Fantasy Fare: Closing time is unsettled

Red Sox's Alfredo Aceves (above) has been tabbed to replace closer Andrew Bailey, who is out for up...

Red Sox's Alfredo Aceves (above) has been tabbed to replace closer Andrew Bailey, who is out for up to three months with a damaged ligament in his thumb. (REUTERS)

JOEL COLOMBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:33 PM ET

For a position that helps you out in only one category, the closer attracts more than its share of attention in fantasy baseball circles. That was never more true than this past week when teams, and fantasy owners, went scrambling for ninth-inning help. Here is a quick rundown of the situations and likely ramifications:

In something of a surprise, Red Sox’s Alfredo Aceves — and not Mark Melancon — has been tabbed to replace Andrew Bailey, who is now out for up to three months with a damaged ligament in his thumb. Outside of a strong March, there is little in Aceves’ peripheral stats to suggest that he is the long-term solution while Melancon, the Astros closer last year, appeared to justify Boston’s lack of faith in him in Thursday’s opener by giving up hits to two of the three Tigers he faced to take the loss.

It was only one game, but would anyone be surprised if newly converted fifth starter Daniel Bard winds up back where he was supposed to be after Jonathan Papelbon split for the Phillies? … Drew Storen’s landing on the DL in D.C., would have been just the break that owners of all-star setup man Ty Clippard were hoping for. But, with Storen shelved for most of April, the Nationals have elected to mix and match with Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge, both of whom are too wild to trust. Lidge did earn the save in Thursday’s opener … Joel Peralta is expected, again, to get the first — though perhaps not exclusive — chance to replace Kyle Farnsworth (elbow) as the Rays closer. If I were a Farnsworth owner, however, I’d be concerned. This is the same elbow that forced him to the DL last September … The Reds did the right thing, after all, and have named Sean Marshall to replace Ryan Madson as their closer.

* Padres speedster Cameron Maybin homered opening day in Arizona. He doesn’t hit many, but this soared 445 feet, making it the seventh longest ball ever launched at Petco. As a top prospect for the Marlins a few years back, we knew Maybin had some power. But after hitting just nine HRs last year, he may be starting to show it.

* Speaking of homers, that was two in three games for Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes of the A’s. We figure it will take once through the AL before opposing teams find the holes in his bat. Only then, depending on how he adjusts, will we see what kind of hitter he really is.

* Fantasy owners who invested a high pick in Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw must have done a spit-take at that 3-2-0-0-1-3-0 opening-start line on Thursday, fearing some kind of injury already had befallen the NL’s Cy Young winner. However, Kershaw was battling a flu bug before the game and wound up being pinch-hit for in the fourth inning. But given his circumstances, toughing out three shutout IPs with three K’s was actually rather impressive.

* Chris Stewart is back with the Yankees as their backup catcher. However, the club says that, should Russell Martin get hurt, last year’s backup, Francisco Cervelli (who was optioned to triple-A this past week), and not Stewart, would take over the starting role.

NOT-SO-HOT CORNER

With Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales in the mix, Angels 1B-OF Mark Trumbo wasn’t expected to start regularly in 2012, despite hitting 29 HRs as a rookie last year. So the Halos are trying him at 3B, which is great, except for the two errors he made in his hot corner debut Friday, including misjudging a pop-up. His owners are praying he figures out this defence thing in a hurry before the Angels realize his bat is a luxury their powerful lineup doesn’t necessarily require.

HOT AND NOT

Pitchers’ first starts

Chad Billingsley LAD

8.1 IPs, 0 ERs, 11 Ks

Jered Weaver LAA

8.0 IPs, 0 ERs, 10 Ks

Wandy Rodriguez HOU

6.1 IPs, 0 ERs, 1.26 WHIP

Kyle Lohse STL

7.1 IPs, 1.23 ERA, 0.27 WHIP

- - - - - - -

Yovanni Gallardo MIL

3.2, 14.73 ERA, 3.27 WHIP

James Shields TB

5.0, 10.80 ERA, 2.40 WHIP

INJURY UPDATES

Chase Utley (both knees) is quoted as saying he definitely expects to play this season. Why does that not sound like good news for his owners? … The Yankees figure Michael Pineda (shoulder) will need two weeks off and two weeks on minor-league rehab … Andres Torres left the Mets’ opener with a strained calf and is likely out for at least three weeks … An MRI this week showed Scott Baker’s sore elbow from last year hasn’t healed much … Mike Morse (lat) is already on a double-A rehab and could rejoin the Nats next week … Cubs 1B Bryan LaHair didn’t start Thursday because of a sore back … Jed Lowrie (thumb) should be back by mid-April … Tim Stauffer is out with a strained elbow … Out for 2012, Victor Martinez has undergone a second knee operation and is questionable for the start of 2013.

WAIVER WATCH

With fantasy rating out of 5

Brandon Belt

1B, Giants

* * * *

With his opening-day roster spot unclear a week ago, early mixed-league drafts may have bypassed him. The top prospect was up and down between the minors and San Fran for most of his rookie year but management finally appears committed to him. With regular ABs, he should clear 20 HRs and certainly improve on that .225 AVG of a year ago.

Shelley Duncan

OF, Indians

* * *

Veteran backup popped 11 homers in 223 ABs with a career-high .261 AVG last year and a big spring earned him the temporarily vacant LF job. Yes, he may be back on the bench when Grady Sizemore returns, but the latter is always a threat to land back on the DL.

Matt Carpenter

3B, Cardinals

*

He likely won’t knock David Freese off third, but the big lefty swinger showed with his pinch-hit homer in Friday’s opening rout of the Brewers he might have a little value in NL-only leagues. Rookie hit .302 with 12 HRs and five SBs at triple-A last season.

Jason Vargas

SP, Mariners

* * *

Thanks to his Tokyo outing last month, the largely ignored (in mixed-league formats) left-hander now already has back-to-back quality starts, with a 2.31 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, though both have come against the A’s. Don’t expect a lot of K’s, but his other stats should be decent pitching at Safeco.

(Statistics do not include Saturday’s games)

 


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