During the regular season, the Closer Hot Seat will be your go-to guide for Major League Baseball's bullpen chatter. During spring training, KFFL's Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Session will get you tuned up for the fantasy baseball saves chase. Camp happenings don't always impact closer battles, but if there's MLB news you should know for your fantasy baseball draft, you'll find it here.
Just in case....
It seems all but certain that Felix Doubront will make the Boston Red Sox's rotation. That leaves Alfredo Aceves, and perhaps Aaron Cook and even Vicente Padilla, to battle Daniel Bard for the final post. Although his versatility may be enough to keep him in the bullpen, Aceves has had a superb spring, save for one horrific outing. Bobby Valentine has been appreciative of Cook's grounder-inducing sinker, too.
All this could spell a return to relief duty - if not right away, then eventually - for Bard, 26. He has the stuff to start, but his spring results, until today, suggest that he still hasn't been willing to pitch to contact frequently enough. Boston has depth concerns at both ends, but they'd have to feel better about their roster of relievers if they stuck Bard back in the 'pen. For now, they remain committed to the conversion.
Speculative buyers in AL leagues have tucked aside Mark Melancon to take advantage if (when?) Andrew Bailey is sidelined. Most fantasy baseball players have backed off Bard because he doesn't appear to be shaping up as a good starter, too. But if Bard doesn't secure a rotation spot - good possibility - he's just as good as, if not better than, Melancon as a low-cost target for potential save opportunities.
Bard was a closer-in-waiting, after all. And Melancon, as solid as he was for the Houston Astros, depends on his fielders more than a strikeout hurler like Bard. That can be dangerous against AL East foes like the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. It can also be hazardous because Mike Aviles is a weak link up the middle for the BoSox. Much is TBD, but don't forget about this possibility - whether you have yet to draft or are combing the wire.
To set up Jonathan Papelbon, the Philadelphia Phillies will use lefty Antonio Bastardo - and, for now, right-hander Chad Qualls. In nine ST innings, Qualls has fanned eight and walked two. He's also allowed six hits and four earned runs, although most of the damage occurred in his first Grapefruit League appearance.
Bastardo, who's no stranger to nagging health problems, hasn't been particularly sharp this spring. Jose Contreras (elbow surgery) is still working his way back, although he seems fairly close. The Phils have several youngsters who have closer-type stuff, but might it be former Arizona Diamondbacks closer Qualls who'd take the ball in the ninth if, heaven forbid, something happened to Paps?
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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