Closing Time: Huston Street leaves with strained shoulder; Heath Bell squanders another lead
This mad year of closer attrition keeps getting worse and worse.
San Diego closer Huston Street is the latest to enter the arena — he left Friday's appearance in the tenth inning after suffering an apparent shoulder injury. Street started the frame with a strikeout and a ground out, then walked Logan Morrison. After the final pitch to Morrison, Street motioned to the bench and was removed from the game. Street didn't show any obvious discomfort on the delivery, but you could see him subtly testing his arm while Morrison trotted to first.
"When I first felt it, I thought it was the kind of tightness that you sometimes have after a day off," Street told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "But we talked about it on the mound and something was not right. I don't think it's major, that's the positive sign. We'll see how it feels (Saturday)."
It's nice that Street doesn't feel too worried here, but fantasy owners know better. This has been a high-maintenance pitcher for several years, a short reliever who hasn't topped 62 innings since 2008. Obviously you'll hope for the best, but we need to prepare for a possible DL stint.
While we wait for more news on Street (he's scheduled to have an MRI), you'll want to check your league's waiver wire for San Diego reinforcements. Andrew Cashner (six percent percent owned) and Luke Gregerson (two percent) are the primary options after Street. The Padres also had fireballer Ernesto Frieri, but he was traded to the Angels a day ago for a couple of minor-league infielders (perhaps he'll be in the LA save chase at some point). Cashner has the usage path in his favor (he's been working later in games, which sometimes holds meaning), but Gregerson has more big-league experience. If I had just one dart to throw at a possible Street hedge, I'd go with Cashner. We'll see what Bud Black has to say.
The Marlins eventually won the game in 12 innings, 9-8, and there was plenty of drama along the way. Miami held a one-run advantage into the bottom of the ninth, but struggling closer Heath Bell was immediately greeted by a couple of doubles, squaring the game. Bell eventually loaded the bases (through two intentional walks) before escaping that jam. Perhaps the Marlins will be easier on Bell considering they ultimately won the game, but this was another outing where the $27 million man looked like an absolute train wreck.
Sidewinding Steve Cishek lugged the mail after Bell left, working three scoreless innings and striking out three. He worked around a leadoff walk in the 11th and he allowed a hit in the 12th, but otherwise he was in command. He'll need at least one day off (perhaps two) after throwing 52 pitches. The Marlins only had Edward Mujica left in the bullpen while Cishek toiled along, and they were dead set against using Mujica for a fourth straight day.
If the Marlins have a late lead to protect Saturday, a rested Mujica is likely to get the call. But if you have one shot at betting against Bell, all logical signs point to Cishek being the play. The Cape Cod product is available in 89 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Joe Girardi has finally chimed in on the Yankees closing situation: according to the New York Post, Girardi will use both Rafael Soriano and David Robertson in closing roles depending on the workload of each. Robertson was dominant at the end of Friday's 6-2 victory at Kansas City (striking out the side on 15 pitches), though the four-run lead kept it from being a save situation.
Keep in mind that Girardi's initial comments here don't have to be taken as full-season gospel. If one pitcher shifts into this role smoothly while the other stumbles, this could easily revert to a bullpen where the roles are firmly defined. In the meantime, it looks like both players have some value in standard fantasy leagues. By season's end, I expect Robertson will have the best fantasy numbers.
As for the Yankees in 2013 in beyond, Mariano Rivera insists he's a quick healer and he plans to make a comeback next season. I'm happy to share that news and I'll certainly be rooting for him, but remember one basic rule of thumb: players are generally over-optimistic when judging their own injury timetables and comeback chances. That established, at least we know for certain that Rivera wants to come back, and as we've learned over the last two decades, this is not someone you want to bet against.
• We're never going to turn Closing Time into a injury-driven blog, but we have to mention one other notable piece of San Diego injury news: things are looking grim for trendy breakout pick Cory Luebke. A recent MRI showed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in Luebke's elbow, as well damage to the flexor tendon and fluid in the elbow; boiled down to simplest terms, he might need Tommy John surgery. The Padres will seek some alternate opinons before they reach their decision, but there's a strong chance Luebke is done for 2012.
• It took 13 innings for the Orioles to get past the Red Sox and there were plenty of relief stars: Baltimore received eight scoreless innings from its bullpen, and Boston's group had some notable performances as well. With all due respect to Jim Johnson's clean handshake (1-2-3 inning, 13 pitches), we need to spotlight how terrific Alfredo Aceves looked (2.2 IP, 6 K, 29 of 38 pitches for strikes). Have a gander at the Wiffle Ball highlights, the ball was dancing. Aceves has rallied nicely from the Boston Massacre back on April 21 (that's the day Boston choked away a 9-0 lead against New York), stringing together 6.2 scoreless innings and recording three saves. Perhaps he'll need a break after Friday's stint, but he's clearly asserted himself as Boston's save-grabber for now.
