Chicago Cubs closer Ryan Dempster (oblique) was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, June 26, retroactive to June 23. He strained his left oblique muscle while throwing his first pitch in the Cubs' game Friday, June 22. It was originally thought he would just miss a few days. His absence has definitely left a dent in the Cubs' bullpen, as Dempster had been fairly reliable, with 16 saves in 18 opportunities.
Veteran reliever Bobby Howry has been pegged as the interim closer, but he blew his fourth save of the season Monday night, June 25. Reliever Carlos Marmol is considered to have closing potential, but he was unable to finish up the ninth Tuesday night, June 26, after entering in a non-save situation. That led the team to bring in reliever Will Ohman, who went on to record his first career save.
A month ago the team had also initiated plans to start grooming reliever Angel Guzman, a former starter, as the closer, by giving him work in the seventh inning and allowing him to work his way towards the ninth inning. There had also been talk of moving Dempster into the starting rotation at some point if Guzman (elbow) showed progress in adjusting to his new role. However, the team scrapped those plans when Guzman landed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month; Dempster was reportedly slated to finish the rest of this year in the bullpen.
Dempster's injury does not appear to be a serious one; fantasy owners should place him in a disabled list spot, if available. If no DL spot is available, Dempster remains too valuable to drop. Owners will then need to look for alternate closing options on the waiver wire. While the injury doesn't appear to be long-term, fantasy owners should note that oblique injuries tend to linger. Kansas City Royals closer Octavio Dotel suffered through an oblique strain (albeit more severe) that forced him to miss most of the first two months if this season.
Howry is certainly one of those options, because it is likely that no frontline closers are available on the waiver wire. If Howry is available, he should be picked up immediately, regardless of his meltdown Monday. Manager Lou Piniella sensed that he was overworking Howry and simply gave him the night off Tuesday. Marmol is more of a long-term project with minimal fantasy value right now; he can help in strikeout rate and ratios. Ohman is a situational pitcher and has no real value.
Pitchers like Houston Astros reliever Chad Qualls and Kansas City Royals reliever Jimmy Gobble have both recorded saves over the past week, so some occasional save sources can be found. Knowing when they'll come is the difficult part. Qualls could be a factor while closer Brad Lidge (oblique) is on the disabled list, especially if interim closer Dan Wheeler continues to struggle. He is available in roughly 99 percent of leagues polled. Gobble, available in nearly all leagues polled, may not be an option. Dotel has blown two straight saves, but reliever Joakim Soria is probably next in line should the job go to someone else. Desperate owners can give him a shot.
Another option is Oakland Athletics reliever Santiago Casilla. Available in about 93 percent of leagues polled, Casilla has dominated since receiving a call-up at the beginning of June. Since that time, he has allowed only one run, nine hits and four walks while fanning 18 in 15 innings. He has also picked up two saves this season. The A's should continue to turn to him on occasion while closer Huston Street (elbow) is on the disabled list and when reliever Alan Embree, the interim closer, is unavailable or has a poor matchup.
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