Monday, August 22, 2011

Closing Time: Sliding doors, Ricky Romero and Trevor Cahill

We'll play a little West Coast bias and focus on the late games first, then circle back to the early-evening action. Set your watch to Pacific Daylight Time and let's have a look around.

?�Ricky Romero is having a good laugh at the American League right now. He went the route Thursday at Oakland for his fifth consecutive victory, allowing just three hits and striking out six. He's nudged his strikeout and walk rates in the right direction this year and he has a dreamy 55.1 percent ground-ball rate; this is probably the next big ace in the junior circuit. Romero is learning to spot his fastball better, and his change and curve are also plus pitches for the lefty. Working in the AL East is a tough assignment, but he seems up to the task.

We used to sing folk songs about Trevor Cahill as well, but his season has fallen on rough times over the last three months. He was 6-0 with a tidy 1.72 ERA in the second week of May; since then, he's 3-12 with a 5.30 ERA. The Jays threw nine hits and seven runs at Cahill in the Thursday rout. "It's frustrating because I feel like I've figured it out over a couple of starts and then I'll go into a funk for a couple of starts," Cahill told the AP. "There's just been no consistency." There's no way you can trust Cahill next week in New York, and if he doesn't turn things around quickly, we're not inviting him to the Moneyball premiere.

Colby Rasmus got off to a slow start with his new Toronto mates, but he's started to warm up of late. He collected three hits in the win, including this towering homer, putting him at .288 (.542 slugging) for the month. Someday, Jays fans are going to look back on this deal and laugh. Brett Lawrie also had two hits for the Jays, the type of showing we've come to expect. He's almost over the 50-percent mark in our make-believe world.

?�The road wasn't kind to Tim Stauffer, but a return to his friendly San Diego confines did wonders on Thursday. He held down the Marlins over seven strong innings (5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K) and the bullpen closed up from there. Stauffer's stove-top stuffing is working just fine at home (2.52/1.16) but he's lost his way in other locales (4.38/1.33). He's a borderline call next week at San Francisco ? the park and opponent are fine, but he'll be up against Tim Lincecum. A reasonable start at Los Angeles comes after that.

?�Mike Adams is quickly learning about how things work in the American League; when you miss your spots in this league, you often pay the price. Adams only allowed four career homers for his 111 lifetime appearances in roomy Petco Park, but he's already given up two taters in his brief AL stint, including Thursday's walk-off shot to LA's Mark Trumbo (a cutter that didn't cut). Neftali Feliz had the night off after working four times in five days; he'll be back in the big chair for the weekend. Even with the stomach-punch defeat, the Rangers still have a hefty seven-game lead over the Angels.

?�If all of the Harvard grads would kindly leave the room, we'll discuss Boston's newest addition, catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Yalies don't enter the majors every day, as Ron Darling or Theo Epstein would tell you. Kid Lavarnway collected 30 homers and a tasty .293/.392/.559 line between Double-A and Triple-A, and he got the call as the DH at Kansas City on Thursday (0-for-4, strikeout). The Red Sox have some temporary holes in their lineup, with Kevin Youkilis (back) on the DL and David Ortiz (heel) day-to-day, if not week-to-week. Lavarnway is known for his bat and not his defense, so it remains to be seen if he'll steal any time behind the plate during his audition.

Josh Beckett and the Red Sox got past the Royals, 4-3, but there are plenty of bright spots in KC these days. Alex Gordon continued his breakthrough year (two hits, homer) and Boston never has an answer for Billy Butler (three hits,.941 career OPS against the Sox). Luke Hochevar's final line might not jump out at you (6 IP, 8 H, 4 R) but I watched just about every pitch and he passed the eye test. He's been solid in the second half (3.55, 1.20, 36 strikeouts against 15 walks) and if you're in the mood to gamble, perhaps you can consider him at Toronto next week.

?�The begoggled Vance Worley got off to a sharp start against Arizona, posting three bagels and needing just 30 pitches (23 strikes) along the way. His mates picked him up with three runs, putting him in a good spot for a possible win. Alas, an extensive rain delay followed and he couldn't be used when the game ultimately resumed. Worley's low HR/FB rate and lofty strand rate point to him as a possible fluke (his xFIP of 3.78 is a run higher than his standard ERA), but his strikeout and walk rates (7.3, 3.1, respectively) are points in his favor. You'll want him working for you next week at home against the Mets.

Paul Goldschmidt had two of the three Arizona hits (single, homer), and he's gone deep three times in the last week. Kirk Gibson is a hot-hand manager and he's not going to move the kid out of the lineup anytime soon. It's a shame the Snakes are on an extensive road trip right now (heading to Atlanta and Washington over the next week), but Goldy's still worth adding in deeper pools. He's currently owned in just six percent of Yahoo! leagues.

?�Brian Wilson met with Dr. James Andrews and the news was as promising as you could hope for ? the closer doesn't have any structural damage in his elbow. It's not clear yet if Wilson will be available for the weekend series at Houston. Bruce Bochy will use a full-fledged committee ("whoever's not used") when Wilson isn't able to pitch. The Giants also have good news on Jonathan Sanchez ? he's expected to make his Sunday turn despite his ankle injury.

?�If you're streaming a little stream for Saturday, here are some names to consider: Freddy Garcia (33 percent) at Minnesota, Randy Wolf (34 percent) at New York, Aaron Harang (34 percent) vs. Florida. Digging a little deeper, there's also Henderson Alvarez (one percent) at Oakland, Tim Wakefield (three percent) at Kansas City and Charlie Morton (19 percent) vs. Cincinnati. And I'd like to know why Francisco Liriano (not recommended) is still owned in 71 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Speed Round: Jordan Zimmermann didn't allow a run over 5.2 innings against the Reds, ultimately picking up victory No. 8. He's at 151.2 innings for the year, which means he'll probably get one or two more starts before Operation Shutdown. ? Mike Minor struck out nine in six scoreless frames against the Giants, just to remind us how crazy-deep that Atlanta rotation can be. Perhaps Minor can find a way to stick in the mix even when Tommy Hanson returns. ? Cole Hamels (shoulder) is pointing at a return next weekend against Florida. And no big worries about Ryan Howard's hand ? he rested in Thursday's game but should play on the weekend. ? Luis Perez moves into the Toronto rotation, taking over for Brad Mills. Perez had solid but unspectacular numbers in relief, so we'll take a wait-and-see approach on him, even with Oakland on tap. ? Lonnie Chisenhall hasn't started the last two games, par for the course when you're sitting on a .231/.277/.385 line. He's struck out 28 times against six walks over 104 at-bats in the show. ? Philip Humber took a scary line drive off the head in his Thursday start and gave way to Zach Stewart. If Humber can't go next week at Anaheim, Stewart is probably Plan B. ? A.J. Pierzynski (wrist) hopes to return by Sept. 1. ? Joe Mauer made his right-field debut in Thursday's loss to the Yankees. He's caught 767 career games, DHed in another 111, and manned first base on 12 occasions. The Twins have a tricky call to make with Mauer going forward: his body would be best served away from the catcher spot, but obviously he's most valuable as a catcher, where he provides the biggest positional advantage for the club.


Images courtesy AP (Romero, Zimmermann) and Walter Sobchak (Quintana)


Derek Jeter Miguel Cabrera Josh Hamilton Vladimir Guerrero

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