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Fantasy Relief: Say it ain't Joe?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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It wasn't supposed to go down like this. When Rangers closer Joe Nathan took the hill last Wednesday against the Mariners eyeing a save for a second straight day, it was expected to be automatic.

Nathan went into last Wednesday having converted 102 of 107 save chances when pitching without a day of rest (95.3 percent). Sadly, his 108th attempt was unsuccessful as the Mariners handed Nathan his first blown save of the season.

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The veteran closer, who missed the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery, had a 0-2 record and 9.00 ERA after that outing -- his fourth appearance of the season. This came following a horrid spring exhibition season as well.

Yet, last Thursday manager Ron Washington faced the firing squad and stood behind his closer, even with relievers Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando off to fantastic starts.

"People ask me if that puts pressure on me, knowing there are other guys that can close," Nathan told MLB.com. "If anything, that takes pressure off of me. We have lots of guys who can do a lot of different things if we need a rest or we're not as sharp as we need to be. If you play 162 games, you're not going to be sharp every single day. I think it's a good situation."

Adams and Ogando both picked up saves last week after Washington decided to give Nathan a rest. Washington refuses to name a "backup closer," but he said Adams, Ogando and Koji Uehara will all be possibilities for saves if Nathan is unavailable.

Nathan returned to action over the weekend, first appearing in a non-save opportunity Saturday against his former team, the Twins, and then getting his 109th opportunity to close out a game without a day of rest. There was no need for dramatics as Nathan needed just nine pitches to retire the side for his 264th career save.

"We've got to watch Joe, no doubt about it," Washington said. "But Joe is here to help us win ballgames. If Joe has a few outings where he's thrown a ton of pitches and we've got to stay away from him until he builds up strength and stamina, we've got guys who can do that. But he's our closer, and he's here to help us win ballgames."

Closing Time

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

Top non-closers in Week 2 (H2H)
Player Points
1. Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers 33.5
2. Chris Sale, RP, White Sox 28
3. Craig Stammen, RP, Nationals 25.5
4. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds 25
5. Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers 23
6. Hector Noesi, RP, Mariners 20.5
7. Chad Gaudin, RP, Marlins 20
8. Jeff Gray, RP, Twins 19
9. Lance Lynn, RP, Cardinals 18.5
10. Jon Rauch, RP, Mets 18

San Francisco: Brian Wilson revealed earlier this week that he was "pitching on borrowed time" due to elbow problems he's been battling since 2010. Wilson seems resigned to sitting out the rest of the 2012 season and could be looking at another Tommy John surgery, but that verdict will come down later in the week. For now, the Giants bullpen has to pick up the slack, and as expected, manager Bruce Bochy won't name a closer. Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo are the leading candidates in Bochy's committee approach, but if I'm taking a flier on any player, then it's Casilla. He was second on the team in 2011 with six saves, which all came from late August on after Wilson was limited because of elbow problems. He was also the first player to record a save for San Francisco since Wilson went on the disabled list this year.

Arizona: Through Monday, reliever Bryan Shaw had as many saves (two) as Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and more saves than Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Both Rivera and Valverde were must-own Fantasy relievers on Draft Day. Shaw was on no one's radar ... until now. The Diamondbacks have had so many save opportunities to begin the season that manager Kirk Gibson has had to rest oft-injured closer J.J. Putz at times. Takashi Saito's calf injury has opened the door for more opportunities for Shaw, who Gibson said has "a fearless attitude." Setup man David Hernandez now has some competition for closer's role in the event an injury shelves Putz.

Houston: The Brett Myers trade rumors have already begun. General manager Jeff Lunhow responded to them by saying he's not shopping any of his players at this time. But don't totally dispel what's going on. Myers has a $10 million vesting option ($3 million buyout) for the 2013 season. In a most likely scenario when the Astros begin to fall out of the playoff race, contending teams will come calling and Myers could be on the move later this summer. If that happens and Brandon Lyon is still struggling, Wilton Lopez and Fernando Rodriguez could be the top candidates to step into the closer's role.

Toronto: Sergio Santos seems to have a fix for his early-season struggles. He said he was trying to be too perfect with his pitches, which resulted in two blown saves to begin the year. Santos said he's going back to attacking the strike zone and not overthrowing. Since the change in philosophy, Santos passed his first test with a save last Thursday against the Red Sox. The call for Francisco Cordero to elevate to the closer's role will have to be put on hold for now.

