rotation.
- Mike Zunino's Triple-A numbers suggested he wasn't quite ready for the majors and the scouty-types who watched him at Tacoma seemed to agree, but here he is as Seattle's new starting catcher and he homered Friday in his second game in the bigs. For now, Zunino figures to be a J.P. Arencibia-type hitter, except that he has to deal with batting in a poor lineup in a pitcher's park. He's a decent option in two-catcher mixed leagues, but I wouldn't suggest grabbing him in shallow leagues that play just the one catcher. He should be a top-10 fantasy catcher someday, but perhaps not until 2015.
- I don't know how many bullets Erasmo Ramirez has in his right arm this year, but the Mariners would be crazy to let him waste many more in the minors after he pitched 15 scoreless innings with a 14/1 K/BB ratio in his last two Triple-A starts. It's true that no one from the group of Jeremy Bonderman, Aaron Harang and Joe Saunders necessarily deserves to be replaced right now, but it's also true that Ramirez is better than all of those guys. He could be a big asset in mixed leagues when his time comes, and I don't think he'll have to wait much longer.
- With Tom Wilhelmsen struggling to throw strikes, the Mariners backed off him and went to Oliver Perez in a save situation Friday. The left-hander converted it for his first career save. Many would have preferred manager Eric Wedge went to Carter Capps instead, and I'd certainly be curious to see how Capps would fare in the ninth. Still, the fact is that he hasn't earned the Mariners trust against left-handed batters yet. As is, he's still in the mix for saves, but Perez looks like the favorite to get chances this week. As for Wilhelmsen, the job will be his to win back as soon as he gets his act together. His velocity remains excellent, and he could flip the switch at any time. I wouldn't go dropping him.
- Not only did Kevin Youkilis (back) and Mark Teixeira (wrist) experience setbacks for the Yankees last week, but it sounds like Curtis Granderson (finger) isn't progressing as quickly as hoped. He might not return until after the All-Star break. As for Teixeira, it looks like he'll give it another go this week. However, he's probably always going to be one bad swing away from season-ending surgery.
- Vinnie Pestano finally got his first save chance in three weeks as the Indians' fill-in closer on Sunday and converted it. It remains to be seen whether he'll get another, as Chris Perez (shoulder) made his first rehab appearance Saturday, pitching a scoreless inning for low Single-A Lake County. He'll probably be activated after just one more appearance, and while he may set up in his first couple of games back, he'll resume closing not long after.
- If Nick Swisher lands on the DL with his shoulder injury -- and really, even if he doesn't -- the Indians should give Lonnie Chisenhall another crack at the third base job. He's batting .432 in June and .387/.455/.673 in 101 at-bats overall for Triple-A Columbus. Factoring in defense, Mark Reynolds has been one of baseball's very worst players over the last five weeks. It's probably just a coincidence, but he was much more productive offensively while playing first base and DHing early on. He's hit .171 with seven RBI in 34 games as a third baseman.
- Anibal Sanchez wasn't quite right Saturday after skipping one start with shoulder stiffness, and I still don't understand why the Tigers put him on the mound in the first place. It's entirely possible that he'll land on the DL soon. It's what the Tigers should have done in the first place.
- Manager Jim Leyland showed exactly how much faith he had in Valverde on Sunday, when he got him up in the ninth yet stuck with Joaquin Benoit in a three-run game. Benoit, likely making things simpler than Valverde would have, retired four of the five Twins he faced for his fourth save. Valverde is still nominally the Tigers' closer and he might even rack up a few more saves, but he's also probably just one or two bad outings away from being released. Should that happen, Benoit is the likely stopgap, but Bruce Rondon, who has a 1.05 ERA in Triple-A, would probably get another chance to show what he can do in the majors.
- The Angels' Tommy Hanson showed his best fastball of the season while striking out eight Yankees on Saturday, but it still averaged a bit under 90 mph. While it's a nice surprise that he's been able to hold his own (4-2, 3.94 ERA in eight starts) despite the diminished velocity, I remain skeptical that it's going to last. He has the peripherals of a guy with a 5.00 ERA, and his shoulder probably isn't going to allow him to throw much harder.
- I'm not sure it happens within the next month or so, but there's a good chance Jonathan Singleton will finish the season as the Astros' first baseman. He's hit .271/.397/.627 with five homers in 59 at-bats for low-A Quad Cities and Double-A Corpus Christi since he returned from his 50-game marijuana suspension, and he was promoted to Triple-A on Sunday. George Springer is also making a good case for a trial as the Astros' center fielder after the All-Star break with his .298/.400/.595 line in Double-A. With 18 homers and 19 steals, he's on pace for a 30-30 season. The big issue there is that he's fanned 82 times in 242 at-bats, suggesting that he's not ready to handle major league breaking balls just yet.
