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Bullpen Report: Finding a little relief

Senior Fantasy Writer
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I've moved enough in the past decade to know that it stinks. The packing, lifting, unpacking -- there's no real fun element to it. But there is one thing I look forward to every time: opening up the box of "Miscellany." For me, it's usually things like playing cards, some old CDs, stickers featuring DC superheroes, maybe some type of Star Wars thing I won on ebay, and a bunch of other random fun stuff that I don't really need to own, but enjoy.

So in the spirit of the Miscellany box, I give you this week's Bullpen Report. Just a bunch of stuff thrown into a box that doean't fall into any specific category.

Rex Brothers is a must-add

With Rafael Betancourt likely done for the season, Rex Brothers will re-assume closing duties in Colorado. The 25-year-old lefty has a 1.51 ERA and 1.16 WHIP on the season, with 11 saves and a 9.4 K/9. Brothers won't have the kind of "run him up the rankings!" ascent that Kenley Jansen got when he was named closer, but the upside is very real -- Brothers can keep his ERA and WHIP low while racking up saves and getting about a strikeout per inning.

Tommy Hunter is closing in on relevance

We've seen this before -- an incumbent closer trips up a little bit, rights himself in the 7th and 8th innings, then returns and is dominant for the rest of the season. The best example I can think of is Brandon League in 2011. Currently, we're looking at something similar from Jim Johnson, just much later in the season (League would always run into trouble in May, for some reason).

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Enter Tommy Hunter, a converted starter who is enjoying a 2.63 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in his first full season as a reliever. The "throw-in" in the Chris Davis trade with the Rangers, Hunter got the save for the Orioles on Wednesday, ahead of deadline acquisition Francisco Rodriguez.

If Johnson stays out of the saves mix for any amount of time, Hunter -- who saw his average fastball velocity rise from 91.6 mph last season to 95.8 this year -- will likely be the next in line. He comes with some risk (most notably, Johnson reclaiming his job), but is worth a gamble in AL-only formats and Roto leagues where a team is badly in need of saves.

Joel Peralta has taken the lead in holds

With Mark Melancon now closing games for the Pirates, his lead in the holds category was bound to disappear; Melancon is now tied for third in the majors with 26 holds. Your new leader is Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta, with 31. David Robertson is in second with 30.

Peralta and Robertson's hold totals actually have some significance -- the single-season leader in holds is Luke Gregerson, with 40. Peralta and Robertson both play for teams that are winning, meaning that, with a very good month, they could challenge the record. It's not likely -- for as good as the Yankees have been lately, Robertson has just six holds so far this month, and only two pitchers have double-digit holds in any month this season (Jesse Crain and Peralta, both in May) -- but it might be a fun category to keep an eye on as the season winds down.

Your hold leaders for August are...

Tyler Clippard, Nationals, 7 holds
Yoervis Medina, Mariners, 7
Joe Smith, Indians, 7
Ronald Belisario, Dodgers, 6
Matt Belisle, Rockies, 6
J.J. Hoover, Reds, 6
David Robertson, Yankees, 6
Jared Burton, Twins, 5
David Carpenter, Braves, 5
Tim Collins, Royals, 5
Charlie Furbush, Mariners, 5

Strikeout Kings

While the list of August leaders in K/9 boasts many familiar names, there are a few that may catch the attention of Roto owners looking to lower WHIP and ERA while keeping Ks up. Or even for the owner in a Categories league where K/9 is a category.

August leaders, K/9 (min. 5 IP)

Francisco Rodriguez, Orioles, 16.43 K/9
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers, 15.43
Danny Farquhar, Mariners, 14.46
Aroldis Chapman, Reds 14.40
Rich Hill, Indians 14.40
Charlie Leesman, White Sox, 14.40
Grant Balfour, Athletics 13.50
Mike Gonzalez, Brewers, 13.50
David Carpenter, Braves, 13.50
Craig Kimbrel, Braves, 13.09

Top of the SPARP heap

For those of you new to Bullpen Report, SPARP is an acronym for "Starting Pitcher As a Relief Pitcher" -- one of those Kris Medlen types who can be plugged into the RP slot in standard H2H formats to take advantage of the points windfall from starters. Over the last 21 days, there have been some interesting SPARP performers in the Fantasy game. The top SPARPs in that span:

Alex Wood, Braves, 79.5 Points in the last 21 days
Andrew Albers, Twins, 73.5
Kris Medlen, Braves, 69.5
Bruce Chen, Royals, 65.6
Tyson Ross, Padres, 63.5
Joe Kelly, Cardinals, 62.5
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners, 60.5
Andre Rienzo, White Sox, 52.5
Tony Cingrani, Reds, 52
Andrew Cashner, Padres, 46.5

I know it's the easy way out, but Iwakuma is probably the most attractive of this group, followed by Wood, who still has plenty of innings left on his arm this season. Medlen is 3 1/3 innings away from equaling his total from last year (which was also a career-high) and hasn't started a game since Aug. 13. He also averaged seven hits per game over his last eight starts. Cingrani has only thrown 129 innings so far this season, which is still below last year's total of 146.

Rienzo is probably the most intriguing of the group. While he doesn't have these blow-you-away minor league numbers, he had been good the last four seasons, and carried a 9.7 K/9 over 543 2/3 minor league innings. Before his call-up, he went on a nice run of games, lowering his WHIP and ERA. And through his first five major league starts, Rienzo has a 3.56 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. It shouldn't cause anyone to run out and add him, but Rienzo could be a shrewd add in a deeper league for his two-start week.

One last thing ...

With Steve Delabar on the DL, I went ahead and grabbed Brett Cecil in a couple AL-only leagues where I could use saves. Cecil, like Tommy Hunter, has found a new life in relief, and after a rocky July has come back around to his early-season self in August, with a 2.57 ERA and 10 strikeouts in seven innings.

