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Marmol wasted no time spoiling his tenuous hold on Chicago Cubs closures. Going into the ninth on Monday with a three-run cushion, he struck out the first batter but then hit Andrew McCutchen, who promptly stole second before scoring on a Pedro Alvarez single off a 1-2 hanger. After Marmol walked the potential tying tally, Russell entered and retired a batter. Fujikawa came in and induced the game-ending pop-up.
Just for the taste of it?
Dale Sveum says Marmol is still his closer, and that's probably true for at least a few more opportunities. Russell's entry into the spot was merely matchup-based; Fujikawa would come first as a replacement if he builds on his brief but uneventful debut.
The former Hanshin Tigers fireman stood among the most coveted save speculations during draft season. Expect him to be one of the most popular waiver grabs this week, and if you have the need - especially if you're clinging to Marmol - you should follow suit, even if you must wait things out.
The Detroit Tigers committee has its first session Monday. Benoit, who pitched the eighth, stayed on to face righty stick Josh Willingham to open the ninth. After forcing a pop-up, Benoit was removed for Coke, who retired lefty launcher Joe Justin Morneau and switch-hitter Ryan Doumit to pound the gavel.
It won't always work this way. Probably due to Doumit's disadvantage in career numbers batting right-handed, Leyland stuck with his lefty, despite Coke's shaky numbers versus righty bats. Plus, it doesn't hurt that Jim Leyland has fond memories of Coke quenching such situations from last postseason and has previously expressed doubt over Benoit's ability to pitch on back-to-back days. While that assessment may be ... um, less than accurate according to the numbers, at least in recent seasons, it's not to be taken lightly.
Coke holds as much of a lead as possible in these tight quarters. Carriers of the right-handed RPs will have less of a payoff, but owning any of these three pieces of this early-season arrangement wouldn't be a wasted trial.
With the Milwaukee Brewers leading by one in the ninth yesterday, Ax's first two opposing batters ran the count to 3-2, but he punched both of them out with fastballs. The pitch immediately following the second K was crushed by Dexter Fowler for the game-tying bomb. Ax didn't keep that one low in the zone, and it hurt him. In fact, that's what crippled much of his 2012.
This blown assignment won't jeopardize Axford immediately. His recovery last year helped him earn some rope, and this time, he was eventually bailed out in extra stanzas. But if his location starts to waver and mistakes multiply, he may fall back into trouble. Deep leaguers should keep close ties with Henderson, who logged a 1-2-3 10th versus the heart of the Colorado Rockies' order and eventually garnered the W.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's Ernesto Frieri, the primary replacement for the sidelined Ryan Madson (elbow), worked around a one-out walk to wrap things up yesterday on the back of a groundout and two strikeouts. Per MLB.com Gameday, he threw only one breaking pitch in 18 tosses - they called it a slider, but it's reported in other outlets as a cutter. He's leaned on his four-seamer for most of his career but has been working on diversifying.
If Frieri expands on the dynamite performance he showed most of last year and becomes a more complete pitcher, Madson may need more than the typical ease-in process to regain the closer role.
Erik Bedard's save in the Houston Astros' Sunday win came after 3 1/3 innings of solid relief; he was available because he wasn't scheduled to start until this coming weekend.
You may write this off as a one-time deal, and that's logical. But make a tiny Post-it about what GM Jeff Luhnow is implementing in the minors: All farm squads are using tandem starting pitchers - eight bodies for four rotation slots - to bring them along with care during their development.
This doesn't point to any singular, imminent threat to Jose Veras' opportunities. However, if the boss, who's open to experimenting with his organization, decides this system could at least occasionally help the arms that are developing for the big club that isn't expected to compete, such situations may shut out Veras from time to time. It's a long shot, but not impossible.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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