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Injuries unfortunately play a part of every season, but 2011 seems to be the year of the afflicted closer. Multiple stoppers started the year on the disabled list, and several others joined their counterparts on the DL over the course of April. In fact, one contender has lost both its closer and his replacement, forcing them to go with the guy that caused the GM of the team to say, “Can we necessarily rely on him? I don’t think so,” and the pitching coach to add “What did he do, take a crash course in how to close or something?” Tough room.

Though at 2-0 with two saves and a 0.90 ERA, Ryan Madson is well on his way to getting the last laugh.

Not every team has been as lucky with their fill-in closers, and even with Madson’s success the Phillies cannot wait to have their ‘pen back to full strength.

With so much inaction to talk about, let’s get right to it.

Brad Lidge (60-day DL)

The Phillies transferred Lidge to the 60-day DL over the weekend, but he did start a throwing program this weekend, as well. With doctors telling Lidge his rotator cuff has fully healed, the Albert Pujols batting-practice pitcher can finally begin the road to recovery. Optimistic timetables have him back by early June; realism is thinking the All-Star Break.

In the meantime …

Jose Contreras really took to the closing role for three weeks, racking up five saves while not allowing a run in eight innings. Sadly, his right elbow then remembered it belonged to Jose Contreras, a 40- to 50-year-old former starter. As we said, Madson has done nothing wrong since backing into the job. Should he continue his solid run, Contreras is likely to return to a setup role. He can be dropped in leagues without reserve lists, while Madson is a must-own.

Andrew Bailey (15-day DL)

Bailey hasn’t pitched at all this year, hitting the DL on March 22. An amazing closer when healthy, Bailey’s talent made him worth spending a mid-level closer price to nab even with the injury. He managed to throw 35-plus pitches on Friday after doing the same last Tuesday. While he appears to be making steady progress, the A’s are understandably handling him with kid gloves, so while he looks like a guy that will be back in two weeks time, the team may hold him out an extra week or two just to be perfectly safe.

In the meantime …

Brian Fuentes opened the season by giving up three runs (two earned) on three hits in one inning against Seattle. He then converted five straight save opportunities before another huge blowup — like six runs, three earned — pushed his ERA north of 5.00. He’s been solid since and now has seven saves on the season. Brad Ziegler recorded a save last week after Fuentes blew his chance at it, but the interim closer did add a win. Plan on having Dirty Fuentes on your roster for at least three more weeks.

David Aardsma (15-day DL)

Aardsma has been sidelined all season while recovering from hip surgery, but he looks to be on the verge of coming back. In fact, he started a rehab assignment nearly two weeks ago and has suffered no setbacks down on the farm. So what’s the holdup? The Mariners clearly know they can’t win the AL West crown this year, so the organization has its sights set on bringing Tacoma a championship in Triple-A. That, and it turns out Aardsma might not be very good. His extended stay in Triple-A could also be an indication his arm strength isn’t where it needs to be.

In the meantime …

Brandon League has been perfect in his month with the closer’s role. In fact, you could say that he’s been in a league of his own? See what I did there? With his last name? Fine, I’ll stop. League went seven-for-seven in save chances over the course of April, and only allowed three earned runs in 11 innings of work. Even if Aardsma were to come back tomorrow, League would stay in the closer role until Aardsma proves his arm is back to normal. Cause when you only plan on winning 70 games, you can’t afford to have your closer give any away.

Neftali Feliz (15-day DL)

Let’s shift gears and talk about one of the best closers in the game, shall we? Feliz tallied five saves in eight games of work before hitting the DL with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He seems to think he didn’t need a full 15 days off, but the Rangers decided the extra rest couldn’t hurt and placed him on the disabled list. He threw a bullpen session over the weekend and will be activated on May 6.

In the meantime …

Darren Oliver recorded the first non-Feliz save of the season for the Rangers on April 23 before Arthur Rhodes matched it the next day. Oliver came back a few days later to nab another save. And after May 6, we likely won’t have to talk about either 40-year-old fill-in again this season.

