April is time that we see all kinds of changes at the closer position and this April (including March 31st) is no different.
The closer news just keeps pouring in, as we learned yesterday that Mets closer Bobby Parnell is out as the Mets closer. An MRI revealed that he has a partial tear of his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right elbow, and could miss the rest of the season. He will receive a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection and rest for two weeks before attempting to throw again. if things don't improve, he will probably elect to have Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season.
The Mets will turn to former closer Jose Valverde to close out games for the time being, but other candidates include Kyle Farnsworth (called up from AAA on Tuesday), Jeurys Familia and Vic Black. A dark horse candidate would be pitching prospect Rafael Montero, but I imagine the Mets want to keep him as a starter in AAA.
Late Monday night, A's new closer Jim Johnson came into a 0-0 tie game in the ninth inning and proceeded to give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just one out. Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle both pitched scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, with Doolittle giving up the only hit, and only base runner, between the two.
Orioles closer Tommy Hunter didn't learn about the status of his role until early Monday afternoon, as manager Buck Showalter finally named him his closer. How long is the real question here, as Hunter was shaky while earning the save in the Orioles 2-1 win over the Red Sox. Hunter gave up a hit and a hit by pitch, but was able to close out the game. He could be on a short leash if he continues to be shaky in the ninth inning.
Desmond Jennings likes the sixth spot in Rays lineup
Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings batted leadoff for most of the 2013 season, but yesterday manager Joe Maddon moved him down to the sixth spot in the Rays lineup. Maybe it was because they were facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, or maybe this is a sign of things to come this season. David DeJesus led off for the Rays yesterday, but left the game after taking a pitch off his right foot.
Last night, Matt Joyce led off for the Rays, with Jennings again in the sixth spot in the lineup. Last season, Jennings hit just .182-.292-.309 with a 16-9 strikeout to walk rate in 65 plate appearances, so hopefully he can improve upon that performance. In game one, Jennings went 2-4 with a walk and two runs scored in the sixth spot, and last night he went 2-3 with a walk, RBI and his first stolen base of the season, so he is off to a good start.
Clayton Kershaw to miss all of April
It was reported early last evening that Dodgers ace will begin throwing today, but as I suspected, they will take a very cautious approach in his rehab from his back injury. He will throw for the next 2-3 weeks and get re-examined before increasing the intensity of his throwing. If approved to increase the intensity, he will then need to make some rehab starts before returning to the Dodgers rotation.
This is not a setback, but the Dodgers being very cautious with their ace. Not good news for his owners, for sure. I own him in the Tout Wars mixed auction league, so I will need to use some of my FAAB on a starter, or look to make a deal.
Matt Kemp: Returning on Friday?
The Dodgers got some good news on Tuesday, as manager Don Mattingly stated that it is possible outfielder Matt Kemp could return to the Dodgers lineup on Friday, April 4th. This is good news for his owners as well. Some fantasy writers out there are very down on Kemp after two consecutive injury-filled seasons which saw him miss 89 games last season and 56 games in 2012. The Dodgers fired their team trainer in the offseason, as some felt Kemp was allowed to rush back from his disabled list stints last season before he was 100% healthy.
The fact that Kemp is returning this early in the season tells me that he is 100% healthy, and reports indicate his shoulder is fully healthy, as he was able to work out most of the offseason. The real issue is his ankle. I was watching the Dodgers spring training game over the weekend and Vin Scully mentioned that Kemp actually stole two bases in the minor league games he played in, so that is a very good sign for the Dodgers and his fantasy owners.
Freddie Freeman homers twice
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had a big night at the plate last night, going 3-3 with two home runs, two runs scored and two RBI in the Braves 5-2 win over the Brewers. Freeman is not known a big time power hitter. I look at him as the mini-Joey Votto, after he hit .319 last season, yet he drives in more runs than Votto. One can make the case that maybe Freeman is a better fantasy first baseman than Votto, but we all probably want to see him duplicate his awesome 2013 season in 2014. If he can hit for a little more power this season, maybe approach 30 home runs, drive in 90-100 runs and hit over .300, he will make a strong case for being ranked ahead of Votto, and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, next season.
Adrian Beltre gets better with age
It is no secret that I am a big fan of Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. Yes, he is a former Dodger, and I still remember the day when he signed with the Mariners. It was the offseason after his 48 home run, near MVP season way back in 2004. Of course, his agent Scott Boras had him sign to the largest bidder.
Anyway, Beltre had a good night at the plate last night, going 2-4 with two RBI, including the game winner in the bottom of the ninth inning. Coming into the season, Beltre has 376 home runs, 1.307 RBI, 1, 180 runs scored and a career .282 batting average. He has a few more years left in the tank, and I think he is a Hall of Famer.
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