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Closer hot seat: Lindstrom closing for Fish


Closer hot seat: Lindstrom closing for Fish
As the Labor Day weekend fades into memory, the Closer Hot Seat finds itself rather short on tenants. While many formerly "hot" bullpen situations have resolved themselves nicely over the past few weeks, there are still a few areas of ninth-inning uncertainty out there.

As the season winds down, astute fantasy owners can use this knowledge to gain a decided advantage over their competition - many who are doubtless succumbing to the siren's song known as "football season." Nonsense, we say: any league worth playing is worth winning, and hopefully you'll learn what you need to know to do just that right here in the Closer Hot Seat.

KEY

Durability grade: 1 (very injury-prone) to 10 (extremely durable)
Job security grade: 1 (very shaky) to 10 (firm grasp)

Hot Seat: Injury Concerns

Baltimore Orioles

Closer: Jim Johnson (shoulder)
Next in line: Jamie Walker
Other possibilities: Fernando Cabrera
Disabled list: George Sherrill (shoulder), Chris Ray (elbow)

Johnson has pitched solidly since Sherrill went down, but the O's haven't recorded a save since Aug. 5; Johnson hasn't received a save opportunity since Sherrill went on the DL Aug. 16. Johnson figured to hold the job until former Sherrill is ready to return, but he is dealing with shoulder issues of his own and has pitched just once in the team's last eight games. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI Friday, Sept. 5.

Sherrill played long toss Monday, Sept. 1, and will do so again Wednesday, Sept. 3. He is on track to rejoin the Orioles sometime next week. Johnson's injury could accelerate Sherrill's return, though it's pure speculation.

The O's have announced that Ray will not rejoin the team this season, so he will not factor into the closer mix the rest of the way.

Durability grade: 8 (last week: 9)
Job security grade: 5

Florida Marlins

Closer: Matt Lindstrom
Next in line: Joe Nelson
Other possibilities: Justin Miller, Kevin Gregg (knee)

Gregg had been struggling mightily of late, and the Marlins finally shut him down due to pain in his left knee. Lindstrom figures to receive most of the save opportunities while Gregg is on the shelf. Nelson could also get a look, but remember that Gregg's injury is not considered to be long-term in nature.

If you're desperate for saves, Lindstrom is worth a pickup - just be aware that Gregg should get his old job back as soon as he's healthy again.

Durability grade: 9
Job security grade: 5

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Jonathan Broxton
Next in line: Chan Ho Park, Hong-Chih Kuo
Other possibilities: Joe Beimel
Disabled list: Takashi Saito (elbow)

Broxton collected the save Monday, Sept. 1, marking his first successful conversion since Aug. 21. Broxton's 5.11 ERA in August is worrisome, but there has been no indication that his closer's job is in jeopardy.

Saito remains confident that he'll pitch again this season, but when that will be - or what role he'll fill when he returns - is not known.

Durability grade: 9
Job security grade: 8

New York Mets

Closer: Luis Ayala
Next in line: Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis
Other possibilities: Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith
Disabled list: Billy Wagner (forearm)

Ayala hasn't been the steadiest of relievers, but he has converted five of his six save opportunities since essentially assuming duties as the Mets closer. Heilman continues to struggle in his setup role, and he has likely pitched himself out of ninth-inning consideration.

Wagner threw 20 pitches from a mound Monday, Sept. 1, and could be activated Monday, Sept. 8. Given the setbacks he has already suffered in his rehab, it would be unwise for fantasy owners to rely on a set timetable for his return. Until Wagner is back, Ayala looks to be the man for saves in the Mets bullpen.

Durability grade: 8
Job security grade: 6

Tampa Bay Rays

Closer: Troy Percival
Next in line: Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour
Other possibilities: Trever Miller, J.P. Howell

Wheeler converted six of his eight save opportunities during August, but manager Joe Maddon has already indicated Percival will be used as the team's closer. It's not known whether Percival is ready to work back-to-back days, but if he's available look for him to get the call in the ninth.

