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.
On Tuesday night, the Oakland Athletics, on Jarrod Parker's back, handed Brian Fuentes a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning. The left-hander allowed the first two Minnesota Twins he faced to reach (one single, one base on balls) before Ben Revere handed him an out with a popped-up bunt. The A's couldn't turn two on Joe Mauer's FC ground-out, which set the stage.
More juice from Bell
Josh Willingham deposited a 1-0 Fuentes offering in the cheap(er than box seats) seats to walk the Twins off. Fuentes, Oakland's closer because Grant Balfour wasn't good enough for Bob Melvin, told Susan Slusser about the meatball, along with how he felt about blowing it.
Melvin hasn't given any hint that he'll look to swap out Fuentes, who'd converted three save chances before yesterday's stunner and had in general had a good month before that. However, since his demotion, Balfour has had only one poor appearance, on May 19, and has pitched well in nine innings (four hits, two runs, five walks, eight strikeouts). The righty was kind of pissed that he lost the gig, too.
It'll probably take an additional meltdown or two before Melvin considers another change, and those meltdowns would probably have to come in a bunch. Fuentes has pitched fairly well this season and may not cooperate, but his track record from the past couple of seasons provides hope.
Fuentes at closer might seem to serve little purpose for the A's, but they probably have designs to trade him, given the southpaw's costly 2013 option and relatively cheap buyout. He'll have value to multiple clubs because he can be a dangerous left-handed specialist, however. If the club hopes to trade Balfour, it may want to lend something to his perceived value eventually. Ryan Cook, whose streak of scoreless innings to open a season ended on Monday, may be a closer in waiting, but he'll probably have to wait his turn.
On Tuesday, Tim discussed the dissonance between the Miami Marlins' closer and manager, which centered on the former's selection of pitches. That night, Heath Bell recorded his second save accompanied by two K's in two days, giving him nine. Apparently, something is clicking for the right-hander, whether he and Ozzie Guillen are clicking or not.
The Sun-Sentinel's Mike Berardino quoted the eloquent Ozzie ("... he's doing what he's supposed to be doing") and confirmed that Bell's fastball was lighting up the gun at 95 and 96. That's pretty good for his second day of work in a row. Perhaps the formerly fearsome fireman has discovered or rediscovered something. This could be a big positive, but stay tuned.
The San Diego Padres expect Huston Street to feel fine after his Wednesday bullpen session, which Bud Black said was at "high intensity." If they're right, Street will head out on a rehab assignment that'd begin on Friday, as Corey Brock reports.
Street owners should expect to get the reliever, who's on the DL because of a lat strain, back sometime next week, possibly near the beginning of it, barring a setback.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs won their second in a row, with lefty James Russell striking out both men he retired to wrap up a two-run victory in the ninth. Righty Shawn Camp set him up with 1 1/3 scoreless innings (including a solid eighth in which he stranded a couple of inherited runners) and exited prior to the at-bat of Jeff Baker, a right-handed hitter, in the ninth.
Perhaps Dale Sveum was aware of Baker's unusual reverse splits this season. It wouldn't be a surprise since the Cubs, thanks to their new front office, are probably near the forefront of baseball statistical analysis. But that's a small sample size, and Baker has enjoyed a great deal of success against southpaws in his career.
Whatever the reason, Camp and Russell probably lead this crew, although how much that means is TBD. Casey Coleman was the skipper's guy on Monday, but the way that game went, he might've merely favored the use of his two familiar, reliable relievers earlier in the contest.
Sveum appears content with matching up his relievers as best as he can. That makes saves unpredictable and probably not worth chasing in most mixed leagues. It may also make Carlos Marmol's attempt to reclaim his job a bit tougher, since no one pitcher will be at fault for a string of blown chances. It's clearly on Marmol to throw strikes - and his fastball.
Casey Janssen appeared in a non-save situation on Tuesday night and yielded a couple of runs to the Baltimore Orioles, but the Toronto Blue Jays hung on to win 8-6, with the righty recording the final out. Considering that it wasn't a save situation and those were the first two runs Janssen has allowed since assuming the interim duties, it's safe to say that he's not in danger of that appearance affecting the status of his temporary title.
The Texas Rangers' signing of Roy Oswalt probably ensures that Neftali Feliz will end up in the bullpen when he returns from the disabled list, where he resides because of sprain in his ulnar collateral ligament. Feliz has reportedly already stated his desire to remain a starter, but Texas will look out for his health and its organization for at least the rest of 2012.
Feliz will have retainer value in AL leagues as Joe Nathan insurance, but he's unlikely to be anything more than the setup man otherwise. Roto owners who have him in a DL spot have a couple of months to see what plays out, at least. When the Rangers first discussed the possibility of Feliz's move to the rotation a couple of years ago, he was sure that he wanted to remain the closer, too. It's difficult to trust what might be an emotional reaction.
Fantasy managers who have Frank Francisco have to be encouraged by his recent performance. ESPN Stats & Info guru Mark Simon breaks down the right-hander's improvements in velocity, efficiency and mode of attack. On Tuesday, he recorded his 14th save of the season.
Other Tuesday saviors
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.