The new season is so close we can almost smell it. Sure, weâ€™ve seen two regular season games, but they took place at the crack of dawn…in another country…and were impossible for most people to watch on TV. A wise man once said, â€œMan cannot live on highlights alone.â€ He was right. Next week really couldn’t come fast enough. Drafts can only take a fan so far. It’s time to have baseball, real and fantasy, back in our lives.Â
Weâ€™ve had two closers already go down for the season. Weâ€™ve had a couple of the up for grabs closing jobs claimed (looking your way, Grant Balfour with your two scoreless innings already) and we have a few closing jobs that are completely undecided and causing fantasy GMs undue stress and giving fantasy sports writers something to write about until the season starts for real.
Lorenzo Cain is currently leading all hitters in OPS this spring, but Cubs(who knew?) outfielder Joltin’Â Joe Mather is only .145 behind him. Come on, Joe. One more homer and youâ€™ve got baseballâ€™s version of Mr. Irrelevant locked up.
Ryan Madson is out for the year due to an elbow that was at one point described as â€œbalky.â€ Note to fantasy GMs: Itâ€™s time to invest in a closerâ€™s backup if said closerâ€™s elbow is ever described as balky. Sean Marshall is the odds on favorite to get the bulk of the saves, but there are vultures circling. Aroldis Chapman will likely be moved to the bullpen and guys like Nick Masset and Bill Bray could work their way in as well. Would anyone do a spit take if Masset or Bray wound up with five saves? Marshall is the guy you want until heâ€™s not the guy getting saves. Dusty Baker has been maddeningly non-committal about the situation. Heâ€™s even mentioned the possibility of the dreaded â€œcloser-by-committee.â€ No matter who gets saves, fantasy GMs lose.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has not only NOT named a closer yet, but heâ€™s adding names to the mix. For a while, it was down to Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton with Crain nursing a strained oblique. Now, heâ€™s been mentioning rookies Hector Santiago and Addison Reed along with LOOGY Will Ohman. Even Hector Santiago was surprised that Hector Santiago had been mentioned as a candidate for the job. Ventura sure is taking his time with what should be a fairly simple discussion with his pitching coach. It still sounds like itâ€™s Thornton, then Crain and Reed in that order for now.
Kansas City has fewer names to choose from, but things are still up in the air. Jonathan Broxton has six appearances under his belt this spring and owns a 1.50 ERA with a 7:3 K:BB. Greg Holland has a 5.19 ERA in 8 â…” innings, but heâ€™s sporting a sick 12:1 K:BB. Broxton is probably the guy fantasy GMs should be targeting, but it would make sense to handcuff him with Holland just in case.
Baltimore’s Jim Johnson has three consecutive scoreless appearances. It appears that all he needs to do is prove he can pitch on back-to-back days and heâ€™ll have finally taken the closerâ€™s job out of Kevin Greggâ€™s cold, dead hands.
Cleveland Indiansâ€™ closer Chris Perez will make his Cactus League debut on Thursday. The â€œFree Vinnieâ€ bandwagon still has plenty of good seats available.
Washington Nationalsâ€™ closer Drew Storen will in fact open the season on the DLwith a sore elbow. No word on how “balky” his elbow is. Tyler Clippard will likely stay in his set up role with Brad Lidge getting the first crack at saves. Reliever Henry Rodriguez has had a fantastic spring and that could stick in the mind of Manager Davey Johnson. It’s still likely Lidge’s job, but the leash has to be very, very short.Â
Giantsâ€™ closer Brian Wilson was scratched from an appearance on Wednesday and itâ€™s still unclear if he had a setback with his elbow or he was simply moved to a minor league game instead. Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo are the two guys fantasy GMs should look to handcuff with Wilson.
Finally, anyone thinking the Aâ€™s closer situation was still up in the air can forget it. Grant Balfour threw a scoreless inning in both games and looked solid while notching his first save of the 2012 season on Thursday. Baflour needed only 13 pitches(six strikes) to polish off the Mâ€™s. Balfour struck out one and didnâ€™t give up anything.