• Joe Nathan is having a fine 2013. After picking up save number 25 last night he’s now supporting a 2.90 FIP. Nathan gives up a lot of fly balls (47.6% FB%) and he’s running a little hot with so few of them going over the fence (3.80 xFIP) but he’s a solid reliever who will give you about a strikeout per inning on one of the better teams in the league. Behind Nathan in the Texas bullpen has been Tanner Scheppers but that soon may change with Joakim Soria on a rehab assignment, scheduled to return around the All-Star break. Soria last pitched in 2011 on the Royals and if he can find some of his former mojo, he and Nathan could form one of the premier set up and closer combos in the game.
• Chris Perez hasn’t had a rehab to remember while recovering from a right shoulder injury (and some marijuana charges) but he continues to work his way back to the majors Tuesday in Mahoning Valley where he will throw in a minor league rehab game. Assuming there are no more set backs (not necessarily a given), Perez should be back in Cleveland soon but until then Vinnie Pestano (4.71 xFIP) will continue to receive opportunities like he did tonight for his fourth save of the year. Pestano isn’t the same pitcher he once was and Joe Smith (3.13 xFIP) and Cody Allen (3.08 xFIP) are likely better relievers at this point but Francona is sticking with Pestano in Perez’ absence.
• Kevin Gregg (3.06 xFIP; 11/11 saves) and Jose Veras (3.68 xFIP; 15/18 saves) have been solid for a couple of non-solid teams this year and both should be named in many a trade rumor as we near the trading deadline. While it may seem unrealistic (or just straight up surreal) for a playoff bound team to be excited about handing the ball to Gregg in a close game with runners on, a 35 year old closer on a last place team is a bit of a novelty and it shouldn’t take much for a team to acquire Gregg’s services to bolster their pen. If Gregg were to go, expect the Cubs to try to squeeze whatever juice might be left of Carlos Marmol or look to James Russell. If Jose Veras is traded, Hector Ambriz (4.09 xFIP) could step in but keep an eye on Jose Cisnero. In 32.2 innings pitched already this year, Cisnero has 2.20 ERA and 3.73 xFIP and he could be a more valuable fixture in Houston if Veras is moved.
• Fernando Rodney shot his 16th arrow in the air tonight striking out two batters against no walks. That last part is of particular interest because as Colin noted last night, Rodney has been cutting down his walks of late. Rodney lowered his xFIP to 3.41 and although 2012 will always be his career year, his job is very secure right now and he might end up helping fantasy teams in non-save categories this year if he maintains his strikeout rate while continuing to limit his walks.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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