- The Astros have been waiting for signs of life from Justin Maxwell (hand) before activating him from the disabled list; he's hit just .125/.167/.125 in nine minor league games. He still figures to return at some point this week, and when it happens, the Astros will likely demote Jimmy Paredes, who started just two games last week and is hitless since June 4.
- As expected, the Rangers are going to start having Jurickson Profar work in the outfield now that Ian Kinsler is back. If he were a lesser athlete, they probably would have sent him down to play there in the minors for a couple of weeks. As is, they think they can teach him the outfield while he remains in the majors. He stands to take at-bats away from David Murphy and maybe Leonys Martin once he gets comfortable tracking flies.
- Barring a setback, Texas will activate Mitch Moreland (hamstring) on Friday. Chris McGuiness will be sent down.
- Jarrod Dyson (ankle) has hit just .189/.250/.243 through nine games with Triple-A Omaha, delaying his return a bit, but he'll still be activated before the week is out. It's going to be interesting to see if the Royals demote David Lough to make room for him or if maybe they go with five outfielders and send down Mike Moustakas. I doubt they'll release Jeff Francoeur. That homer Sunday should buy him another month.
- My thinking is that the Cardinals just don't want it to be too easy. After all, if they clinch the NL's best record by Sept. 1, they may not be sharp for the postseason. So, yeah, go ahead and send Michael Wacha down and stick with Tyler Lyons. Let the NL's other clubs pretend they have a chance. Wacha will have a bit easier go of it in the minors and can have his innings managed, making him more likely to be of use come October. We should hear more from him before then anyway.
- Brandon Beachy's setback in his return from Tommy John surgery has saved the Braves from a tough rotation decision, at least for a little while. It doesn't sound like Beachy will be shut down for long, but now he'll most likely make at least two more minor league rehab starts before he's activated, pushing his return back until early July, if not u7ntil after the All-Star break. Kris Medlen owners can breathe easier for now. With Beachy unavailable for Tuesday's doubleheader, it sounds like reliever Alex Wood will get the nod against the Mets.
- That B.J. Upton has finally found his stroke (.250/.388/.575 with four homers and an 11/9 K/BB ratio in June) is bad news for Evan Gattis, who might be limited to about two starts per week until someone ahead of him gets hurt. At the moment, Gattis has just two hits in June. Of course, they've both been homers.
- The Dodgers felt the need Sunday to say that Yasiel Puig would likely remain in the majors after Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford return from their hamstring injuries, but since neither is coming back this week, Mattingly doesn't have to decide how he's going to divvy up playing time just yet. One thing is obvious: Andre Ethier could really use a hot streak right about now. He did have a pretty good week, going 10-for-23 with a homer.
- Hanley Ramirez's attempts to play through his latest hamstring injury haven't gone very well, and if the Dodgers had it to do all over again, they probably would have placed him on the DL last week. He's an iffy play in mixed leagues this week.
- The Brewers are hoping Ryan Braun won't miss more than the minimum 15 days with his thumb injury. In the meantime, Logan Schafer is a worthy option in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues. The Brewers will also need Caleb Gindl in the outfield this week, since it sounds like Norichika Aoki will miss time on paternity leave. Those in mixed leagues may want to take the initiative and reserve Aoki for the week.
- Even though he made it sound like he wouldn't, Ron Roenicke rushed Jim Henderson right back into the closer's role off the DL and the reliever took a blown save and a loss in his second appearance back. For better or worse, it's going to be Henderson's job going forward. However, it really should have remained Francisco Rodriguez's gig last week.
- I'm not even sure that was Roenicke's biggest blunder of the week, though. His handling of Rickie Weeks has shown incredible stubbornness at the expense of the Brewers' chances of winning. Weeks played every day for two months while performing terribly, and now that he's finally found his stroke, Roenicke let him sit four straight days last week. Weeks is hitting .417 with two homers in 24 at-bats this month, yet he got just one plate appearance from Wednesday-Saturday (Thursday was an off day). I suppose I can't put it all on Roenicke -- he must have the front office's backing -- but even if the Brewers have decided they're done with Weeks, they need to play him while he's hot and let him try to rebuild his trade value.
