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Tuesday brought news that four more closers will not be getting saves in the near future.
Billy Wagner has no structural damage in his arm, but a strained forearm has landed him on the disabled list, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel announced that Aaron Heilman would see the save opportunities in Wagner's absence.
Of course, Heilman promptly blew up Tuesday night in a non-save opportunity, forcing Manuel to bring in Joe Smith and Scott Schoeneweis to clean up his mess. Schoeneweis earned the save in a 6-5 game that had been 6-2 entering the ninth. Who will get the next opportunity? Manuel was unimpressed with Heilman and told The New York Times that the walk to Nick Hundley bothered him and he needs people "to step up."
This smells strongly of a bullpen by committee, and saves speculators should be onto Smith, Duaner Sanchez and perhaps even rookie Eddie Kunz. Schoeneweis likely will remain a situational lefty but isn't completely out of the mix. Wagner told the team Web site he expects to be ready to pitch when he is eligible to return from the DL on Aug. 18, so whatever solution Manuel settles on could be very temporary.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Eddie Guardado recorded a save for the Rangers, and he will continue in that role for the near future. C.J. Wilson struggled again in allowing four runs in eighth-inning work and was placed on the disabled list after the game with a bone spur in his elbow. Early indications are that he could miss the rest of the season.
With Wagner and Wilson down, there now are 13 Opening Day closers who no longer are getting saves for their clubs. When you are told never to pay much for saves on draft day, this is one of the reasons; injury and ineffectiveness cause a lot of attrition at a position where the vast majority of fantasy value is tied up in one, role-specific category. It's just not always the most efficient allocation of your resources.
So, more than one-third of the stopper options at the beginning of the season are no longer working the ninth inning, and that's actually a little bit less of a flunk-out rate than last season. The number would have been 14, but J.J. Putz will resume working the ninth inning for the Mariners after it was announced Brandon Morrow was sent down to Triple-A to stretch out as a starter, doing his best Joba Chamberlain impersonation.
If it seems the M's have been talking about this move ever since Morrow made the club as a reliever out of spring training last year, it's because they have. With Morrow developing into a lights-out pitcher this season, thanks to a little added velocity on his fastball and a walk rate he's sliced in half, and with the M's not going anywhere, they figured it was time to start prepping him for 2009. Morrow has wanted to get back to starting for a long time, but the team's needs prevented that from happening.
Morrow will be working not only on stretching his arm out and building up innings, but also on refining his splitter to give him a solid third pitch to go with his fastball/slider combo, as he won't be able to rely on his heater as much as he did when working short stints and likely will have to dial down the velocity a tad in order to go deeper into the ballgame.
The plan is for him to stretch out the rest of the month and be back up with the big club to make five or so starts in September. While he won't be closing games anymore, he could have nice sleeper value as a starter over the final few weeks.
Finally, as if that closer movement wasn't enough, Tigers manager Jim Leyland named Joel Zumaya his new ninth-inning option, after Fernando Rodney blew his second straight save Sunday since being named the closer. If healthy, this one should stick where three other options have failed for the team.
Marlon Byrd gradually has been getting more playing time for the Rangers recently at the expense of Brandon Boggs and has been making the most of it. A day after a walk-off grand slam, Byrd had three hits and two stolen bases. Batting fifth in a powerful lineup certainly helps, and Byrd could be quietly productive for the balance of the season. Edinson Volquez's four starts since the All-Star break: 6.64 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. He already has given up as many homers as he did in the first half of the season. His ERA for the year still is better than 3.00, so it might be worth exploring a deal before he gets worse, as it appears the wheels have started to come off. Fausto Carmona continues to struggle with his control, much as he did earlier in the season before getting hurt. Five walks in four innings helped knock him out of the box Tuesday, and he's not a recommended mixed league play down the stretch. Mike Pelfrey continues to be a strong play at Shea this year. After allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings Tuesday, he has a 2.29 ERA at home and a 6.09 mark on the road. Fernando Tatis went deep twice and is in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak. He batted .397 with six homers in July, and it looks as if his hot streak is going to continue. As he's cemented playing time for the near future, he's a viable mixed league option. Placido Polanco Jason Kubel wasn't left out of the two-homer party Tuesday and might have good value in deeper mixed leagues for the stretch run. He's owned in just 8 percent of ESPN leagues. Carlos Gonzalez had four hits and should be a solid play in AL leagues for the final two months. He's a prime target in keeper leagues. After feeling a "clicking" sensation in his wrist Monday, David Ortiz said he felt fine Tuesday and went 1-for-5 with an RBI. Mike Lowell (hip) returned to the Sox lineup and went 0-for-4 with two runs scored. Jason Bay had four more hits and is red-hot since joining the Red Sox. Manny who? Josh Johnson continued to show he's back, hurling six shutout innings and striking out three. Alfonso Soriano had three hits, including a homer, and four RBIs. He's hitting .344 with five homers in 14 games since the break. Brad Ziegler threw two more scoreless innings to extend his streak, and Huston Street blew his third save in his past four chances, increasing the chance that manager Bob Geren might pull the trigger on what he has talked about -- giving Ziegler some save opportunities. George Sherrill got a much-needed easy save, pitching a scoreless ninth with a three-run lead against the Angels. Who is Chris Waters? He allowed one hit in eight scoreless innings in his big league debut for the O's. He's a 27-year-old journeyman with a 5.70 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP at Triple-A this season and similarly poor numbers at Double-A the past two years. Can you say, "fluke start"? John Lannan continues to quietly be money for the Nationals and for his fantasy owners. He allowed two runs in seven innings -- at Coors Field, no less -- striking out eight. The development of his slider has allowed him to take a big leap forward this year. Chris Carpenter threw five shutout innings against the Dodgers but lost his win when Jason Isringhausen once again imploded in the ninth. Carpenter has thrown 67 and 51 pitches in his two starts but has been effective for the innings he's gotten. Brandon Webb picked up win No. 16 with a complete-game one-run effort against the Pirates. Scott Baker scuffled for the third straight outing, but he shouldn't be dropped in mixed leagues just yet. Jeff Francoeur had two hits but still is hitting just .221 since the break, and it doesn't appear he's turning his season around.