L.A. Angels: It's been so bad for Jordan Walden that he doesn't even have a save chance through his team's first 11 games. It's definitely frustrating for Fantasy owners, but at least Walden has pitched two perfect outings this year, which we hope is a sign that he's more ready to handle the closer's role in 2012 after recording 10 blown saves in 2011.

Top non-closers Week 2 (Roto)
Player Rank
1. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds 13
2. Craig Stammen, RP, Nationals 18
3. Robbie Ross, SP, Rangers 23
4. Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers 28
5. Chris Sale, RP, White Sox 33
6. Jeff Gray, RP, Twins 35
7. Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers 36
8. David Phelps, SP, Yankees 43
9. Bryan Shaw, RP, Diamondbacks 49
10. Chad Gaudin, RP, Marlins 50

L.A. Dodgers: How smart does Don Mattingly look for sticking with Javy Guerra as his team's closer and not turning the job over to Kenley Jansen? Before recording his first blown save on Tuesday, Guerra entered play leading the majors with five saves. He allowed no runs and just two hits in his first six appearances (six innings), which included a win. Guerra's 58.5 Fantasy points through Monday was good enough to lead all relievers. Not bad value for a guy that on average went 30 picks later than Jansen, and that was in the leagues he was drafted! Guerra had just 55 percent ownership when Week 1 began.

Cleveland: Chris Perez owners can start to breathe easy again. Following a blown save in his first appearance April 5, Perez has tossed four scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks, while striking out three. He has three saves in that span as well. Indians manager Manny Acta doesn't have to call on Vinnie Pestano just yet.

Call to the 'pen

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

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Reds hitters hope to never see Nationals reliever Craig Stammen again. During their four-game series over the weekend, Stammen tossed four scoreless innings, recording two wins and nine strikeouts. The former starter has found his calling in the majors. He has a 1.00 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 12 relief outings (18 innings) since last season. He's also striking out 11.0 batters per nine innings in that span. ... Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen continues to look like the heir apparent to closer Brandon League, if Seattle can't sign League to a long-term deal. ... Red Sox reliever Vicente Padilla finally seems past his health problems and is pitching effectively out of the Boston bullpen. He even tossed four scoreless innings against Detroit on April 8. Padilla will likely handle the long relief role for Boston and might be called on to spot start in a pinch. ... Dodgers reliever Josh Lindblom needs to be on the radar of Fantasy owners in leagues that value non-closers. He's becoming one of the most valuable arms in the Dodgers' bullpen. Lindblom is piggybacking on the success he had in his first taste of the majors last year and has the faith of skipper Don Mattingly with three chances at holds already. ... You shouldn't need any more proof than Kevin Gregg's 12.27 ERA through three outings as evidence why he's no longer the Orioles' closer. Manager Buck Showalter continues to stand behind the veteran reliever and said his struggles might stem from Gregg's unsettled role in the bullpen. Pedro Strop and Matt Lindstrom look like much better options to close if something happens to Jim Johnson. ... Braves reliever Eric O'Flaherty is struggling to find his rhythm after posting a career-best 0.98 ERA and 32 holds last season. He has a 7.71 ERA and one blown save in his first five outings this year. ... Rockies reliever Matt Belisle has allowed one unearned run through four innings this year after yielding just five earned runs in his final 25 innings last year. Manager Jim Tracy calls Belisle "an incredibly efficient pitcher". ... Efficiency hasn't been in Angels reliever Hisanori Takahashi's vernacular this year. He's been tagged for at least one hit in four of five outings. In total, he's allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings (10.38 ERA, 2.31 WHIP). ... Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo's spring velocity problems appear to be in the past. Bastardo hasn't allowed a run in three outings and has struck out his last four batters. ... We haven't seen much of A's reliever Fautino De Los Santos, who was in the mix for the closer's job this spring. De Los Santos has made two appearances through his team's first 12 games and they have come eight days apart.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Michael Hurcomb at @CBSHurc . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes in Carlos Beltran getting going
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:07 pm ET) Yankees veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran isn't hitting well to start the 2015 season. Beltran is hitting a lowly .173 and just 6 for 39 batting left-handed. After going with Chris Young over Beltran in the lineup Saturday, manger Joe Girardi had words of encouragement for the veteran, according to The Journal News.

"I know he's frustrated," Girardi said. "He had a couple big hits the other day. It's been a little bit harder left-handed for him, but I really believe he's going to get going. I do. He probably needs a break here and there and it will start happening for him."