- The Diamondbacks have J.J. Putz (elbow) and Aaron Hill (hand) beginning rehab assignments. Putz will likely get a chance to regain his closer's role from Heath Bell if he shows he's healthy, but there's still good reason for skepticism there. Frankly, I think he's a long shot to contribute. That said, if the was dropped in your league, he isn't a bad flier. Hill could come off the DL on Friday. Martin Prado will resume playing third base primarily, and Josh Wilson will be dropped from the roster to make room.
- Johnny Cueto again bumped Tony Cingrani from the rotation Sunday, but the Reds have decided to keep the left-hander as a reliever this time. We'll see how long that lasts. Manager Dusty Baker had the perfect opportunity to get Cingrani some work in relief of Cueto on Sunday, but instead it was Alfredo Simon who pitched the final three innings in a 5-1 victory.
- Roy Oswalt concluded his stint in Double-A Tulsa's rotation with 8 1/3 scoreless innings Friday, making him 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA and a 25/7 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings over five starts. Now he's coming up to join the Rockies and face the Blue Jays on Wednesday. I expect that he'll be a decent enough NL-only pitcher, though he'll probably have a couple of painful outings in Coors Field along the way. He may give up too many homers to be useful in mixed leagues.
- Rafael Betancourt (groin) is at least another week away, so Rex Brothers should be in line for another couple of save chances.
- Not only is Josh Rutledge back in the Rockies' lineup as a result of Troy Tulowitzki's unfortunate rib injury, but he's hit first or second all three games since he returned from Triple-A. As Colorado's everyday shortstop for the moment, he's worth playing in all formats.
- With David DeJesus on the DL due to a shoulder strain, it'd make sense for the Cubs to give Julio Borbon a two-week look in center field. However, Ryan Sweeney is playing too well to allow that to happen. Both are left-handed hitters, so there's no platoon to be set up. It looks like it'll be Sweeney's job for the most part, giving him value in NL-only leagues. DeJesus is an obvious candidate to be traded next month. Ideally, Brett Jackson would be ready to take his spot then, but he's been a huge disappointment with his .228/.308/.381 line in Triple-A.
- As big as Kyle Blanks is, he still probably can't fill in for both Yonder Alonso (hand) and Carlos Quentin (shoulder) at the same time, which is a problem since Quentin appears likely to join Alonso on the DL. The Padres could recall Jaff Decker and let him contend with Chris Denorfia, Will Venable, Alexi Amarista and Mark Kotsay for OF at-bats for a little while. If so, he might have a little value in NL-only leagues.
- The bigger loss for the Padres would be shortstop Everth Cabrera, who injured a hamstring Sunday. Gregorio Petit figures to be called up if Cabrera lands on the DL, with the newly acquired Pedro Ciriaco getting most of the starts at shortstop. Mixed leaguers should sit Cabrera this week just to be safe. Ciriaco should have some short-term value in NL-only leagues if Cabrera goes on the DL.
- Three saves in six days suggests Steve Cishek is back as the Marlins' primary closer. Of course, there's a real chance he'll never get three save chances in six days again this season. As for the talk that the Marlins won't consider trading Cishek next month, I wouldn't put any stock in it. They'll want something substantial for him and they'll certainly hold on to him if they don't get any offers they like, but they're not making any relievers untouchable. My guess is that he'll stay, simply because he hasn't pitched well enough this year to command a big return.
- Carlos Zambrano isn't ready just yet, but he does have a 1.27 ERA in four minor league starts as he climbs through the Phillies farm system. In his first Triple-A outing Thursday, he allowed two runs in five innings, walking four in the process. He could join Philadelphia's rotation around July 1 if Jonathan Pettibone continues to struggle.
- Chase Utley (oblique) might come off the DL on Friday, though it's probably not a good enough bet to make him worth activating in NL-only leagues.
- Stephen Strasburg was a bit rusty in his return Sunday, throwing just 44 of his 82 pitches for strikes, but he was still effective in limiting the Indians to one run in five innings. That's the good news for the Nationals. The bad is that Bryce Harper (knee) seems like a long shot to return this week.
- The Giants still might get Angel Pagan (hamstring) back before the end of the month, but it doesn't look like it will happen this week. Andres Torres will keep on filling in.
-Pittsburgh's Starling Marte (ribs) was out of the starting lineup for a fourth straight day Sunday, but he did come in to get two at-bats off the bench. He can be kept active in all leagues this week.
- Brandon Cumpton's major league debut Saturday against the Dodgers was a modest success, but with Wandy Rodriguez (forearm) hopefully back by the end of the month, his time in the Pirates rotation should be short. He wouldn't be a very good bet for lasting success anyway.