Understudy: Koji Uehara
Lurkers: Mike Gonzalez, Alfredo Simon
Though O's skipper Buck Showalter still might play matchups for the rest of the year, it's looking more and more like Uehara is pulling ahead in this race. In protecting a three-run lead Wednesday, the righty worked around a single and an RBI triple with two outs to hang on for the closure.
Despite his stumble last night, Uehara has a 2.05 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 22 innings since his return from the DL in late June. He has wrapped up Baltimore's last two chances.
Valverde has a splitter headache
There's a chance Showalter didn't want Simon, who pitched Tuesday, to come in on back-to-back nights. But given Simon's recent struggles, Showalter hasn't seen the Simon that did the job admirably earlier in the year.
Expect a pickup party to start for Uehara, who's widely unowned. If you need saves, don't waste time. Uehara seems to have found a groove in the 'pen.
Job security score: 1
Health score: 4
Closer: Jose Valverde
Papa Grande's fried second half continued Wednesday, this time in save work. Valverde allowed one run on two hits (plus an inherited runner to cross the plate) with two outs in the eighth to snap his streak of 24 straight successful save conversions. He has a 7.80 ERA and a 1.87 WHIP in 14 post-break appearances.
Since the All-Star break, Valverde has been called upon in the eighth inning four times to do some extra save work. Before Wednesday's debacle, he threw 60 pitches in one of them and walked four batters in another. In eight eighth-inning appearances this year (4 1/3 innings), he has a 4.15 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. In the ninth (45 2/3 innings), 2.36 and 1.01.
Valverde's split-finger fastball isn't "darting like it was before," per manager Jim Leyland. The pitcher, though, believes the offering just needs to be more consistent, and he needs to do a better job of preparing. He typically watches video to garner insight after his rough outings.
The Tigs might give Valverde a brief rest here and there, but barring an injury, his job shouldn't be in danger.
Job security score: 5
Health score: 5
- Brandon League stepped in last night to record a five-out save for the Seattle Mariners, while closer David Aardsma nursed sore and bruised ribs that had kept him out for six days. Aardsma has been receiving treatment and should be ready to go Friday.
No alarm sounding yet, but rib injuries often linger for pitchers. Deep leaguers could pick up League on the chance Aardsma needs to miss more time; the former already has been a serviceable ratio reliever and rogue W earner for most of the season. If you need saves, look into him.
- Neftali Feliz received a well-deserved night of Wednesday after pitching on the last three days, and four of the last five. With Frank Francisco (ribcage) day-to-day, the Texas Rangers went with Matt Harrison in the ninth, and the southpaw retired the final two hitters, both lefties, to wrap it up.
In 33 relief innings this year, Harrison has a 2.18 ERA. As a starter, he holds a 5.29 ERA in 34 frames. He might be useful in AL-only setups but shouldn't be chased for this save alone. Expect Feliz to return tonight.
Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: AL | NL
Fantasy baseball closer depth charts: AL | NL
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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
Don't miss these great reports....