Beltran also sat out two games last week due to an illness and Girardi was worried he wasn't ready to come back when he did.

"I'm sure it hasn't helped," Girardi said. "I thought he was still somewhat weak in Detroit. At the end of the road trip, he still had a little bit of a chest cold. I think he's better now. He's really important to our offense and we have to get him going."


Cards INF Pete Kozma to serve as emergency catcher on Saturday
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(6:06 pm ET) With catcher Yadier Molina day to day due to a sore knee, INF Pete Kozma caught a side session and will serve as the Cardinals' emergency catcher Saturday in Milwaukee, reports MLB.com.

Molina took a foul tip off his right knee guard in Friday's win and is experiencing soreness.

Tony Cruz gets the start behind the plate for the Cards.

Angels C.J. Cron continues heating up with three-hit Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) When the season began, Angels designated hitter C.J. Cron couldn't buy a hit. Not he's pretty much hitting every other game. When he starts hitting every day, he'll truly be hot.

For now, he's lukewarm. But he did peak with a 3-for-4 performance Friday night against Texas. Cron doubled, singled twice and scored in the fourth to raise his average over .200 for the first time.

He has hit safely in just five of his last eight games, but managed multiple hits in three of them and has three doubles during that stretch.


Flurry of strikeouts prompts Ausmus to bench Tigers OF Gose
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) A spate of strikeouts motivated Brad Ausmus to bench Tigers leadoff hitter Anthony Gose against Cleveland on Saturday.

Gose hadn't stopped hitting - he managed six hits in his last 22 at-bats and owns a .333/.348/.511 slash line on the year with eight runs scored. But he has tallied just twice in the last seven games and has been stirring up plenty of wind. He fanned 10 times in 17 at-bats over the last four games.

"He's just in a little bit of a funk right now," Ausmus told MLB.com. "He's not swinging like was a week ago. It doesn't hurt to give him a day to regroup and work on some things in the cage."


Nick Castellanos homers for only Tigers run in Friday loss
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Nick Castellanos hit his second home run of the season and first since April 10 in the Tigers' loss Friday to Cleveland. 

Castellanos went 1 for 4 and was responsible for Detroit's only run of the night in a 13-1 loss. He improved his average to .259 and recorded his seventh RBI. 


Diamondbacks move Mark Trumbo to the bench Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Diamondbacks right fielder Mark Trumbo is on the bench for Saturday's game against the Pirates, with Ender Inciarte moving to right field and David Peralta taking over in left, the team announced.

Trumbo had started four consecutive games for Arizona and will get the day off. Also out of the lineup Saturday is Yasmany Tomas, moving Aaron Hill back to third base. Tomas has started two games at third since being called up and is hitting .400 in 10 at-bats. Cliff Pennington also replaces Nick Ahmed at shortstop, who started the last nine games in a row.

The Diamondbacks are currently the underdogs (+120) against Pittsburgh.


Lonnie Chisenhall drives in two in Indians' Friday win
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:51 pm ET) Lonnie Chisenhall went 2 for 5 in the Indians' win over Detroit on Friday. Chisenhall doubled, homered and scored twice. 

The third baseman improved his average to .204 with six RBI. The home run was his first of the year. 


Carlos Santana drives in two in Indians' Friday win
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:49 pm ET) Indians first baseman Carlos Santana drove in two runs in Friday's win over Detroit. Santana went 1 for 3 with a double and two walks. He scored three times and increased his average to .222 with 10 RBI. 

Sizzling Red Sox OF Brock Holt set to sit Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:46 pm ET) A matchup against Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen has Red Sox center fielder Brock Holt sitting on the bench Saturday despite having slugged a key three-run homer Friday night.

Holt is 2-for-6 against southpaws this season, but is batting .444 against righties. He boasts a tremendous slash line of .424/.441/.576 one one homer and eight RBI in 33 at-bats.


Fight suspensions might get Carlos Rodon in White Sox rotation
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:45 pm ET) White Sox rookie pitcher Carlos Rodon may end up getting his first career start, thanks to a bench clearing brawl. 

Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale both received five game suspensions that would require them to miss a start. That means Rodon may be called on to fill in. 

"Certainly Carlos is stretched out and does have the ability to start should he be needed," general manager Rick Hahn said, per ESPN. "At the same time we need to balance that against keeping him on the current program [a long-man relief role], as well as some of the other potential alternatives we have within the system to make a spot start should we get to that point. So it is a possibility, but not one we are ready to commit to just at this time."


 
 
 
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