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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Nats untucking Rafael Soriano? Angels in flight, 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)
to
5 (untouchable)
Health Outlook (HO):
1 (fragile)
to
5 (durable)
: Up
 
+: Added
 
INJ: Injured
: Down
 
M: Minors
 
DL: Disabled List

 

Team
JS
HO
Closer
Understudy/Fill-in
Lurker(s)
Washington Nationals
2
5
Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Drew Storen

Closer Hot Seat wasn't just paying lip service a couple of weeks ago to the possibility that Davey Johnson will make a switch here. The Washington Nationals have slowly climbed back into the wild-card race. Every game is critical, so the skipper won't be thrilled if his bullpen gives one away.

Washington Nationals RP Rafael Soriano
Will Sori have to share?

Soriano has emerged from a rough mid-August stretch to record three straight saves in the past week. However, the righty's August performance has fairly indicated to Johnson and Co. that their closer just isn't as dominant as he used to be. The manager acknowledged all this earlier in the week, including that Clippard could be to whom the team turns in save sitches.

A couple of days later, The Washington Times' Amanda Comak -- coincidentally, CHS is sure -- scribed a feature on the man who's been, easily, the Nats' most reliable reliever. It's pretty clear that fans and followers have developed a great appreciation for Clippard.

Johnson has demonstrated that he's a man of action when it comes to bullpen roles, and he's relied on Clippard to close in the past. Storen has obviously not yet convinced his manager that he's ready to reassume that role, and he probably won't this season. Given the stakes, it's easy to imagine a scenario in which Johnson goes with Clippard in the ninth.

Soriano owners should pursue Clippard wherever he's available. Saves chasers should try to beat them to the punch.

Mound meetings

Make it two in a row for Jim Johnson. Last night's scoreless stanza gave him his 41st save. Again, it was pretty vintage JJ. He gave up an infield single on a ball hit weakly to the right side. He induced a double-play grounder to erase that potential problem. And then he fanned the final better.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter has pretty much backed his closer through thick and thin. A couple of outings more like his last two, and Johnson may regain complete faith from his skipper. Stay tuned, though.

***

Dane De La Rosa set up Ernesto Frieri, who walked one and gave up one hit but preserved a two-run lead last night for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Mike Scioscia used the duo in reverse order on Tuesday night to dispatch the Tampa Bay Rays as well. However, when Frieri had entered the contest, the Halos were trailing by a run. De La Rosa cleaned up after they'd taken the lead in the top of the ninth at Tropicana Field.

The latest few episodes, in fact, suggest that Frieri remains his skipper's preferred go-to guy in the ninth. Of course, slip-ups would subject Frieri's pseudo-closer role to another possible coup. Fantasy owners should be happy that the manager is using Frieri like a closer, for the most part, whether he names the right-hander his closer again or not.

Frieri isn't out of the woods yet, so fantasy owners should hold De La Rosa where they can, just in case.

***

The Angels were in position to win that Tuesday tilt because Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney yielded two runs (only one earned) to the visitors in the final frame. His oft sordid control (two walks, one of them prior to the big blow) started the trouble, although an E8 just prior to Erick Aybar's two-run double certainly didn't help.

Baltimore Orioles RP Jim Johnson
Rodney hanging on

Rodney threw 31 pitches on that night. But he came right back out on Wednesday and pitched a perfect inning, striking out two, to register his 31st save. Good to see.

As long as Rodney limits his disappointments to about two per month, as he's done since May, Joe Maddon is highly unlikely to make a switch. The Rays will probably search for a new bullpen reclamation project this winter, however.

***

Jason Grilli (strained right forearm) threw a 25-pitch sim game on Wednesday at PNC Park and emerged without a problem. He used all his pitches. Assuming that he continued to feel that way yesterday, he's expected to begin a rehab assignment this weekend with Double-A Altoona.

Grilli's rehab assignment would likely progress somewhat slowly, because neither he nor the Pittsburgh Pirates want him to rush back. Mid-September would seem to be a reasonable target, without setbacks.

***

Danny Farquhar was saddled with a loss on Tuesday when, in the 10th inning of a tied game, he committed perhaps the silliest infraction in sports: a balk. The righty had already yielded two hits, but the slightest hesitation in his delivery, with a man on third, is what plated the go-ahead (soon-to-be winning) run. The Seattle Mariners lost to the Texas Rangers 4-3.

Farquhar recovered from that frustrating moment to pitch a scoreless inning on Thursday night for his 10th save. He'd walked the leadoff man, but a K and a ground-ball double play quickly ended the Houston Astros' hopes.

***

Rafael Betancourt (torn ulnar collateral ligament in right elbow) has decided to go under the knife after all, according to multiple reports. Don't look for him until 2015, in what will be his age-40 campaign. The righty believes that he'll be able to pitch for a few more years once he's recovered, too.

Will he be doing it in a major league uniform? It's doubtful.



 


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