Shane Victorino, Phillies
Victorino homered for the fourth time in the past eight games and has had a hit in 18 of his past 20 contests, raising his season average more than 20 points.
Fausto Carmona, Indians
Carmona lasted only four innings, needing 83 pitches to do so. He allowed three hits and five walks, striking out four. In three starts since returning from the disabled list, he is 1-2 with a 10.66 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP.
"You might recall Anibal Sanchez threw a no-hitter in 2006, as a rookie. He wasn't any one-hit wonder, either. Sanchez pitched in 18 games that season and went 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA. Since then, he's won three games in the majors. He pitched in six games in 2007, had shoulder surgery and finally returned to the majors last week. He makes his second start of the season Wednesday night in the opener of a big series in Philadelphia.
The Marlins' biggest weakness this season has been their starting pitching; among the four pitchers with more than eight starts are Andrew Miller (5-9, 5.63 ERA) and Mark Hendrickson (7-8, 5.93). Fill-ins Burke Badenhop (2-3, 6.08) and Ryan Tucker (2-3, 8.39) have been even worse. But all those guys are gone (or at least out of the rotation) now. Sanchez, Josh Johnson -- recovering from Tommy John surgery -- and 21-year-old giant Chris Volstad are in. "
-- Rob Neyer Full Story
• The Orioles placed Adam Jones on the disabled list with a fractured foot the outfielder suffered when he fouled a ball off it Saturday. There is no timetable for his return. The beneficiaries will be Jay Payton, as he will see more playing time, and Luke Scott, who will not be platooned as much. The team called up Luis Montanez as a backup outfielder, but he shouldn't have any fantasy value.
• The Rays have some depth problems in their infield with Jason Bartlett battling a finger injury, so the team called up Ben Zobrist from Triple-A and sent down the underwhelming Jonny Gomes. When Bartlett is healthy again, the team is likely to send Zobrist down to make room for Rocco Baldelli.
• The Cubs activated Kerry Wood from the disabled list and designated Scott Eyre for assignment. Wood will start in a setup role but should ease back into closer duties. Eyre is likely to be a sought-after commodity either in a waiver trade or if he is released, considering the amount of teams looking for lefties for their bullpens.
• In addition to the Morrow move, the Mariners designated Jose Vidro for assignment, and many would remark that it's about time. Wladimir Balentien was recalled from Triple-A and should see a good amount of playing time down the stretch. His power potential makes him a sleeper in AL-only leagues.
• The Rockies claimed Livan Hernandez off waivers. This is not going to end well.
• Max Scherzer continues to stretch out at Triple-A after being on the shelf for a little bit with shoulder problems. He worked four shutout innings in his fifth game since returning, striking out six. This followed up a start of three shutout innings and seven strikeouts. Once he gets extended again, he should be back up in the D-backs' rotation sometime later this month.
• Bartolo Colon's first rehab outing following back issues did not go well. He threw 32 pitches in 2/3 of an inning, allowing five baserunners and three runs, including a homer. Clay Buchholz appears to be safe in the Red Sox rotation for the time being.
• Jesse Litsch allowed two runs in seven innings in his third start since being demoted to Triple-A. He has 18 strikeouts in 20 innings and a 3.60 ERA, and he should be back with the Blue Jays sometime before the end of the month, given that the team's other options currently filling out the back end of the rotation are David Purcey and Scott Richmond.