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Fantasy Relief: Bullpen bargains to be had

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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I have to thank Javy Guerra and Jim Johnson for proving that it's not worth Fantasy owners' time on Draft Day to be chasing closers.

As I pointed out last week, Guerra was drafted behind teammate and setup man Kenley Jansen in most formats, and Johnson was drafted behind both Dodgers relievers. On average, Johnson was drafted in the 19th round of Rotisserie formats and 20th round in Head-to-Head leagues (mixed leagues).

Let's not forget that Guerra and Johnson weren't even drafted in all Fantasy formats. Guerra's ownership was at 55 percent at the start of Week 1 and Johnson was at 39 percent. Their low ownership had a lot to do with uncertainty about their bullpen roles, but nonetheless it strengthens the point that Fantasy owners need to divert their resources to hitters and starting pitchers on Draft Day and only worry about saves in the mid-to-late rounds.

Top non-closers in Week 3 (H2H)
Player Points
1. Cory Luebke, RP, Padres 57.5
2. Pedro Strop, RP, Orioles 28.5
3. Anthony Bass, RP, Padres 27
4. Lance Lynn, RP, Cardinals 27
5. Jose Veras, RP, Brewers 23.5
6. Chris Sale, RP, White Sox 21.5
7. Luis Perez, RP, Blue Jays 20
8. Juan Cruz, RP, Pirates 18.5
9. Duane Below, RP, Tigers 18
10. Lucas Harrell, RP, Astros 17

Heading into Tuesday, Guerra was the highest-scoring closer (72 Fantasy points) and Johnson was second (63) in Head-to-Head formats. Behind them were Fernando Rodney (62.5), Grant Balfour (55), Chris Perez (52.5) and Rafael Betancourt (50.5) -- all players that were either nabbed off waivers or drafted in the late rounds.

Is that to say Jonathan Papelbon or Craig Kimbrel, who were the two-highest drafted closers in CBSSports.com leagues, were bad investments? Not at all. In the end, both closers will likely finish the year as top 10 Fantasy relievers.

But both players on average were going in the early rounds of drafts this spring, which definitely seems like a reach as we see the type of value you can get in the late rounds or off waivers when it comes to relievers.

What's done is done. We just have to learn from the past, but hopefully the way the 2012 season has started for closers will serve as a lasting memory when Draft Day 2013 rolls around.

Closing Time

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

Toronto: Sergio Santos is not having a good start to his Toronto career. First, he blows his first two save chances and now he's on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. As of Monday, Santos isn't expected to throw for 10-14 days. Francisco Cordero, who has 328 career saves, steps into the closer's role in Santos' absence.

Pittsburgh: We saw further proof in Week 3 (April 16-22) that the Pirates aren't ready to trust Evan Meek in a key late-inning role by leaning on Juan Cruz to close out games while Joel Hanrahan was hurt. Hanrahan returned over the weekend from a hamstring injury, but now we know who the Pirates will turn to in the event Hanrahan needs a rest or misses time again.

N.Y. Mets: Mets manager Terry Collins continues to back Frank Francisco as his closer despite some recent struggles. Francisco entered play Tuesday with a 23.14 ERA in his last three outings. Setup man Jon Rauch has an unblemished ERA through 8 1/3 innings and has experience as a closer, but Collins is committed to Francisco. Francisco said his issues stem from a flaw in his delivery, which he said he has fixed. Only time will tell if Francisco, who also has a balky left knee, will be able to hold off Rauch.

Miami: All is back to normal for Marlins closer Heath Bell, who blew his first two save chances this season. According to the Sun-Sentinel, all Bell needed was a pep talk from his wife. Bell's wife left him a Facebook message after his April 14 meltdown against the Astros. Bell called the message "inspirational." Fantasy owners aren't going to complain about the means of his turnaround with Bell back on track. He's 2 for 2 in save opportunities since blowing his first two saves. The Marlins and Fantasy owners can take their fingers off the panic button.

