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Ryan the odd man out in Toronto

6/24/2009

When Scott Downs landed on the DL last week with a toe injury suffered while running the bases, the Blue Jays' closer situation was thrown into flux once again. A week later, the situation is resolved only somewhat, partly because there have been only two save chances since Downs' injury. There are a number of viable options, but Cito Gaston has also been pretty liberal in using his relievers at any point in late-game situations.

So if you're desperate for some short-term saves (since Downs could be back in early July), let's look at the contenders in the Blue Jays' bullpen in order of preference for fantasy owners:

Jason Frasor (owned in 8.9 percent of ESPN.com leagues): With his overall stats this season, he is the best option for saves (plus, he did have 17 for the Jays as a rookie back in 2004), but he's had his bumps over the past week. He blew a save Thursday against the Phillies after giving up a game-tying hit in the eighth inning but eventually got the vulture win, and then he got roughed in the 11th inning against the Nationals on Saturday as tried to preserve a 1-1 tie. However, on Tuesday, he bailed out a Blue Jays bullpen that had allowed five runs in two innings by pitching a quiet ninth inning. He really needs to be owned in more leagues, especially if you're trying to speculate saves.

Want to know who's next in line for saves for each team? Check out Eric Karabell's bullpen depth chart.

Jeremy Accardo (2.4 percent): Remember him? Accardo saved 30 games for Toronto in 2007 but was derailed by injury in 2008. He was toiling in the minors before being called up when Downs landed on the DL. Accardo immediately grabbed a save in his first outing, replacing B.J. Ryan in the ninth inning against the Phillies on Thursday. He made a couple more eighth-inning appearances after that, but left Sunday's game with a cramp in his calf then sat out Tuesday's game with a groin injury. He has closer experience and might get a few saves, but those injuries aren't helping Cito Gaston find a role for him.

Brandon League (0.0 percent): He's got a solid K/9 rate, but he's had his share of blowups as well, which would explain why his ERA is near 6. He got himself into trouble Thursday, as he couldn't maintain a 6-5 eighth-inning lead against the Phillies. League was the eighth-inning guy while Downs was closing, and it appears he'll stay there for the time being, although it wouldn't be a surprise if Accardo passes him in the pecking order.

B.J. Ryan (69.8 percent): It definitely says something about Ryan that he wasn't automatically handed back the closer's job when Downs went down. He's being used mostly to get out lefties (mainly because righties are hitting .324 against him, compared to .242 by lefties) and as a mop-up guy. Ryan hasn't allowed a run in his past 10 outings going back to late May, although in his past four games spanning just 1 1/3 innings, he's walked five and struck out one. He's not getting that closer's job back, so feel free to drop him.

Jesse Carlson (0.2 percent): The lefty hasn't recorded a hold since May 3, and has been mediocre over the past couple of months (17 earned runs in 21 innings since May 2). He's being used in rather low-pressure situations and not helping matters. He allowed two runs in the ninth inning of a rout against the Nationals on Sunday, and then on Tuesday, he entered the game in the seventh inning with a 6-0 lead and left with the scoreboard reading 6-4. Hey, at least he set up save situations for other guys in the bullpen.

Cito Gaston did tell the Blue Jays' official Web site after Tuesday's game, "The only guy down there that's got a role right now [is] probably [Jason] Frasor," but even that doesn't sound terribly convincing. Frasor is probably the best bet for now, but things could change quickly.

Fortunes rising

Jose Valverde, Astros: He's back as closer after being eased into the bullpen following his return from the disabled list earlier this month. Valverde picked up three saves in four games last weekend, including the final two games of the Twins series, so he appears to have taken the job back from LaTroy Hawkins.

J.P. Howell, Rays: His ownership numbers are rising, but not as fast as you might think because he hasn't been racking up the saves in big chunks yet. He had only one save in the past week, but he hasn't allowed a run in his past 14 outings (19 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings as well). Howell has the hot hand, and his ownership needs to be beyond the 19 percent he is now.

Mike MacDougal, Nationals: It seems almost impossible to believe that MacDougal picked up his first two saves for the Nationals by stopping the Yankees in consecutive games, in the Bronx. MacDougal has allowed just one run in 10 2/3 innings since joining Washington, so at least for now he's doing what he can to keep that closer's job. Of course, the Nationals have to be in position to get saves for MacDougal to be of much use.

Fortunes falling

Ryan Madson, Phillies: With Brad Lidge likely to come off the disabled list this week (he pitched a scoreless inning for Class A Clearwater on Tuesday), Madson's window for saves is running out. He didn't help himself after recording two losses and two blown saves over a five-day stretch last week against the Blue Jays and Orioles. It looks like Lidge is returning at just the right time. Madson will go back to his set-up role.