Quick hits

Drew Storen looks like a first-round pick, while Sean Burnett is now yesterday’s news … Tony LaRussa’s next book should be called Three Days in April, as Mitchell Boggs racked up three saves before allowing one run and then making way in the 9th for Fernando Salas, who’s picked up the Cards last two saves; deep-league owners will rush to add Jason Motte and hope the pattern sticks … Dodgers GM Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly put Jonathon Broxton through the longest week of his life, playing interview tug-of-war with Broxton’s closer role while Vicente Padilla picked up a rogue save on Wednesday.

Sergio Santos still looks like the closer in Chicago, though the White Sox haven’t given him many opportunities to prove it. The team as a whole has just three saves this season … Joe Nathan turned in another poor effort on Saturday. No word if he’s going to take himself out of the middle innings as well … The Rays optioned Jake McGee to Triple-A so he could work on actually getting hitters out (11 hits and three walks allowed in seven innings). Kyle Farnsworth is a rock-solid stopper right now … Frank Francisco looked excellent on Thursday, closing out his own win after the Blue Jays scored three runs in the ninth. Three of his four outs in the performance were Ks. Jon Rauch is still serving as the team’s closer, but that won’t last much longer. Add Francisco wherever available.

  1. Reuben says:
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    Deep NL-only keeper league. I have Wright at $36 (either $36 for next year only, or +$5 for each additional year) and McGehee at $13 (for this year and next, no extensions).

    We’re targeting the team who owns Tabata and lost both of their 3B this week. Tabata’s at $10 (like Wright, keep at $10 next year and release, or add $5 for each extra year on the contract). We’re hurting in OF and speed.

    Would you rather move Wright or McGehee? I’d prefer to work out a McGehee deal, because even if he’s a better value, Wright is the better player and might bring in more trade value later in the year for a team that’s in the hunt. We’re in 7th right now, and are probably reaching to land in the money at fourth.

    My partner wants to trade Wright for Tabata and a bucket full of balls, and keep McGehee for next year.

    Anyone who has any thoughts on this situation, input would be much appreciated.

  2. Donny Kerabatsos' Ghost says:
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    Just for DL slot stashing purposes, is there any chance J.P. Howell takes the closer job back from Farnsworth when he returns to TB?

  3. OaktownSteve says:
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    What makes you think Contreras comes back and takes the 8th inning. Everything I’ve heard says he closes when he comes back. You working from intel or spec?

  4. @Reuben: Definitely trade McGehee instead of Wright. With such a big gap in talent level, the salary level is irrelevant. Trading a guy like Wright in an NL-Only, unless you’re getting 3-4 excellent pieces, is a mistake.

    @Donny Kerabatsos’ Ghost: I don’t think there is.

    @OaktownSteve: Spec — I have no sources with the team. However, if Madson takes to closing and performs admirably in the role, the team can’t remove him from it for the ancient Contreras. Lidge, yes, but it’s smarter to go with the younger Madson over the older Contreras if both are pitching at the same level, as it builds confidence in the guy that could be your future closer down the line. It wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong about something like this, but logically it makes sense to keep Madson in there if he’s performing well.

  5. Jeter's On Roids says:
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    Thank you for your succinct, timely, and cheesy-humor-free post.

  6. Ian says:
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    Is it even worth rostering Thornton right now ( I have Santos)? God I wish they’d just put him on the disgraceful list already!

  7. @Ian: Depends on the league. 12-team mixed I would say no, depending on how much your league values closers. He’s sitting on the wire in my 12-team mixed, along with guys like Franklin, Nathan, Rodney and Burnett. I’m debating which I will add (or which SP) when it’s time to drop Oliver. In deeper leagues Thornton is still worth a bench spot, while he’s still ownable in AL-only leagues.

  8. Eng says:
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    @OaktownSteve: Yup, I’d love to hear the basis for that too. I’d say it’s rubbish to state Contreras becomes the setup guy. I’m also skeptical that Rauch is less valuable than FF. Farrell said Rauch is the main option, and a look at FF’s career shows a guy who can K people at will but struggles mightily with consistency in the closing role and staying healthy.

  9. Eng says:
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    And to RJ, apologies for use of term “rubbish” in my above post. Was not intending to be rude, the article was a decent read.

