The first official pitch of Stephen Pryor's major league career was a 100 mph fastball to Paul Konerko for a called strike. That's pretty much the definition of announcing one's presence with authority.
Pryor entered in the seventh inning of a tight game with runners on first and second, called upon to face the American League's leading hitter — not exactly a low-stress situation. The original plan for the 22-year-old Pryor, according to Seattle manager Eric Wedge, was to debut with a "soft landing" in the bigs. Instead, he was greeted with a zero-margin-for-error appearance against a dude who, at the time, was batting .376.
After introducing himself at 100 miles an hour, Pryor followed with fastballs at 99, 99 and 98. Then, with the count 2-2, Pyror finished off Konerko with another triple-digit fastball.
Impressed? Well, you should be. Pryor is a 6-foot-4 right-hander with the traditional closer's arsenal — slider, blistering heater — and he was lights-out at Double-A and Triple-A before his promotion. He's saved nine games across two minor league levels this year, striking out 39 batters in 28.0 innings, allowing just 12 hits, 12 walks and two earned runs.
More importantly, Pryor is now the hardest-throwing and perhaps least-hittable member of an unsettled Seattle bullpen, a strong candidate to eventually earn a look in the ninth.
Yes, Tom Wilhelmsen seems to have the Mariners' closing gig at the moment — he earned a five-out save on Monday. And yes, a Brandon League return still appears likely (setting up an eventual trade). So I can't really promise that Pryor will get a chance to close tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, or next month. But this kid clearly has closing-quality stuff. I've picked up a few Pryor shares across my fantasy portfolio and I'd recommend that other speculators do the same — particularly the dynasty crowd.
It's not often that a call-up gets a spot on this prestigious index in his very first week...
Job Security Index
30. Chicago Cubs — James Russell, Shawn Camp, Carlos Marmol
29. Seattle — Tom Wilhelmsen, Stephen Pryor, Brandon League
28. Toronto — Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver
27. Oakland — Brian Fuentes, Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour
26. Chicago White Sox — Addison Reed, Matt Thornton
25. San Francisco — Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt
24. Los Angeles Angels — Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs, Jordan Walden
23. Washington — Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett
22. San Diego — Huston Street, Dale Thayer, Andrew Cashner
21. New York Mets — Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Bobby Parnell
20. Arizona — JJ Putz, David Hernandez, Bryan Shaw
19. Miami — Heath Bell, Steve Cishek, Edward Mujica
18. Detroit — Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit
17. Minnesota — Matt Capps, Glen Perkins
16. Boston — Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales
15. Kansas City — Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Aaron Crow
14. New York Yankees — Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Cory Wade
13. Houston — Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez
12. Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen, Josh Lindblom, Ronald Belisario
11. Tampa Bay — Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta
10. Baltimore — Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop
9. Cleveland — Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano
8. Pittsburgh — Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, Juan Cruz
7. Texas — Joe Nathan, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando
6. St. Louis — Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez
5. Colorado — Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle
4. Milwaukee — John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe
3. Cincinnati — Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo
2. Atlanta — Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters
1. Philadelphia — Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo
• Huston Street (lat) will be activated from the DL on Tuesday, following a brief rehab stint. Thus ends the Dale Thayer closer era in San Diego. It was (occasionally) fun while it lasted, except when stuff like this happened.
• Tip of the cap to Frank Francisco, who has been delightfully not terrible over the past two-and-a-half weeks. Francisco has delivered seven straight scoreless innings since May 17, striking out 10 batters while allowing just three hits and two walks. I still can't manage to pull the trigger on any of Chris Liss' (Rotowire) Francisco-based trade offers, though.
• While we're discussing sketchy closers who happen to have not been awful in recent appearances, check the game log on Heath Bell. He's working on a streak of five straight converted saves, opening a brief window in which you can sell. That's how I'd proceed, though it won't be easy.
• It sounds as if Santiago Casilla will avoid the disabled list, so there's no need to panic about his status. Both Casilla and Sergio Romo are dealing with knee issues at the moment, leading to Monday's two-inning save by Jeremy Affeldt. (The Giants actually allowed Affeldt to bat on Monday; he led off the eighth inning in a one-run game and grounded out). Three different Giants relievers earned saves in the team's recently completed four-game sweep of the Cubs: Javier Lopez, Romo (2) and Affeldt.
• Neftali Feliz (elbow) reportedly may return to the Rangers' bullpen when he comes off the DL, a move that's easy to make now that Roy Oswalt is in the fold. The immediate priority for Texas has to be getting Scott Feldman out of the rotation just as quickly as possible, because he's been a runaway disaster this year.