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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Diamondbacks, Andrew Bailey, more

By Nicholas Minnix
Edited by Tim Heaney

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.

Job Security (JS):
1 (unstable)
5 (untouchable)
Health Outlook (HO):
1 (fragile)
5 (durable)
: Up
+: Added
INJ: Injured
: Down
M: Minors
DL: Disabled List


Arizona Diamondbacks
  Brad Ziegler
J.J. Putz
Heath Bell 
David Hernandez

The Snakes don't know the identity of their closer. This can be a problem for fantasy owners. Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson seem to be at a loss since Bell (ninth inning) and Hernandez (seventh) coughed up leads to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. KT said that the club would examine internal as well as external choices, although he prefers that the solution be internal, he noted. (Prospect Archie Bradley isn't an option.)

Arizona Diamondbacks RP J.J. Putz
It Putz the lotion on the hot seat

Naturally, given the predicament, Arizona would face a save situation on Thursday evening. Gibson called on Ziegler, who put a bow on a 5-3 victory for Arizona, and afterward responded to a question about whether the right-handed side-armer could get another shot in the ninth this weekend: "He could," so revealingly. "We'll see."

Ziegler's 4.98 K/9 won't excite fantasy owners, but he has a 2.49 ERA, along with two saves (the other coming in extra innings on Independence Day), in 43 1/3 innings. He's doing that one thing most essential to ending a game: getting outs. Of course, last night, he hit the leadoff man and yielded a base hit after a line-drive out to make things interesting.

Lost in this shuffle is the fact that Putz hasn't allowed a base runner in 3 1/3 innings since a blown save chance on July 1 cost him the job. He put the Dodgers down without incident on the night before Towers and Gibson threw up their hands.

The decision-makers have fantasy managers by the baseballs. That's life in this category. Look at this team's pitching staff. Who among the relievers stands out? Why would the Diamondbacks trade for a known back-end reliever when they have plenty of other tough questions to answer?

Putz seems deserving -- whatever that means -- of another look in a save situation. Why he lost the role so quickly isn't clear. Ziegler has endeared himself to his skipper, for one night at least, as far as that job is concerned. Those two seem to be the best bets to roster, with Putz requiring some patience. Meanwhile, Bell and Hernandez are probably better off if they stay out of sight, at least until after the break.

Good luck, fantasy owners. If you have a D'backs reliever, you'll need it.

Boston Red Sox
Junichi Tazawa

Uehara struck out two Seattle Mariners and didn't allow a base runner on Thursday to pick up a Boston Red Sox save on Thursday. The righty is 6-for-8 in conversions since assuming the role for an indefinite period. Unquestionably, he has the skills to remain quite serviceable in the ninth for the balance of the season.

Interesting, however, is Bailey's performance this month: 4 1/3 shutout innings in three games, with two hits, no walks and five strikeouts. Two of the appearances were for five outs. At the open of this week, there were hints that the righty was regaining favor as a back-end option. Yesterday, Bailey discussed his rebound, which he largely attributes to the revival of his cut fastball.

Manager John Farrell has already made comments indicating that he believes his club's best bullpen arrangement is probably one that features Bailey as his closer, too. If these things don't add up to the figurative "writing on the wall," well, then, it's no longer an idiom. And the BoSox's clubhouse walls are blanketed in graffiti.

Of course, an adjusted grip doesn't mean the end of all problems. Bailey may have to prove that the changes will stick. Signs supporting this news are extremely positive, however. Farrell will probably wait for the break to make the switch -- or perhaps longer, if it ain't broke and all -- but sooner or later, Bailey should be closing again. And fantasy owners should've been waiting for it.

Mound meetings

Seattle Mariners RP Tom Wilhelmsen
Well, so much for that....

Eric Wedge announced earlier this week that Tom Wilhelmsen is his closer again. Since, the right-hander has appeared twice, both times against the Red Sox: first in mop-up duty on Wednesday, when he yielded two runs on two hits and two walks; and then again on Thursday, when he entered the ninth with two outs and the contest tied, bailing out the Seattle Mariners in that frame with a K before surrendering the lead in the 10th on a hit and a pair of walks.

Wilhelmsen felt he knew exactly the reason for his failure: a leadoff walk, a virtual sin in pitching, particularly of the relief variety. Oh, did he mention that his poor control, especially to open a frame, contributed to his ill performances that cost him the closer's role last month? Of course not.

Apparently, no one gives a crap, if the media is to be trusted. (It's not, but sports reporting is way down on the list of reasons why.) Closer Hot Seat will set the agenda: Wedge still has few reasons to feel comfortable turning to his "closer." Oliver Perez is, at minimum, a candidate to appear in the ninth again should matchups dictate it.

The skipper has used both pitchers heavily in the past couple of days, so a save chance on Friday might go to someone not worth the trouble. Hopefully, fantasy owners uncover more clues his weekend. Perez is reportedly a hot commodity on the barter market, so it can't hurt to have him seal a deal now and then. Wilhelmsen is clearly who the M's want back there, however.


The winner of the AL's final vote and newest AL All-Star, Steve Delabar, came into the Toronto Blue Jays' contest versus the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday to retire a batter on one pitch and tally a save. He relieved Casey Janssen, who'd spent 26 pitches to register two outs. The club's closer was laboring, having allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk.

Janssen hasn't fanned a batter in his last three frames (spanning five games), which isn't a long stretch, but he's given up five hits and three walks in that time, also. He's definitely not overworked, with those stanzas spanning two weeks. Is his surgically repaired shoulder, which he acknowledged at the beginning of the season would continue to cause him grief, becoming more problematic, even if fantasy owners have heard nothing about it for a while?

It makes one wonder. Janssen's stuff has noticeably lost some movement this month, according to his BrooksBaseball.net page. It could be related to something mechanical. Even so, his health may be involved. Delabar should be long gone in AL-only leagues. He's creeping onto the mixed-league detection system, as well.


Fernando Rodney was unavailable on Thursday because he'd appeared in three straight contests for the Tampa Bay Rays, so the honor of save-sitch duties went to Jake McGee. The southpaw fanned two in a perfect inning to notch his first career save.

Joel Peralta came on with two outs in the eighth inning of that tilt versus the Minnesota Twins to retire the only batter he'd face on strikes. Joe Maddon's use of Peralta in such situations is far from uncommon these days, given Peralta's nasty changeup that has made him so good against left-handed batters.

The pattern may suggest that in the event of a Rodney removal -- something that has become much less likely, but nothing is guaranteed, and injuries do happen -- that the skipper wouldn't then just push Peralta into the job. McGee has pitched well since his awful first two months. Of course, no one can be sure when it comes to Maddon's Rays, but the manager would seem likely to be comfortable with either of those two at the back end right now.


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