  10. @Eng: Contreras isn’t expected back until late May, so he may only beat Lidge back by a week or two. If Madson is performing well, it doesn’t make much sense to instill Contreras for a week. I do concede that Madson is far from a lock to continue as closer when Contreras returns, but my gut tells me he will. Without a reserve list, I certainly wouldn’t waste a valuable roster spot on Contreras when he may only close for another week or two and pick up 3-5 saves even if he does regain closing duties. As far as Francisco vs. Rauch, FF has outperformed Rauch this season while posting better WHIPs and K rates in each of the last three years. The team is already calling them co-closers even though Francisco hasn’t received a save opp, and while Rauch hasn’t been bad this year, he hasn’t been dominant either. Frank Frank’s three-K, four-out outing last week was an eye opener. I think Rauch has to be perfect to hang on to the job, and that’s hard for anyone to be. Remember, Rauch was signed to set up and Francisco was signed to close. My money is on that scenario eventually coming to fruition.

  11. Eng says:
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    Thanks for the response, RJ. You’re reasoning sounds solid so I guess time will tell. Certainly FF and Madson have good stuff.

  12. Rob says:
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    Thanks for all the great work you guys do!

    I have an opportunity to shore up my reliever situation. Currently, I have Madson, Capps, Chapman (for holds), and I just picked up League. Right after I grabbed League, somebody jumped the gun and dropped Kimbrel. Should I burn another weekly roster add and drop one of my closers for him? I also have Mark Reynolds doing close to nothing for me, maybe its worth dropping him and keeping on 5 relievers?

  13. @Rob: Kimbrel is a must-own. I’d drop any of your current guys for him. If possible, I’d drop Chapman, as League is likely to fill your “holds” void eventually. At any rate, it’s much more difficult to find saves on the wire than it is to find holds.

  14. mc serch says:
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    Hey RJ and fellow R-ballers…..what are the chances of Padilla becoming the guy in LA if Broxton continues his downward spiral? Kuo certainly can’t close everyday even if he is healthy and gets his shizz together. Given Padilla’s SP designation, he could become valuable, no?

  15. and1mcgee says:
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    i need OF help…

    is Cain for Werth fair? I’m giving up Cain. thanks, all….

  16. papasmurf says:
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    I am skeptical on League. Only 6 K’s in 11 IP and he traditionally struggles vs. lefties. His numbers remind me of Ryan Franklin. I dealt him away as I had too many closers and no setup guys (team tops in saves, last in HLDs). (Got very little interest) But, he’s SAGNOF, and owners should just ride the wagon until the wheels come off.

  17. With Broxton’s ineptness, many of us scrambles for Kuo off of the DL. After Mattingly’s Broxton endorsement and Kuo’s epic first outing, do you feel that he is now out of the mix? Drop, or show patience for one/two more outings and likely one/two more conflicting votes of confidence from the wonderful Dodger hierarchy?

  18. bobbo says:
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    @Grey: Feeling safe with Jurrjens tonight vs. MIL or would you sit him? Roto league and I’m not in dire need to fill up innings yet.

  19. OaktownSteve says:
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    @Zombie: I’m going to keep close tabs on how Jansen is pitching at Double AA. Broxton is no good and at some point he’s losing that job this year. My guess is sooner than later. Something ain’t right with Kuo. Matt Guerrier is locked in to middle relief. That leaves Padilla. I think he’s a good guy to own just because he’s the most likely option when Broxton goes tits up, closer-wise.

    But Jansen’s last three appearances were 4.2 no hits, 2 walks, 9 k’s. Look at the two quotes from Mattingly and consider the fact that they sent him to AA, where he can walk right into a low pressure closer spot, rather than AAA.

    “At some point this year, he’s going to be back here and he’s going to be contributing.” “We definitely want him to pitch in pressure situations down there, where the game’s on the line.”

    I think he’s just a guy you can stash if your in a league that stash-able or you have to be aware of what’s going on with the Dodgers and him so you can get him right when it’s ripe. If the whole Dodgers pen sucks for another month or so, and he’s killing the little leaguers, could be one of those second half pick ups that makes your season.

