Fantasy Relief: Is Chapman finally the man in Cincy?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer

It seems like managers are changing closers these days every time the wind changes direction.

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There hasn't been a shortage of closer controversy through the first seven weeks of the season, and it seems only one bad performance gets you on the hot seat these days.

The latest two mind-racking situations come from Cincinnati and Washington.

Reds manager Dusty Baker is a hoot. He's having more trouble picking a closer than a teenage girl looking for her prom dress.

Granted, Baker probably wouldn't be in this situation if he didn't lose closer Ryan Madson to a season-ending elbow injury this spring, but nonetheless tracking the Reds' closer situation the last few days has been frustrating.

The last four saves for the Reds have gone to Jose Arredondo, Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall, who was the full-time closer before having to be bailed out by Arredondo on Saturday against the Yankees. After that, Baker finally seemed to succumb to the pressure of keeping Chapman out of the closer's role.

Baker said Chapman is his "No. 1 candidate" to close games, but he won't be the only option.

"No. 1, I'm tired of talking about it," Baker told reporters Monday. "No. 2, let us play and do our thing. We still have to monitor (Chapman) because he's not used to going three or four days in a row. It's going to be a situation where we're going to have to use who we think is best on that day. Hopefully, he's rested and the best guy for that day."

Chapman wasn't the best guy Monday against the Braves after having pitched five times since May 14. Arredondo received the nod in the ninth inning with Cincinnati clinging to a 4-1 lead. He was pulled after walking two batters, leaving Marshall to record a one-out save.

It's clear, though, it's Chapman's job to lose, but Fantasy owners in deep formats, particularly NL-only, might not want to hold onto Marshall or Arredondo given the recent shenanigans in Cincinnati.

Top non-closer RPs Week 7 (H2H)
Player Points
1. Anthony Bass, RP, Padres 44.5
2. Miguel Batista, RP, Mets 33.5
3. Jose Arredondo, RP, Reds 25
4. Kevin Gregg, RP, Orioles 22
5. Robbie Ross, RP, Rangers 21.5
6. Lucas Harrell, RP, Astros 21.5
7. Felipe Paulino, RP, Royals 21.5
8. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds 21
9. P.J. Walters, RP, Twins 20
10. Joe Smith, RP, Indians 20

Washington manager Davey Johnson also is churning through closers. But much like in Cincinnati, Johnson was forced to make changes after losing closer Drew Storen to injury. Washington had a good thing going for a while with Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez in a co-closer situation, but then Lidge broke down again.

Rodriguez was going strong for a while, but he had to be bailed out by Sean Burnett for the second time in four appearances Monday against the Phillies, leaving Johnson to restructure his bullpen.

Shortstop Ian Desmond pointed out Rodriguez's problem after Monday's game -- his inability to throw strikes. In his last five appearances, Rodriguez has thrown just 48 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Desmond said Rodriguez is battling the mental game right now and it seems Washington can't afford to watch Rodriguez go through growing pains much longer, no matter how much potential he might have. Johnson made the move Tuesday to use Rodriguez in a "less demanding" role and go to a committee approach for the closer's role.

Tyler Clippard lobbied hard for the job prior to Tuesday's game, but Johnson said he likes him in a setup role. Therefore, Rodriguez, Clippard and Burnett could all be considered for saves, with Craig Stammen as a sleeper option as well. But Stammen has been so good in long relief, it might be difficult for Johnson to remove him from that role.

I'm not surprised by Johnson's decision Tuesday. It seems the popular trend around the majors regarding closers is to throw a name at the wall and see what sticks. Sadly, that's a nightmare scenario for Fantasy owners as we continue to chase saves.

Closing Time

Each week we'll break down closer situations worthy of further examination ...

N.Y. Yankees: Injured reliever David Roberston (oblique) is expected to begin baseball activities later this week, but manager Joe Girardi isn't expecting Robertson to be activated off the disabled list when he is eligible on Sunday. That gives Rafael Soriano more time to potentially run away with the closer's role. Luckily for Robertson, Soriano hasn't received many save opportunities while he has been on the disabled list, leaving the door open for a co-closer committee once Roberston is active. It is worth stashing Robertson on your bench or in a DL spot if you can afford it.

Toronto: Injured closer Sergio Santos (shoulder) has stretched out to throwing from 120 feet and expects to be long tossing (250 feet) by the end of the week. The game plan is for him to throw off a mound next week and that will be followed by a rehab assignment. The Jays aren't putting a timetable on his return, but it's expected that Santos will be out at least three more weeks. Continue to roll with Casey Janssen as a stopgap option for saves. Janssen has recorded three May saves and has run his scoreless streak to 7 1/3 innings.

