Astros' Lidge Regains Closer Job

by Michael Egnak on June 10, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT's Alyson Footer reports Houston Astros manager Phil Garner is ready to move Brad Lidge back to closer. However, he said the transition will not happen overnight.

"I still believe that we're at our best if Lidge is doing what he's doing now, and Dan Wheeler and [Chad] Qualls and [Trever] Miller are all doing their things," Garner said. "[Wheeler's] disappointed, but I'm not so sure he's sure he's not disappointed in the way he's pitching. When I made this move [to use Wheeler as the closer], it was understood that if Lidge gets back on track, he goes back to his role."

With Lidge's confidence back, he appears ready to return to closing out tight games in the ninth inning. Lidge was horrible at the start of the year. He blew a save to open the season, and then he gave up five runs, two earned to the St. Louis Cardinals April 8. The result was a 5.79 ERA, a 2.57 WHIP and a demotion to a middle relief role in April.

Since April, Lidge has returned to his 2005 form. He has a 0.84 ERA, a 0.66 WHIP and 28 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings since May 1. The team can now go back to how they envisioned their bullpen before the season started, with reliever Dan Wheeler headed back to a setup role and relievers Chad Qualls and Trever Miller pitching in middle relief.

Chances are Lidge is already owned in many fantasy leagues, but he's worth picking up immediately and starting if he is still available. Wheeler is still worth holding on to as well. Lidge has struggled in save situations recently, so there is the chance that his stay as the team's closer is short-lived.

For Wheeler owners who now in need of a closer, keep an eye on the Florida MarlinsKevin Gregg is currently the closer, but the team recently traded for Armando Benitez. Gregg (2-0, 9 SV) has a 2.00 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 36 innings. With a 1.11 WHIP, he should be able to hold off Benitez while he's pitching well. Benitez (0-3, 9 SV) has a 3.86 ERA on the season with a 1.37 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. If Gregg were to struggle for any length of time, the Marlins would likely move Benitez to the closer's role quickly.

With Benitez gone from the San Francisco Giants, Brad Hennessey (1-2, 4 SV) has taken over as the team's closer. Hennessey has a 3.33 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings so far this year. His strikeout totals are low, but he is earning saves now for the team.

One final very short-term option is Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Damaso Marte. Closer Matt Capps has an appeal hearing for a four-game suspension early this week. Should Capps' appeal get rejected, Marte could step in and be the closer for a few days.

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About Michael Egnak

Michael Egnak is a Hot Off The Wire Analyst at KFFL and has been with the company since 2005. Covering both NFL and MLB, Egnak is also a key contributor to KFFL's fantasy services.

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