The Skinny: Closer carousel

Matt Romig
1st Chair: Ambiorix Burgos
2nd Chair: Mike MacDougal, Andy Sisco
Skinny: Burgos didn't pitch above low Class-A a year ago, but it appears he is Kansas City's closer for now. "I will go for it," manager Tony Pena told the Kansas City Star when asked how me might use the recently recalled youngster. Go for it he did, inserting Burgos in the ninth inning on Saturday with the score tied 2-2. He responded with one strikeout and a scoreless inning in his Major League debut against the White Sox. Jeremy Affeldt is still out with a strained groin and has yet to begin throwing.
1st Chair: Derrick Turnbow
2nd Chair: Mike Adams, Matt Wise
Skinny: Turnbow earned his first Major League save the hard way on Sunday, striking out Pedro Feliz with two aboard to end the eighth and then fanning Marquis Grissom to end the game after allowing two to reach base in the ninth. After the game, manager Ned Yost sounded like a guy who had found a new closer. "I would say if we got a save situation in the ninth inning, Turnbow is going to be pitching," Yost told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Adams began the season as closer, but has struggled lately with his command. His velocity is down and he walked three on Sunday before giving way to Tommy Phelps.
1st Chair: Chad Fox
2nd Chair: Mike Remlinger, Michael Wuertz
Skinny: One-run leads proved to be LaTroy Hawkins' undoing. When Jason Bay tied Saturday's game with a home run into the wind at Wrigley Field, it marked the 10th time in 16 chances that Hawkins has failed to protect a one-run advantage. Manager Dusty Baker tired of looking for answers and started searching for alternatives. On Sunday, Chad Fox was his guy, and Fox was up to the task. Baker says he'll guard against overworking his new closer, so there's a chance we might see Wuertz from time-to-time in the ninth inning. He saved 19 games at Triple-A Iowa a year ago and has been solid in a set-up role this year.
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Dustin Hermanson
Skinny: Ozzie Guillen is a tough guy to figure out. Chicago's manager says he wants closer Shingo Takatsu to remain confident, but in the same breath he tells a national radio audience that he has four guys on his roster with closer stuff. Is that supposed to make his guy feel secure? For his part, Takatsu has steadied himself. He set down Kansas City's 2-3-4 hitters in order on Sunday for his fifth straight save conversion. Guillen loves to play matchups, however, so don't be surprised to see Marte get a chance against a lefty-infested Oakland lineup this week. Hermanson has yet to allow a run in seven appearances.
1st Chair: Chin-Hui Tsao
2nd Chair: Brian Fuentes
Skinny: If you own Chin-Hui Tsao, you might want to skip the live scoring updates. All you need to know is that he's two-for-two converting saves for Colorado. Never mind that he surrendered a two-run homer before nailing down his first save or that he closed out Los Angeles on Saturday only after retiring Jeff Kent with the bases loaded. He's still 100 percent on the season and he's still capable of 30-plus saves. Shawn Chacon notched 35 a year ago with an ERA above 7.00. The rest of Colorado's bullpen has been simply terrible, so as long as Tsao keeps throwing strikes, he'll get his chances.
1st Chair: Braden Looper
2nd Chair: Mike DeJean, Roberto Hernandez
Skinny: Looper hasn't had much work of late, appearing in only two games since blowing a save on April 16. His save on Friday was just his second of the season. The good news, however, is that trade rumors surrounding Detroit's Ugueth Urbina have quieted. Ageless wonder Roberto Hernandez has been New York's most effective reliever in the early going, but it would take a complete meltdown on Looper's part to throw him into the ninth-inning mix.
1st Chair: Bob Wickman
2nd Chair: Bob Howry, David Riske
Skinny: Wickman has that elusive "closer make-up," so he continues to get the ball in the ninth inning despite his early struggles. Riske hasn't been scored upon in six appearances but, like LaTroy Hawkins in Chicago, he doesn't seem to relish late-inning opportunities. Rafael Betancourt also has been effective and has experience as a closer, but manager Eric Wedge prefers a guy with more seasoning. That leaves Wickman, who to his credit has settled down after allowing two homers in his season debut April 6. He blew a save on Thursday, but the tying run scored on a bloop single by Garret Anderson.
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Luis Ayala
Skinny: It's never easy with Cordero. On Wednesday, he struck out Brian Jordan and Andruw Jones to shut the door on a 2-0 win after allowing the trying runs to reach base. The very next night he wasn't so lucky. He nearly freed himself from a bases loaded jam of his own creation, but a throwing error allowed two runs to score. It was only his second blown chance of the season, and his ERA (now at 0.93) didn't suffer as a result. Still, he always seems to allow baserunners, and that's playing with fire in this business.

