What are the odds that you still own the relief pitchers you rostered in your fantasy baseball draft? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series gives you no-nonsense ratings of performances, injuries and managerial decisions in MLB bullpens. Get your arm loose: Let's find fantasy baseball players in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league who'll get saves.
|Job security (JS) score
||1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
|Health (H) score
||1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)
Closer: Neftali Feliz
Understudy: Darren Oliver, Arthur Rhodes
On Wednesday, in the bottom of the eighth, Texas had just doubled its one-run lead, serving Feliz a golden save chance against the almighty Houston Astros. Naturally, he botched it. The out-of-sorts right-hander surrendered four runs on two doubles, a single, a passed ball and a Matt Downs round-tripper before recording the second out of the frame. With no one on base and Feliz at 23 pitches, Ron Washington went to Oliver to face lefty-hitting Michael Bourn.
That implosion upped Feliz's ERA from 1.98 to 3.21, and the 23-year-old sports a 6.11 K/9, a 4.82 BB/9 and a 1.32 WHIP in 2011. But he's been pretty sharp this month, save for an outing at Yankee Stadium that came after a week-long layoff. Prior to last night's contest, he'd struck out 10 and walked just one in 8 2/3 June stanzas.
On the comeback trail: Nathan
Feliz told the press afterward he'd informed Mike Maddux that he was available, despite pitching two frames (for the first time this season) the night before. He didn't feel fatigued; he simply had too much trouble locating. Washington said there was no reason to second-guess the choice. But Feliz didn't strike out either of the hitters he retired - or even induce one swinging strike, when 16 of his 23 pitches were strikes.
It's hard to see this any other way: Feliz has to know himself better, and Wash pushed the limit because the rest of his bullpen is a bit taxed, too. In the two-inning affair, Feliz fired 35 pitches, with heaters regularly humming at 97, 98, 99. On the next night, his gas was "sputtering" at 94, 95. After a Maddux visit, the righty pushed it to 96 and touched 97, but he was clearly not in peak condition.
Washington probably should've bitten the bullet and mixed and matched for a night. While his teammates say that it's no big deal and Feliz seemed fine, there's an increased risk of injury, albeit slight, when a pitcher takes the hill with less than something near a full tank. There are no immediate concerns about Feliz's status, but hopefully the Rangers are a bit smarter about the deployment of a pitcher who fought through some early struggles and has already been on the DL. He's not a lock to be on hand on Friday.
Job security score: 5
Health score: 5
- Joe Nathan (soreness in surgically repaired elbow) checked off "pitch on back-to-back days" on Wednesday with Triple-A Rochester by allowing an unearned run on a hit and a walk while fanning three. Ron Gardenhire received positive news about how his former closer is throwing and feeling.
The club is viewing this setback in his comeback as a positive: It broke up scar tissue in the joint, so he could come back stronger than he was at the beginning of the season. The initial results and reports seem to corroborate that hypothesis. It will probably take some time, but there's certainly more reason to believe that Nathan will eventually supplant Matt Capps at the back end. If someone dropped Nathan, snatch him up.
- The Seattle Mariners' official site reported that, despite some soreness, Brandon League felt quite a bit better on Wednesday, after he'd taken a liner to the ankle on Tuesday evening. He tossed from flat ground and threw in a bullpen session, then declared that he'd be ready last night. Eric Wedge called him a game-time decision and later revealed that he'd been available, but the M's never needed him - nor did they on Thursday. League should be at Wedge's disposal moving forward. Phew.
- A blown chance on Wednesday makes it consecutive blunders for Francisco Rodriguez, who afterward said to the media that he needs to remove his head from his arse. The right-hander had converted 19 straight opportunities prior to this poopy pair.
June (nine innings, 12 hits and eight earned runs) has brought the New York Mets' closer the correction to his ERA (from 1.73 to 3.34) that seemed inevitable. He's also struck out 15 and issued just one free pass this month, however, and his undoing has largely been the result of the three homers he's served up - the first three of the season against him.
Did you miss the window of opportunity to capitalize on his peak trade value? New York hopes they don't (minus "peak"), in July. Barring an injury, K-Rod should work through this stretch and be solid, but he might be a source of saves for only as long as he's wearing a Mets uni.
- Mark Melancon owners, rejoice! Next week, Brandon Lyon will have season-ending surgery on his right becips.
Melancon celebrated by "earning" Houston's W against the Rangers on Wednesday. He entered at the beginning of the bottom of the eighth and gave up three walks (one intentional) and a double to hand Texas an insurance run. Fortunately, he benefited from Feliz's aforementioned gaffe and then shut Texas down in the ninth.
- As the team's official site reports, the St. Louis Cardinals are facing facts: Eduardo Sanchez, who's dealing with a strained right shoulder, seems unlikely to be ready to come off the DL when first eligible, at the beginning of next week.
Sanchez hadn't yielded a run in his last nine games (10 2/3 innings) and is worth stashing, in deep leagues. He's the most intriguing alternative to Fernando Salas, who has blown two of his last four save opps and has yielded runs in six of his last 12 appearances.
- Jose Valverde is thanking his lucky stars that the Detroit Tigers subbed in Austin Jackson for his center-field defense on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The closer made it interesting when, with a two-run lead and one out, he gave up two hits and a walk to juice the bases. Valverde struck out Casey Blake before Dioner Navarro drove one to deep center that Jackson tracked down at the wall to end it.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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