• It started raining late in the Yankees/Mariners game. It seemed fitting since it appeared Fernando Rodney started to melt to open the inning. Ol’ Crooked Hat was called upon in a non-save situation and notched an easy punchout before giving up three straight hits. Suddenly the tying run appeared at the plate in what was a four-run game. Luckily for the Mariners, Rodney was able to punch out what appeared to be an old man imitating Derek Jeter and got a highly generous strike three call on a full-count pitch to Carlos Beltran to send everyone home. Seattle’s big money man has struck out nearly one-third of all comers in 2014, keeping his ERA predictors down below 3.50. There are a few chinks in the armor which bear watching, however. Rodney’s fastball velocity is down over a mile per hour from last year. Additionally, his SIERA has been boosted by an absurdly high line drive rate so far — batters are whiffing a lot, but they are also making some loud outs. Time to panic? Not particularly, but it would be nice for Rodney to turn a few trends the other direction for the Mariners to make sure they get their money’s worth.
• The Red Sox head into the ninth inning with a 7-2 lead. Perfect time to have Edward Mujica shake off some rust and give Koji Uehara a rest, right? Wrong. Mujica continued his early season struggles, walking one and giving up a pair of hits. With the tying run on deck, manager John Farrell obviously had enough and called on Uehara to take on Ben Zobrist. Uehara did was Uehara does, pumping three straight fastballs (88 mph) right past Ben Zobrist to polish off a Boston victory. Two concerns. One, Mujica doesn’t look right. Tonight’s walk brought his season total to four in 9 innings. To put into perspective how uncharacteristic that is, Mujica had five all of last year. In 65 innings. On top of the walks, his velocity is down and his SwStr% is down. Perhaps that shoulder issue at the end of last year still lingers somewhere? Either way, I can’t imagine Farrell trusting him if something happened to Uehara, so we’re moving him back behind Junichi Tazawa on the grid. Speaking of Uehara, while fantasy owners obviously love the unexpected “SV” tonight, you have to wonder if this early season workload is healthy for him. Already shut down for a few days with shoulder soreness, he is back on a pace that would see him exceed 60 appearances. At 39 years old, he carries more late-season health risk than any other closer in the top tier.
• “And now back to ‘As the Astros Bullpen Turns,’ sponsored by (some generic household product).” Anthony Bass was used in the 7th inning of a close game. He opened the eighth and gave up a single. Raul Valdes came in to face one batter (who he didn’t retire) and was yanked for Chad Qualls who allowed the inherited runner to score. Josh Fields came on in the top of the ninth in a tie game (a spot where managers generally use their closer since there cannot be a save situation for a visiting team in extra innings). Of course, in Astros bullpen fashion, he coughed up the tie (can you do that?). Like I’ve said before, there’s really no point to playing around in this bullpen unless you are absolutely desperate for saves.
• Quick hits: Apparently, Aroldis Chapman thinks he might be pitching on a rehab assignment by the end of the week. Whether or not the Reds move that quick is debatable, but he’s getting tantalizing close. If an owner has him stashed, he’s probably not moving him, but this is your last chance to try to buy him at something other than top-4 closer value. Joe Smith got his first save yesterday, tossing a scoreless inning in a 3-run win. It wasn’t completely flawless, but Smith is good enough to hold down the ninth indefinitely (at least until Ernesto Frieri gets his head on straight). Sergio Santos was once again brought in in the eighth inning to try and wiggle out of a jam in a close game, and once again allowed inherited runners to score. Not good, but you also feel that bullpen could do a better job helping him in the ninth inning. His xFIP still remains sub-3.00.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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