If Percival was dropped in your league, now is the time to add him. Be sure to keep Wheeler close at hand, though, in case Percy goes down again.

Durability grade: 6
Job security grade: 9

Texas Rangers

Closer: Frank Francisco
Next in line: Jamey Wright
Other possibilities: Joaquin Benoit, Warner Madrigal
Disabled list: C.J. Wilson (elbow)

Francisco has been lights out since the team traded reliever Eddie Guardado (Minnesota), converting all three of his save opportunities and allowing just one hit in 3 1/3 innings of work. He added seven strikeouts and appears to have the job pretty much locked up for the rest of the season. If he's still available on your league waiver wire, Francisco should be a decent source of saves during the final month.

Durability grade: 9
Job security grade: 8 (last week: 7)

Hot Seat: Lackluster Performance

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Brandon Lyon
Next in line: Jon Rauch
Other possibilities: Tony Pena, Chad Qualls

Lyon managed only two saves in August, but he kicked off September by racking up his 26th save of the season. Though he'll never be mistaken for a dominant closer, Lyon always seems to do just enough to keep his job. It also doesn't hurt his cause that his job's primary suitor, Rauch, has been dealing with command issues and arm soreness lately. Pena has pitched well recently, and he could be close to supplanting Rauch as Arizona's top backup closer option.

Don't look for great ratios from Lyon, and he's generally good for a couple of blowups every month, but he figures to be a good source of saves down the stretch pitching for the contending Diamondbacks.

Durability grade: 9
Job security grade: 7

Cleveland Indians

Closer: Jensen Lewis
Next in line: Rafael Perez
Other possibilities: Rafael Betancourt, Masahide Kobayashi

Lewis finally hit a rough stretch of road, yielding four earned runs and six hits in two innings of work over consecutive outings. Both were non-save situations, but Lewis did incur his fourth loss of the season.

The Cleveland closer has converted all seven of his save opportunities since ascending to the ninth-inning role, so his job still appears quite safe.

Durability grade: 8
Job security grade: 8

Oakland A's

Closer: Brad Ziegler
Next in line: Joey Devine, Huston Street
Other possibilities: Santiago Casilla, Jerry Blevins

Ziegler has pitched effectively as Oakland's closer, and both Street and Devine have been going well of late. A's manager Bob Geren stated that he has no plans to move Street back into his old ninth-inning role, and there is a distinct possibility that Street may be traded during the offseason.

For the present, Ziegler is the A's top option for saves. Geren also stated that he has no plans to remove the submariner from that role so long as he is healthy and effective.

Durability grade: 9
Job security grade: 8 (last week: 7)

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Chris Perez
Next in line: Ryan Franklin
Other possibilities: Kyle McClellan, Chris Carpenter (shoulder)
Disabled list: Jason Isringhausen (elbow)

Perez has not had a save opportunity lately, but the 23-year-old has been lights out since his recall from Triple-A Memphis Aug. 6. His job as the Cardinals closer looks to be safe - likely for the remainder of the season.

Carpenter was activated from the DL Monday, Sept. 1, and he is slated to pitch out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season. He doesn't figure to be in the closer's mix, but Carpenter could get the call down the road if Perez is unavailable. However, that doesn't give Carpenter much fantasy value.

Durability grade: 9
Job security grade: 8 (last week: 7)

Seattle Mariners

Closer: J.J. Putz
Next in line: Roy Corcoran
Other possibilities: Randy Messenger, Sean Green, Mark Lowe

Corcoran became the eighth Mariner pitcher to record a save this season Tuesday, Aug. 26, then he wobbled his way to another save Sunday, Aug. 31. Putz was unavailable that day with what was described as a sore arm, but the fact remains that the M's closer has blown five of his six eight opportunities since the All-Star break.

Putz is still Seattle's closer, but look for other relievers to continue getting save opportunities with the M's admittedly focused on getting Putz straightened out for the 2009 season.

Durability grade: 6
Job security grade: 7


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 3, 2008

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