Top non-closers Week 3 (Roto)
Player Rank
1. Cory Luebke, RP, Padres 2
2. Pedro Strop, RP, Orioles 8
3. Jose Veras, RP, Brewers 15
4. Luis Perez, RP, Blue Jays 32
5. Anthony Bass, RP, Padres 35
6. Lance Lynn, RP, Cardinals 37
7. Clay Hensley, RP, Giants 43
8. Matt Belisle, RP, Rockies 45
9. Rafael Perez, RP, Indians 58
10. Marco Estrada, RP, Brewers 63

Washington: Manager Davey Johnson is sticking with his co-closer tandem of Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez, despite Lidge having blown two saves and Rodriguez a perfect 4 for 4. Lidge, who has a 5.14 ERA, admits to battling some location problems. He was very efficient for the Phillies the last two seasons when he wasn't injured and has years of experience as a closer. Rodriguez is new to the closer's role, which is why Johnson isn't giving up on his current approach. He probably doesn't want to put a ton of pressure on Rodriguez while continuing to ease him into the ninth-inning role.

San Francisco: Clay Hensley earned a save during an extra-inning win against the Mets on Friday. Don't be surprised if Hensley is in the mix for some save chances in Bruce Bochy's committee approach to the closer's role. Hensley worked as a setup man for Juan Oviedo with the Marlins and even had seven saves in 2010. However, Santiago Casilla (owned 51 percent of leagues) is the option Fantasy owners want to nab off waivers. We still feel he's the top candidate to get most of the save chances.

Call to the 'pen

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

Mitchell Boggs is emerging as the primary setup man for Cardinals closer Jason Motte. He has appeared in the eighth inning in four straight appearances and entered play Tuesday tied for second in the majors with five holds ... Chad Qualls is surprisingly getting a lot of setup work for closer Jonathan Papelbon, even with Antonio Bastardo and Jose Contreras healthy. All six of Qualls' appearances have come in the eighth inning and he already has four holds. He also has tossed six scoreless innings ... He might have lost out on the closer's role, but White Sox reliever Matt Thornton hasn't let it affect his performance. He's opened the year with eight scoreless innings and four holds ... Tigers manager Jim Leyland said pitcher Duane Below, who lost out on the final spot in the team's rotation this spring, will remain as the team's left-handed long reliever. Below's name surfaced as a potential rotation replacement while Doug Fister is on the disabled list, but Below has pitched so well in long relief that Leyland would rather keep him in that role ... Indians reliever Tony Sipp hasn't been efficient through his first seven outings, posting a 11.57 ERA and 2.14 WHIP, but that hasn't cost him his seventh-inning role. He has four holds through 4 2/3 innings and remains a viable Fantasy option in leagues that reward for that category ... Speaking of Holland, at least we now have a reason for his early-season struggles. Holland is going to be shut down for a few days and might not resurface in a game for at least three weeks. He has immense strikeout potential and is an option for holds when healthy, so he might be worth stashing in deeper Fantasy formats ... I'm not sure how long Cory Gearrin will be in the majors with Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson set to come off the disabled list on Sunday, but this kid is a reliever to watch. Gearrin posted a 7.85 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in his first taste of the majors last year, but he struck out 12.3 batters per nine innings. Before his recall Tuesday, Gearrin tossed 12 1/3 scoreless innings at Triple-A Gwinnett and had a 15-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If he can stay in the majors, Gearrin might emerge as a viable Rotisserie Fantasy option.

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
Homer Bailey turns in a strong start, but can't win Monday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:51 pm ET) Reds pitcher Homer Bailey turned in a strong start Monday against the Diamondbacks. 

Bailey allowed one run on five hits over eight innings. He struck out three and walked one. Bailey only ran into trouble once throughout the start. With two outs in the fourth inning, he allowed two straight doubles, giving up his only run. Other than that, Bailey was solid. He threw 95 pitches over the outing. Bailey was replaced by Aroldis Chapman to open the ninth.