Kerry Wood, Indians: The ex-Cub had a disastrous return to Wrigley Field as he blew saves in consecutive games last weekend. Wood did get a save Tuesday (his first since May 28), but boy was it ugly. He entered the game with a 5-2 lead in the ninth, gave up a couple hits, let two runs score, then loaded the bases before finally getting Adam LaRoche to fly out to end the game. Wood's save chances have been few and far between in Cleveland, and turning them into adventures isn't building much confidence from his owners.

Matt Lindstrom, Marlins: His 14 saves in 16 chances look nice, but that 6.52 ERA doesn't. After nearly blowing a three-run lead but still getting a save against the Yankees on Sunday, Lindstrom couldn't even get out of the ninth inning Tuesday despite entering with a three-run lead. He allowed four straight hits with two outs in the ninth but still left with a one-run lead before Brian Sanches gave up yet another hit to tie the score. Sanches gets tagged with the blown save while Lindstrom gets a hold despite allowing three runs and four hits in the ninth inning because he left with the Marlins still leading. With the Florida bullpen getting banged up recently, Lindstrom's job appears safe, but those ugly outings aren't going to sit well with management or his fantasy owners.

Comings, goings and random thoughts

Frank Francisco was activated from the disabled list Saturday, and was eased into action by pitching a scoreless eighth inning that night against the Giants. The Rangers haven't had any save chances since Francisco has returned, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he jumps back into the closer mix the next time one is available.

Manny Corpas landed on the disabled list Saturday with inflammation in his right elbow, and an MRI revealed a floating bone chip. However, the Rockies may have found a suitable replacement in former Royal Joel Peralta, who has been solid since coming up from the minors in May. He allowed two runs in his season debut on May 19 but has not been scored upon since then.

Hooray for Joakim Soria, who recorded a save Tuesday, his first since May 7, even though he's been off the disabled list since June 3. Before Tuesday, he had pitched in just six games since returning, because there had been so few save chances (and he blew a save against the Indians on June 11), thanks to the Royals' struggling across the board (although Zack Greinke finally got back in the win column Tuesday). However, Soria just keeps getting batters out, so at least he's doing what he's supposed to be doing even if he isn't recording consistent saves.

Mike Gonzalez has made five appearances over the past week, but four times he's entered in the eighth inning. Rafael Soriano relieved him in three of those games, picking up a save Monday. In each of those four cases, Gonzalez was facing at least one formidable lefty hitter, so Bobby Cox has been playing the matchups smartly. It may not be a fantasy-friendly strategy, because neither Gonzalez nor Soriano is getting regular save chances, but it's a wise way to use the bullpen.

Angel Guzman, who had been leading the Cubs' bullpen in ERA and WHIP, landed on the DL on Sunday with a right triceps strain. Given the way Lou Piniella has been overworking his bullpen (which Buster Olney described Monday), this break might actually be good for Guzman.

While Matt Lindstrom keeps on scuffling (see above), the Marlins placed Kiko Calero on the DL on Sunday with a shoulder injury and then saw fellow set-up man Leo Nunez leave Tuesday's game with an ankle injury. That leaves lefty Dan Meyer as the most reliable set-up man in case something happens to Lindstrom.

After giving up seven runs and 12 hits over seven innings in June, promising Tigers rookie Ryan Perry was sent to Triple-A Toledo on Sunday. Jim Leyland told the Detroit Free Press, "He needs to go get some work in. He needs to go work on his slider. He needs to go get better command." Freddy Dolsi, who picked up a couple of saves for the Tigers last year, was called up to take Perry's place in the bullpen.

The Orioles recalled former closer Chris Ray from Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday. Ray had a 1.64 ERA in seven games in the minors, a good rebound after he racked up a 9.39 ERA in 17 games before his demotion. Ray still isn't in contention for saves, though.

The Twins designated veteran reliever Luis Ayala for assignment and brought up Bobby Keppel from the minors. Ayala, who finished last season as the Mets' closer, was 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA and 1.42 WHIP and never really could latch on to the eighth-inning role in Minnesota.

Speaking of cutting ties with veteran relievers, the Indians designated Luis Vizcaino for assignment and called up rookie southpaw Tony Sipp from Columbus for his third tour of duty with the big club. Vizcaino was 1-3 with a save and a 5.40 ERA for the Indians in 11 games after opening the season with the Cubs. Sipp had 10 strikeouts but 10 walks over 8 2/3 innings in his first two stints with the big club and could be used to get out lefties, especially with Rafael Perez sporting a 10.53 ERA.

While Brad Lidge could be back soon, the Phillies placed fellow reliever Clay Condrey on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained muscle in his rib cage. Condrey had been roughed up in his past two outings, allowing seven runs (six earned) and six hits in just 1/3 of an inning. Sergio Escalona returned to the big club after a short stint in the minors to take his place and pitched a scoreless inning of mop-up work Tuesday.

James Quintong is an editor for ESPN.com Fantasy.