Top non-closers Week 7 (Rotisserie)
Player Rank
1. Anthony Bass, RP, Padres 15
2. Kevin Gregg, RP, Orioles 21
3. Jose Arredondo, RP, Reds 26
4. Joe Smith, RP, Indians 29
5. Brad Lincoln, RP, Pirates 32
6. Robbie Ross, RP, Rangers 39
7. Brad Ziegler, RP, Diamondbacks 40
8. Shawn Camp, RP, Cubs 41
9. Lucas Harrell, RP, Cubs 42
10. Ryan Cook, RP, A's 43

San Diego: We haven't heard much about injured closer Huston Street (strained lat muscle) other than that he is feeling better and traveling with the team. But clearly the Padres are in no rush to get him back with the way Dale Thayer is throwing. Thayer has converted all five of his save chances and has opened his 2012 season with 10 scoreless innings. There's no word yet of Street starting a throwing program, so he could be a few weeks from returning as well. Thayer continues to remain a viable stopgap Fantasy option for saves.

N.Y. Mets: Mets manager Terry Collins said he isn't considering using Bobby Parnell in the closer's role after his struggles last summer. Parnell has been a very effective bullpen arm for the Mets this year, and while Collins considers Parnell a closer of the future, he's hesitant to rush him back into that role in fear he struggles again. Collins said he will ease Parnell into different situations and give him some late-inning work, but it still seems Jon Rauch is the leading candidate to take over in the event something happens to Frank Francisco.

Detroit: Tigers closer Jose Valverde was cleared to return from a lower back strain Tuesday, but while he was out we saw the plan manager Jim Leyland has if Valverde would need to miss extended time. Setup man Joaquin Benoit is his first choice to close and Phil Coke would be the backup option if Benoit needed a day off or the Tigers were facing a slew of left-handed batters in a save situation.

Call to the 'pen

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Each week we'll break down pertinent Fantasy news with setup men and other relievers ...

Fantasy owners should start turning their attention toward Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando. Even before Neftali Feliz went on the disabled list, Ogando pitched two innings five times this month. He has tossed at least 30 pitches in three of his last four outings. You have to think now that Feliz is likely out until July that Texas could be pondering moving Ogando back into the rotation ... Giants reliever Sergio Romo has been mowing down hitters in May. He has struck out 14 batters in 7 2/3 innings this month, allowing just one run on three hits and two walks (1.17 WHIP). Romo has thrown 67 percent of his pitches for strikes and is getting hitters to swing and miss on 25 percent of his pitches in May ... Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs was starting to lose his grasp on the setup role in St. Louis after allowing five runs (four earned) on five walks and 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings to open May. But he's started to settle down. He's fired 2 1/3 scoreless innings and was called on for his seventh hold in the eighth inning during Monday's 4-3 win against the Padres ... The Red Sox have finally figured out how to get Andrew Miller to live up to his massive potential. The left-handed hurler, who was vying for a spot in the rotation this spring before getting hurt, has opened his 2012 campaign with eight scoreless innings. He is 1-0 with three holds, 10 strikeouts and just one walk in that span. The big change for Miller has been pitching exclusively out of the stretch. Manager Bobby Valentine said pitching out of the stretch makes Miller more efficient with his leg and body movements, which gives his fastball some sink and makes his slider more effective ... While Chad Qualls is starting to falter as a right-handed setup man for the Phillies, Antonio Bastardo has re-emerged as an elite left-handed setup reliever. After the Phillies had some concerns regarding Bastardo's velocity in the spring, those issues have been put to rest. Bastardo has been pretty much in the low 90s with his fastball all season, but he is finally extending his outings in May. He has gone at least one inning in five of nine outings after not going more than 2/3 of an inning in any April outing. Bastardo has tossed nine scoreless May innings, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out nine. He also has one win and seven holds. Bastardo has returned to being an excellent non-closer Fantasy option ... If you are looking for strikeouts, particularly in a Rotisserie league, then turn to Royals reliever Tim Collins. He is striking out 13.3 batters per nine innings this season and already has 18 strikeouts in 9 2/3 May innings ... Rex Brothers might be a future MLB closer, but right now he's a minor-league reliever after the Rockies demoted him Sunday. Manager Jim Tracy said Brothers, who began the year in a setup role, was demoted because he "is out of sync." The young reliever needs to get squared away mentally before rejoining the Rockies bullpen.

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