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Frank Francisco registered the closure Friday, his third straight successful conversion for the Toronto Blue Jays. He also threw in the ninth with a four-run lead Saturday. It looks like he has retaken the stopper lead from Jon Rauch, thanks in part to a 1.23 ERA and nine K's in 7 1/3 June frames.
Salas not offering solace
Skipper John Farrell and GM Alex Anthopoulos recently noted Francisco's improvements: a more aggressive approach and better employment of his curveball. Grab Frank Frank if he's available; Rauch can still reside on deep, save-desperate benches but might not be worth much in the near future if this arrangement holds.
- Fernando Salas' woes continued Friday. It wasn't a BS, but the solo homer he allowed to Jose Bautista broke a ninth-inning tie. In his last 14 appearances, the St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander owns a 5.52 ERA and has yielded three taters. He's still the leader, but watch out for Mitchell Boggs (one earned run, nine whiffs in nine innings since resurfacing from Class AAA Memphis).
Sure, the Cards might look to the trade market if they're going to shake up the back end, and as noted last week, Boggs' uncertain role could hinder his chances. But he's reminding them why he was their initial post-Ryan Franklin choice, and there might be a few pre-deadline saves in his holster. Though Salas has some breathing room, it'd be wise for his owners to seek backup plans.
- The Philadelphia Phillies probably will probably have to go until at least Tuesday without Ryan Madson, who has inflammation in the small muscle of his right (pitching) hand. He'll throw tomorrow to determine if he'll be available. Antonio Bastardo is the first option to close in the meantime, per Charlie Manuel, but Michael Stutes is also in consideration. Try Bastardo for a potential short-term contribution.
- Pain in his troublesome elbow caused Jonathan Broxton to miss his Sunday rehab outing. It doesn't look like he'll return to the Los Angeles Dodgers this coming weekend. An "oh, by the way" from LA: Brox's fastball was clocked at 93 mph Thursday, a drop of 2 mph from previous recordings. Though this adds more doubt to the righty's effectiveness and timetable, Don Mattingly is still expected to hand fireman duties back to him, at some point if not immediately.
Until Broxton is ready, Javy Guerra remains the likely top savior, with Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo working setup frames. The latter has let up three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning over his last two appearances; he still has work to do before threatening saves work. Jansen's success in eating one-plus innings will hurt his stopper chances in the short term, but given this bullpen's volatility and his voluminous K output, he's an ownable commodity.
- Jordan Walden's blistering fastball often flew outside of the K zone Sunday as he blew the save chance, his second straight botched opp. The closer for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim suffered because of some possibly shaky umpiring, but Walden's release point and lower-body delivery motion were of concern to Mike Scioscia, who said he'll confer with pitching coach Mike Butcher to assess the problem.
Walden's recent struggles aren't enough to jeopardize his job, especially due to the questionable calls Sunday and the fact the staff understands he might have mechanical issues to work through. If you're not as certain, Scott Downs remains next in line, even with Fernando Rodney (back) possibly returning from the DL within the next week.
- Huston Street is battling right groin soreness and was unavailable Saturday. He was ready to pitch Sunday after playing catch Saturday, but the Colorado Rockies didn't need him yesterday. He should be good to go Monday. Though this is a positive for the righty with an extensive injury history, it's always productive to at least have Matt Lindstrom at your pickup fingertips if you own Street.
- Condolences to Drew Storen, who will miss Monday's contest to attend his grandmother's funeral. He'll rejoin the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. If you're looking for a one-day shot at an extra save, it would likely be a toss-up between Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard, depending on matchups. Feeling lucky in your rental?
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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