  20. @mc serch: I’d give Padilla a 50 percent shot at earning some saves, at least in the short term. Broxton doesn’t look all that hot right now, and Padilla has already earned the backup closer role.

    @and1mcgee: Depends on league settings, but I’d be more apt to roll with Cain and find a solid OF from the waiver wire.

    @zombie: I don’t feel Kuo has much fantasy worth right now. If he puts together three strong starts in a row, we may have something. If he manages five or six good innings in a row, I’d feel good about calling him the No. 2 option behind Broxton.

    @bobbo: Feeling as safe as one can be. Jurrjens has been excellent.

    @OaktownSteve: Excellent analysis. Jansen drew rave reviews as a potential future closer heading into the year, and if he can gain Mattingly’s confidence he could have a Walden-like impact. However, I caution not to look too much into minor league save opps, as they’ve never translated to the MLB. That is, don’t freak out if Jansen doesn’t record a bunch of minor-league saves before he returns to the majors; it likely would mean nothing.

  21. OaktownSteve says:
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    @RJ: not looking at minor league saves. Looking at quantatative stuff about his second pitch coming around, location, and to see how he handles being sent down. He might be worth a big zilch this year. He might be the full time closer by the end of June. Costs nothing to keep an eye out.

  22. bogbert says:
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    Nice post, R.J., thanks!
    Question: I don’t really need innings right now; start Gallardo, or wait and see?

  23. Flunkie says:
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    Thank you Arthur Rhodes. This is why I never try out vulture saves. Thanks Neftali, thanks for being cautious with yourself. ‘Preciate it.

  24. Flunkie says:
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    Full of thanks today. Anyone else?

  25. Giant JJ says:
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    Is Panda enough to offer for Mark Reynolds or should I throw in Fuentes? Or is Panda too much to give for Reynolds? 20 teams I’m a horrible trader, don’t judge me!

  26. EK says:
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    Drop Liriano for T. Wood?

  27. @bogbert: Wait and see if there are no IP concerns.

    @Giant JJ: I have the perfect site for you: TradeBashers.com. Plug your deal in there and see what the rotosphere says. I’d rather have Reynolds than Panda, but not by much. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to trade for either, though, so you may run into a case where the other manager will just prefer his POS to yours.

    @EK: Not yet. Wood hasn’t been all that good over his last couple starts either. I’m sure you can find someone better.

  28. Giant JJ says:
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    Thanks for the site RJ.

  29. agarthered says:
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    In light of Bumgarner currently throwin a gem, him or edwin going forward?

    Im growing anxious with edwin as Wolf just got picked up off of waivers, so if edwin fails again i want to still have options haha.

  30. Tony tone says:
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    Should I drop either RAuch or Oliver for Kuo? Abd if so which one?

  31. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    oliver

  32. Eng says:
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    @Tony tone: No, Rauch has far more value than Oliver. Oliver is terrible, and Feliz will be back any day. Kuo, well he’s got bags of ability but has the yips. Better than Oliver but I’d keep Rauch.

  33. Tony tone says:
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    Is the cum Dempster worth a waver wire place flier?

  34. and1mcgee says:
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    Werth or Heyward from here on out? thanks guys!

  35. knighttown says:
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    Ryan Zimmerman was just freaking dropped. I’ve held onto the #1 waiver choice and plan on using it but was out of the country for the week so wanted to make sure Zimm isn’t dead or anything. Easy add, no?

  36. Hans says:
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    Sergio Santos the gift that keeps on giving!!!

  37. EK says:
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    Morton or McDonald?

  38. kangaroo hops says:
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    @knighttown. Jump on it. He’s on extended DL time, but I think it should pay off in the second half of the season if you can stick him in a DL slot.

  39. @agarthered: I’d probably go Bumgarner at this point.

    @Tony tone: Don’t drop Rauch. Oliver is droppable, but there may be better options than Kuo available.

    @Tony tone: Dempster is OK to have on a deep bench right now, but he belongs nowhere near a starting lineup.

    @and1mcgee: I preferred Heyward before the season, and I have no reason to change my mind now.

    @knighttown: Gotta add Zimmerman, as he’s worth the wait.

    @EK: Neither? McDonald has more upside.

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