Couple this with Casey Janssen's 7.94 ERA in August (and 5.40 ERA dating back to the start of July), and you have a very speculative play on late-season saves, should Janssen need to be rested and Delabar stays on the DL.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS .

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Player News
Red Sox SP Clay Buchholz named Opening Day starter
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:59 am ET) Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz has been named the starter for Opening Day, the Providence Journal reports.

Buchholz gets the call after going 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA and 132:54 K:BB ratio in 170 1/3 innings in 2014. He's the only member of the projected rotation to have spent a full season with the Red Sox, as the team's other four projected starters have made a total of 10 starts in a Red Sox uniform.


Astros' Samuel Deduno wins bullpen spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) The Astros have informed pitcher Samuel Deduno that he was won a spot in the bullpen and will pitch in long relief for the team, MLB.com reports.

"[Manager] A.J. [Hinch] talked to him and he was excited because when he came in the office he was a little nervous," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He had a big smile on his face when he left the office this morning."

Deduno was claimed off waivers by the Astros in August. He posted a 4.47 ERA and 83:46 K:BB ratio in 100 2/3 innings overall last season but pitched better after the move, giving up just three earned runs in 8 2/3 innings.


Astros option Dominguez, Buchanan, Stassi; reassign Correa
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:51 am ET) The Astros optioned third baseman Matt Dominguez and pitchers Jake Buchanan and Max Stassi to the minors Sunday while reassigning shortstop Carlos Correa, infielder Gregorio Petit, catcher Tyler Heineman and pitchers Darin Downs and James Hoyt to minor-league camp.

Dominguez opened last season as the team's starting third baseman but found himself behind in the race for a bench role this spring.

"[Luis] Valbuena had an amazing spring so far and is basically going to be our third baseman and that leaves Matt in competition with some of the other guys for an extra spot on the roster, a spot off the bench, and right now we feel like there’s a couple of other guys ahead of him and he needs to play every day," general manager Jeff Lunhow said, per MLB.com "Right now he’ll go down to Fresno and play third and play some first and be ready when the need arises."

Correa is the team's top-rated prospect but has yet to play above high Class A.

"Carlos is going to be a star player in the big leagues. It’s just a matter of time," Luhnow said. "Having never had an at-bat in Double-A, he needs to go get some regular work in the high minors. He did a great job for us on the field as well as off the field and I think he’s got a lot of fans in the organization and he impressed the big league staff, which is what you want as a young player."


Philies option Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Hector Neris
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:43 am ET) The Phillies optioned pitchers Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Hector Neris to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and reassigned four players to minor-league camp.

Gonzalez was in the mix to win a rotation spot heading into the spring but posted a 7.53 ERA while giving up 25 hits in 14 1/3 innings. Neris surrendered 10 runs (eight earned) in nine spring innings.

The team reassigned pitcher Paul Clemens, catcher Koyie Hill and infielders Chris McGuiness and Chris Nelson to minor-league camp.


Jared Burton back with Yankees
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:35 am ET) Pitcher Jared Burton is back in camp with the Yankees, MLB.com reports.

Burton indicated that he has yet to finalize his deal with the team, but he'll be rejoining the Yankees a few days after being released. He's due to play catch Sunday as he gets back in his routine.


Yankees' Girardi on Betances: Saturday was 'a step' forward
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:32 am ET) Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances allowed an earned run Saturday for the fifth straight appearance, but manager Joe Girardi believes the reliever improved in the outing, the New York Post reports.

"I thought he was better, I thought the curveball was better," Girardi said. "It’s a step in the right direction."

"I have been working with Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach]," Betances said after the outing. "My leg kick was too high and I am trying to straighten up and get my direction toward home instead of flying open."

Betances has delivered a 7.11 ERA and 5:3 K:BB ratio in 6 1/3 innings.


Yankees' Didi Gregorius (wrist) feeling better Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:10 am ET) Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius said his injured wrist felt much better Sunday and that he expects to be ready for Opening Day, LoHud.com reports.

Gregorius tweaked his wrist on a check swing Saturday and is scheduled to rest Sunday and Monday. He has hit .308/.349/.513 over 39 at-bats this spring.


Braves release RP James Russell
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:06 am ET) The Braves have released relief pitcher James Russell, MLB.com reports.

Russell came to the Braves from the Cubs in a deadline-day deal last season and posted a 2.22 ERA and 16:4 K:BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings with his new team. He struggled this spring, allowing nine earned runs and three homers in 7 2/3 innings while striking out three and walking three.


Report: Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki looks completely healthy
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:04 am ET) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki looks completely healthy heading into the final week of spring training, the Denver Post reports.

"I think if anything, this spring has given me confidence," Tulowitzki said. "When I was diagnosed with a torn labrum last summer, you think about a lot of things. You think about your career and whether or not you'll be the same player. You check out how you feel, day in and day out. I know it's just spring training, but for me, I've gained a lot of confidence. I know I can be the same player, if not better."

Tulowitzki was in the midst of his finest offensive season last year before undergoing hip surgery and being limited to 91 games. He finished with a .340/.432/.603 line with 21 home runs and 52 RBI in 315 at-bats.


Report: Orioles in 'continuous dialogue' with pitcher Chris Tillman
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) The Orioles and pitcher Chris Tillman are reportedly engaged in "continuous dialogue" for a long-term extension and have been for the past several weeks, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Tillman signed a one-year, $4.315 million deal in January to avoid arbitration and the discussions for a new deal are still considered preliminary, according to the report.

Tillman posted a 13-6 record in 2014 with a 3.34 ERA in 34 starts.


 
 
 
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