With a full slate of Major League Baseball games playing opposite the NFL draft and the NBA playoffs, it was hard for a fantasy owner to know where to turn over the weekend. Thankfully, you have time to take in an entire Tony LaRussa-managed baseball game between draft picks on the football side, and the pace of your typical nine-inning game allows for plenty of channel surfing to the hardwood. The Skinny was mesmerized by Andres Nocioni's effort Sunday, but we'll stick to the business at hand and review the action from the diamond:

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

  • You're excused if you did a double-take upon scanning Friday's Minnesota/Detroit box score. Carlos Silva started for Minnesota? Isn't he done for the year, or at least a good part of it? The answer to both questions, depending on when you asked them, is yes. Silva did start for the Twins on Friday, a mere two weeks after team doctors feared he would lose most of the season to a serious knee injury. He still faces offseason surgery to repair his damaged meniscus, but he's back. Not only that, he's effective. On Friday, he held Detroit to two earned runs on seven hits in seven innings. In two road starts this year, Silva has a 1.93 ERA and a WHIP right around 1.00.

Fantasy owners in search of pitching depth can do worse than give Silva a shot. He was 6-1 after the All-Star break in 2004 and was showing good command before his knee injury. He won't strike out a ton of batters and his stuff is not overpowering (his career opponent's average hovers around .300), but he keeps his team in games and, with a team like Minnesota, that translates into a lot of wins. In case you missed it amid all the rainouts in Detroit, Justin Morneau also returned for the Twins. He showed no ill-effects of the concussion he suffered on April 6, belting a home run and a double in his return. Get him back in your lineup if you haven't already.

  • Victor Diaz has a compact yet powerful swing and a batters-box swagger that defies his age. Just 31 games into his Major League career, he has been dubbed "Little Manny" by none other than future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. If the New York spotlight is too much for this youngster, it doesn't show. Diaz collected four hits on Saturday and now has three homers, nine RBIs and nine runs scored in his past seven games. He displayed similar pop during a September call-up in 2004. In any other city, a splash like this could fly under the fantasy radar, but since this is New York, give the waiver wire a look but don't be surprised to see him claimed.

Those who have scooped up this phenom should start shopping for a replacement. Cliff Floyd is healthy and hitting and Mike Cameron is due to return from the disabled list shortly. The Mets outfield is soon to be very crowded, and Diaz might be the odd-man out. Floyd won't be back in 2006 after his contract expires and the Mets would rather groom Diaz with every-day at bats at Triple-A. For all his flash, he is prone to strikeouts and base-running gaffes. He's also a converted second baseman who could use work on his defense – work best done outside the glare of the New York media. Also of note from Saturday's Mets win: six strong innings from Jae Seo in his 2005 debut.

  • The New York Yankees will welcome Chien-Ming Wang to the starting rotation on Saturday, according to the New York Daily News. Wang will make his Major League debut when the Yankees host Toronto. He went 11-6 at two minor league levels in 2004, earning recognition as the top pitcher in New York's system. In two starts this year, Wang was 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA at Triple-A Columbus. What can we expect from the rookie? According to Baseball America, he has an excellent fastball that tops out around 97 and complements it with an above-average splitter. The downside, of course, is that he's unproven and will debut before a hostile New York crowd.