Mark Reynolds finally made some noise, giving us the Reynolds Hat Trick (homer, strikeout, error). Reynolds also added a double, walk, and two runs scored. He's hitting a robust .157 on the year. It's time for Reynolds and Wilson Betemit (.246) to get moving, because the Orioles are closing in on free agent Miguel Tejada. I can't imagine why a rebuilding club would want to add an unwanted journeyman infielder who turns 38 in a couple of weeks, but GM Dan Duquette has some crazy ideas.
• Ervin Santana isn't off to much of a start in 2012 (5.59 ERA, 1.32 WHIP) but what's the use? The Angels offense has no interest in supporting him. Santana actually received a handsome three runs of support in his season debut back on April 8, and since then Los Angeles has been shut out in five consecutive Santana starts. That's utterly absurd. You'd like to think the Halos will score some runs when Santana opposes Carl Pavano next week, but it's impossible to trust this offense right now. My hero, zero.
Say this for Albert Pujols (he sleeps with the Mendozas, now at .194) — at least he's distracting us from the other Angels who aren't hitting. Mike Trout is off to a slow start since joining the club a week ago (4-for-22, one extra base hit, two walks, one steal). Erick Aybar is stumbling around at .211, Vernon Wells is slugging .396, and Peter Bourjos (.180) and the since-departed Bobby Abreu (.208) hit themselves out of jobs. The quiet producer thus far has been Torii Hunter: he currently leads the Angels in runs, homers, RBIs, batting average and OPS.
Henderson Alvarez was the latest to cruise through Anaheim, needing just 97 pitches (71 strikes) in Friday's complete game. Can his pitch-to-contact profile continue to work, especially in the AL East? Alvarez has a 2.83 ERA and 1.04 WHIP through six turns, with hardly any strikeouts (just 12) or walks (a mere 10). He's been fortunate with his strand rate (87.8 percent), but good things come to pitchers who induce ground balls 56.8 percent of the time. At the end of the day this is a very format-dependent option; in leagues that put a low cap on innings or starts, you need more strikeout upside, but I'll be happy to stream Alvarez at Minnesota next week.
• The star matchup between Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum didn't turn into much: neither pitcher came close to a quality start and the game was decided by the bullpens. Greinke at least was around the plate (5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K), while Lincecum once against struggled to command his pitches (5 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 4 K; just 47 of 84 pitches were strikes). Greinke is home against Cincinnati next week, while Lincecum heads to Chavez Ravine. I'm not worried about Greinke long-term, but I've drawn my line in the sand on Lincecum: I like him less than general consensus.
Brandon Belt had a single and a walk in his four trips, pushing his average up to .294. He's made four straight starts as well. Are you finally going to leave him alone, Bruce Bochy? Your club desperately needs offense. It will be interesting to see how Belt is handled over the next four games, when the Giants face three left-handers (Randy Wolf on Saturday, then Ted Lilly and Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles). Belt has been shielded against southpaws for most of his brief career, but when he's been given the chance (and this is through a tiny sample of 49-at-bats), he's produced: .347/.418/.510. Just let him play, skip.
Speed Round: The Chris Sale bullpen shift won't happen until Monday, so the Pale Hose have 48 more hours in committee mode. Matt Thornton coughed up Jake Peavy's win over Detroit, serving up a two-run homer to Jhonny Peralta in the ninth . . . Mr. Met is America's favorite mascot, according to a recent fan survey. As a long-running fan and apologist for The Famous Chicken and the Philly Phanatic, I'm outraged. I demand a recount, if not a full criminal investigation . . . Nolan Reimold (neck) finally went on the DL after standing in limbo for a few weeks . . . Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder) could rejoin the Nationals as soon as Tuesday, but the club isn't sending Bryce Harper anywhere . . . Jose Altuve can't do anything wrong these days: he had a single, homer and stolen base in the victory over St. Louis. For reasons I can't understand, the Houston Dynamo is still unowned in 26 percent of Yahoo! leagues . . . Possible streamers for Sunday: Trevor Cahill (57 percent) at New York, Ricky Nolasco (41 percent) at San Diego, and Jerome Williams (11 percent) against Toronto. I'm not touching Clay Buchholz (against pesky Baltimore) or Tommy Milone (at Tampa Bay).