Diamondbacks reliever J.J. Putz finally returned from the disabled list in late June after missing roughly seven weeks of action with an elbow strain, and clearly, he’s at less than 100 percent. Putz gave up a hit in a brief one-out appearance on June 29 before blowing his first save opportunity on Monday, giving up a run on two hits and a walk. Manager Kirk Gibson made the gritty decision to pull the trigger on a change immediately and restore Heath Bell to the closing gig.
Bell has three scoreless outings over the last week but gave up runs in each of his previous five appearances, surrendering a home run in each of them. He’s been extremely hittable over the entire year, negating the positive effects of a 34:10 K:BB ratio by turning in a 4.60 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. Those ERA and WHIP ratios aren’t going to get it done for a starting pitcher, much less a purported closer.
Unfortunately, David Hernandez has continued to take himself out of the closer conversation at the worst time, giving up four earned runs while recording just one out on June 29 and then allowing another run on Monday. It’s no wonder Gibson is unwilling to trust him as the closer despite being less hittable than Bell.
The answer for fantasy owners is to make sure both Bell and Putz are owned in all leagues. However, unless a large or NL-only format requires you to chase every single save, I’d keep both on the bench until they put together an extended run of quality appearances. Hopefully by that time, the long-term closing gig will have sussed itself out and we can turn the page on the fiasco that has been the Diamondbacks bullpen.
- The Mariners are close to turning back to Tom Wilhelmsen at closer, and we should expect him to be back in the ninth inning at some point this week. Anyone that chased saves in the Seattle bullpen has come away severely disappointed. The Mariners haven’t recorded a save since June 18, going 3-7 over that stretch. I hope you didn’t drop anyone of significant value for Oliver Perez or Yoervis Medina, as each failed to record a second save after looking like a possible saves source.
- Jim Johnson blew his fifth save last week, but the Orioles must not be that worried about their bullpen, as they dealt reliever Pedro Strop to the Cubs Tuesday. Strop hadn’t been good at all this year, but he was pitching critical innings for the team in 2012, so to give up on him halfway through this season means they have to be comforted in what they see from their other relievers. Johnson is safe for now, but Tommy Hunter is the kind of pickup that can help out ERA, WHIP and Ks (especially in leagues with IP limits) while providing the possibility of saves down the road. Want to improve your overall pitching numbers and have a roster spot to burn? Hunter’s available in plenty of leagues.
- The Cubs sold on Scott Feldman’s nice start to the season Tuesday, and Kevin Gregg is almost assuredly following him out the door. Now is the time to trade him in fantasy leagues, as there will likely be an owner in your league willing to pay for his miniscule ratios and status as current closer. If you find that owner, make a deal — Gregg is unlikely to close at his next destination. That possibility goes from slim to none if the Cubs deal him to the Braves, who are rumored to have interest.
- Don’t look now, but Steve Cishek has allowed three hits, no walks and no runs in 10.2 innings over his last 12 appearances. That excellent streak actually hurts his long-term fantasy value, as it makes it more likely he’ll be dealt before the trade deadline. Still, you have to ride that kind of production while you can.
- The Dodgers added Carlos Marmol on Tuesday, because of course they did. The ship on Marmol as closer has not sailed — it sunk. Go on avoiding him in all fantasy leagues.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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