With Jaret Wright out for 4-6 weeks, Wang is a valuable pickup (particularly in AL-only leagues), provided that he can hold up under the pressure that comes with the Yankee pinstripes. As a fantasy owner, however, you won't have the luxury of playing wait-and-see with this guy.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • Joe Crede, ChW, 3B
    You'd be nuts to even think about cutting Eric Chavez loose, but given the depth his slump has reached, a little time on the fantasy pine might be just the tonic. Plenty of third basemen are underachieving, including Aramis Ramirez, Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen and Aaron Boone. Meanwhile, Crede has been displaying the stroke we've been convinced he had all along. His hitting streak was snapped at 14 games on Sunday but, before going hitless against the Royals, he had four multi-hit games in his last five. He's been on the radar for a while, but it's important to remember that he doesn't turn 27 until Tuesday of this week.
  • Ryan Dempster, ChC, SP
    His season numbers are still ugly, scarred by a miserable outing in his season debut on April 6. He's been solid since, allowing only four earned runs in 18 innings while striking out 16. If he can stay healthy, a 14-win, 175-strikeout season is realistic. The strikeout number is the most seductive, as few starters carry strikeout-per-inning potential and he's one of them. April has never been kind to Dempster (5-11 in his career), but he's facing his former team on Wednesday, and he has a lifetime 3-1 record against the Reds.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Brad Hawpe, RF, Col – Currently riding a Coors-aided seven-game hitting streak. The stretch includes three homers and seven RBIs.

Ronnie Belliard, 2B, Cle – In an apparent attempt to give Brian Roberts a challenge for the American League home run crown, Belliard went deep in three straight and now leads the Tribe with five homers.

Victor Santos, SP, Mil – Horrible this spring, Santos has rebounded to become Milwaukee's steadiest pitcher in April. He beat San Francisco in complete-game fashion on Friday and has now allowed only nine hits and two earned runs in his past 17 innings.

Jeremy Reed, OF, Sea – Still not running as we'd hoped, but at least he's getting on base. He was held without a hit on Sunday for just the second time in 14 games.

Chris Young, SP, Tex – Young improved his career road record to 3-0 on Friday, striking out seven while allowing one run in 5.2 innings at Yankee Stadium. Those three wins have come at the expense of the last three American League champions.

Alex Cintron, SS, Ari – Versatile enough that he might finish the season eligible at third, second and shortstop, Cintron is playing his way into the lineup with a hot bat. In three games starting on Thursday, he went 8-for-12 with three extra-base hits.

Scott Kazmir, SP, TB – It's not often you hear the phrase, "silencing the home crowd," but that's exactly what Kazmir did in seven strong innings at the decidedly pro-Boston Tropicana Field on Friday. The question is when, not if, for this lefty prospect.

John Patterson, SP, Was – Patterson's 0.86 ERA and 0.76 WHIP have only been noticed by a little more than half of Yahoo! leagues. He wasn't expected to survive Tony Armas Jr.'s return to the rotation, but after 14 consecutive scoreless innings, you can bet he'll stick around.

Tim Redding, SP, SD – The Padres plan on keeping him in the rotation for now, but Darrell May is waiting in the wings after Redding dropped to 0-3 on Friday. He has yet to pitch past the fifth inning in three starts.

Jeff DaVanon, OF, LAA – DaVanon stole three bases over the weekend, his first thefts of the season. That's the good news. The bad? Manager Mike Scioscia dropped him to the bottom of the lineup in favor of Chone Figgins, who moved to the No. 2 spot.

Larry Walker, RF, StL – So Taguchi has nearly matched Walker's run production in 35 fewer at-bats this season. Walker has only two extra-base hits and seven RBIs (Taguchi's season total) since Opening Day.

Xavier Nady, OF, SD – Mired in a 1-for-19 slump, Nady is finding it harder to find regular at-bats. Manager Bruce Bochy said he's willing to spot-start him at third base in order to get his bat on the lineup card.

Richard Hidalgo, OF, Tex – Predictably, Hidalgo is in a 5-for-48 slump after starting the season with six RBIs in five games.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
14 Number of games between stolen bases for the Cincinnati Reds, who swiped a bag on Opening Day and not again until Friday against Florida. So much for those 30-30 claims that propelled Adam Dunn into the Top 20 in a lot of fantasy drafts.