|ESPN.com: Eric Karabell||[Print without images]|
The closing situation for the Los Angeles Angels might seem up for reasonable debate, but rest assured that right-hander Ernesto Frieri is the preferred choice for manager Mike Scioscia. Yes, setup man Dane De La Rosa saved Tuesday’s victory, but only because Frieri had already been used in the eighth inning of a game the Angels trailed at the time, until they scored two runs off Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney in the top of the ninth. So in a way, this is all Rodney’s fault, right? Frieri saved Thursday’s win, although it was hardly seamless, but with seven consecutive scoreless innings since his last hiccup and only two walks against 10 strikeouts in that span, he’s back to an elite level.
|Ernesto Frieri has a 3.60 ERA in August but has pitched seven consecutive scoreless outings.|
Oddly enough, it seems like most closers are safe these days, which must frustrate fantasy owners desperate for free-agent saves. Frieri is one of 27 closers owned in at least 90 percent of ESPN standard leagues (22 of them are at 100 percent), which leaves only three teams’ closers readily available, unusual for this time of year. Those three teams are the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets and Houston Astros. The closers for the Diamondbacks and Mets are pretty clear, though, as right-handers Brad Ziegler and LaTroy Hawkins seem to have a bit of security at this juncture, despite recent struggles. With the Astros it’s hard to make a case to own any of their pitchers, frankly. This makes things considerably tougher for fantasy owners, when nearly all the closers are owned and you’re basically forced to add one of the four different Astros to save a game in August.
Since save opportunities cannot be predicted -- the Atlanta Braves and, of course, the Astros are tied for the most in August with 16 -- fantasy owners should not be releasing anyone capable of providing them. In one of my leagues Kevin Gregg was punted. I’m not enamored with the Chicago Cubs closer, but he is closing, still. I don’t need saves there, but I don’t want someone passing me in the standings thanks to Gregg, either. Add Ziegler and Hawkins if for no other reason than to make sure another team competing with you in the standings or that might face you in the head-to-head playoffs (next week!) doesn’t use the saves to beat you.
Until recently, Frieri was one of those pitchers available in too many leagues. He’s still not owned in 100 percent, just like Danny Farquhar, Rex Brothers and Mark Melancon. Check free agency in your leagues -- whether you need saves or not -- and just make sure, because it’s not only about the points you can gain, but about teams you’re trying to beat as well.
Closer talk: The Pittsburgh Pirates say former closer Jason Grilli could return in about a week from his forearm issues. That’s possible, and the team is implying he could resume closing duties immediately, so add him in advance. But don’t drop Melancon yet! Grilli’s health is not assured. … Baltimore Orioles right-hander Jim Johnson looked fine to me Thursday. It’s his closing job, folks, and Tommy Hunter is probably next, not Francisco Rodriguez. … A bunch of closers haven’t been scored on in August; one of them is Steve Cishek. Never drop a save option! … Farquhar has 23 strikeouts against two walks in the past 30 days, with 10 saves. He should retain the job in 2014 now. … If I had to own one Astros reliever for saves, it would be Chia-Jen Lo. But I wouldn’t feel confident. … There’s nothing wrong with Oakland Athletics right-hander Grant Balfour, despite Thursday’s blow-up. It was one of those innings against a top offense. Balfour has two blown saves all year.
Box score bits (AL): The Cleveland Indians acquired outfielder Jason Kubel from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, but don’t expect the Kubel who hit 30 home runs to make a fantasy splash this final month. Still, those in AL-only leagues should add him, expecting occasional starts against right-handed pitching. … Indians right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez ended his August with a successful outing, fanning 10 Atlanta Braves and permitting three runs over seven innings. Jimenez fanned 10 in his previous outing as well. His final August ERA is 3.10, but his WHIP was 1.38, a bit high. Still, if you need strikeouts, he does that. … Indians outfielder Michael Bourn stole his 20th base Thursday. Last season on this date he had 37. He’s a disappointment. … Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi tossed five innings of one-run ball Thursday, his first big league outing since mid-June. Odorizzi, who had a terrific season at Triple-A Durham (3.33 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 124 K's in 124 1/3 innings) could stick in the rotation depending on what happens with the demoted but returning Jeremy Hellickson. … Oakland Athletics right-hander Bartolo Colon came off his DL stint Thursday and held the Detroit Tigers to one run in five innings. Colon was hardly overpowering, but that’s a solid effort in Detroit. Yep, go add him for two starts versus Texas and Houston at home. … Athletics first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss is really rolling; he homered and stole a base Thursday!
Box score bits (NL): Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo certainly seems on track. He tossed seven shutout innings at Pittsburgh on Thursday and has allowed two earned runs in 19 1/3 innings since coming off the DL. Of course, you know what happens every time owners trust Gallardo. … Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez homered again Thursday, his second in three days. The guy will have a good September. … New York Mets outfielder Matt den Dekker was hitless in his big league debut Thursday but stole a base and scored a run. He hit .302 at Triple-A Las Vegas but doesn’t offer much power or speed. … Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy is really underrated; he had four hits, two RBIs and stole his 18th base Thursday. Murphy entered 2013 with 19 steals in 469 games. … Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth homered again Thursday, his fourth in seven games. Werth is also hitting better than .400 in August. He’ll be back in the top 100 for next year’s drafts. … Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton was hit by a pitch on the left hand Thursday, and might miss a game or two this weekend. With the Braves so safely in first place, don’t be surprised if several key players -- Upton, Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman -- are rested sporadically the rest of the regular season.
Have a great weekend, and prepare for the exciting final month of the regular season!