Since Bailey left with the game tied, he picked up the no-decision. His next start will come against the Marlins. 


Melky Cabrera smacks two home runs in comfortable win
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:51 pm ET) Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera had a monster game at the plate, launching a pair of homers in his team's 14-1 win over the Red Sox in Boston.

Cabrera opened the game with a two-run bomb in the opening frame, followed by a three-run blast in the sixth inning. He also credited with an RBI on a wild pitch in the seventh inning. He finished 2 for 4 with a walk, three runs scored and five RBI. He owns a .313/.362/.487 slash line with 14 homers and 58 RBI in 435 at-bats.

Chase Anderson earns no decision Monday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:50 pm ET) Diamondbacks starter Chase Anderson had a strong start Monday against the Reds.

Anderson allowed one run on three hits over seven innings of work. He struck out eight and walked two. The only blemish on Anderson’s record was a solo home run by Devin Mesoraco in the second inning. Other than that, Anderson was in control the entire outing. He finished strong, striking out four batters in his last two innings of work. Anderson only threw 89 pitches.

Anderson was matched by Homer Bailey throughout the game, earning the no-decision. He’ll take on the Pirates in his next start. 


Brett Lawrie hitting off a tee, still not cleared for live pitching
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:35 pm ET) Blue Jays infielder Brett Lawrie started to hit off a tee, but has yet to resume hitting off live pitching, according to MLB.com on Monday. Lawrie is currently working his way back from a fractured right index finger at the team's spring training facility in Florida. He will need to go a on minor-league rehab assignment before he is activated from the disabled list, according to manager John Gibbons.

Adam Lind nearing a return from DL
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:32 pm ET) Blue Jays designated hitter Adam Lind could be back from the disabled list as early as July 31, when his team opens a four-game set in Houston. If he doesn't return during the road trip, he'll likely be activated during the team's next home game, Aug. 5 against Baltimore, MLB.com reports.

Lind is working his way back from a broken foot. He batted .320/.389/.489 over 178 at-bats prior to the injury.

"He's running, he's still a little bit hobbled, but he's able to do a bit of everything," manager John Gibbons said.

Carlos Beltran could play the field during road trip
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:25 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran has increased to throwing at 100-120 feet, according to MLB.com on Monday. Manager Joe Girardi remains hopeful that he could play the outfield during the team's current road trip. Beltran has been limited to a role as a designated hitter because of the injury.


Hector Rondon saves his 13th game Monday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:17 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Hector Rondon saved his 13th game Monday against the Rockies.

Rondon entered the game with a three-run lead, and did not disappoint. He tossed a perfect inning of work, striking out one during the outing. Rondon lowered his ERA to 3.52 with the outing. 


Tsuyoshi Wada picks up his first win Monday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:14 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada picked up his first win of the year Monday.

Wada allowed one run on five hits over seven innings. He struck out six and walked one during the outing. Wada got off to a strong start, tossing five scoreless innings to open the game. In the sixth, Wada ran into trouble. After putting two men on, Wada allowed a run-scoring single to Nolan Arenado. He was able to get out of the inning without giving up an additional runs. 

With the win, Wada improved to 1-1 on the year. He'll take on the Dodgers in his next start. 


Yohan Flande loses despite strong start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:09 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Yohan Flande picked up a loss despite a decent start Monday.

Flande allowed two runs on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked one during the outing. Flande ran into trouble in the fourth inning. After giving up a single and a double to open the frame, Flande gave up an RBI ground out. After an intentional walk, Flande allowed a sac fly. The Rockies scored just one run during the game, giving Flande the loss.

Flande is slated to take on the Tigers during his next start.


Dana Eveland's X-ray comes back clean
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:01 pm ET) Mets pitcher Dana Eveland's X-ray came back clean, according to ESPN.

Eveland took a line drive off his throwing elbow in the ninth inning and had to depart the game. He received an X-ray following the game, but it came back clean. It's unclear if Eveland will need a few days before he's ready to return to action.


 
 
 
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