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Huston Street And LaTroy Hawkins: Closers For How Long?

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Friday's roto news was highlighted by some new closers in the National League: one who will be trade bait in a few months, and another who could close for longer than many expected.

CL, Huston Street, COL-Street closed out the Rockies win on Thurday by striking out the side. After the game, manager Clint Hurdle hinted he would be the new closer. On Friday came the news that Street was indeed the Rockies new closer. But for how long, I ask? Hurdle changes his mind....well, you know how that saying goes. But, Colorado sorely needs Street to succeed, so they can use him as trade bait in a month or two. There will be many teams looking for middle relief help come the trade deadline.

But who will close in Colorado should Street eventually be traded? Hurdle will probably go back to Manny Corpas, but he is relegated to middle relief right now. Jason Grilli should be the Rockies new setup man. Grilli could be the next closer in Colorado come July.

Over the last 3 years Grilli has increased his K/9 from 7.0 in 2007, to 8.3 in 2008, and in 8 1/3 innings in 2009, his K/9 sits at 11.9. That's quite an impressive growth in strikeout rate. But, not so fast , my friend!! His BBs/9 have gone from 3.6 in 2007, to 4.6 in 2008, and sit at 6.5 in 2009. Keep an eye on his K/9 and BB/9 in May. Should he reduce his BB/9 without a huge drop in his K/9, Grilli could be a sleeper for saves in the 2nd half.

CL, LaTroy Hawkins, HOU-on Friday we learned that Houston closer Jose Valverde will not come off the DL when he is supposed to on May 21st. Valverde will need up to 3-5 weeks on the DL, as he had fluid drained on his right calf on Friday, and may need an additional procedure. Hawkins becomes the Astros closer, but Doug Brocail, just off the DL, and MR Chris Sampson may also get save opportunities down the road.

Hawkins has never been a huge strikeout pitcher out of the bullpen, but he did show some signs once traded to Houston last year. Pitching for the Yankees in 2008, Hawkins struck out only 5/9 innings. But once traded to Houston, his K/9 doubled to 10.7/9, while also reducing his BB/9 rate from 3.7 to 2.1. In 2009, Hawkins K/9 rate has dropped back to familiar territory at 5.4/9, but he has kept his BB/9 down at 1.8.

Hawkins will get the first shot at closing for Houston, but let's take a look at Brocail and Sampson.

Brocail is a better strikeout pitcher than either Hawkins or Sampson, as he has averaged 6.6/9 in his 16 year career, but in 2008, his K/9 was a decent 8.4, and he kept his BB/9 low at 2.8/9.

Meanwhile, looking at Sampson's K/9 and BB/9, one would wonder why he is even being considered as a closer candidate. Sampson at one time was a starter in the Astros rotation, but was put in the bullpen in the 2nd half of 2008, where he pitched fairly well. In 39.1 innings, he struck out only 23 batters, but only walked 9. His WHIP as a MR sat at a respectable 1.169.

In 2009, Sampson is only striking out 3.3 batters per 9 innings, definitely not closer material, but again, he isn't allowing baserunners. In 13.2 innings, he is only walking 2.00/9, and his WHIP is 1.098.

Should Valverde be out longer than 3-5 weeks, Hawkins should get the majority of the save opportunities in Houston. But, there is one other pitcher to keep your eye on-Felipe Paulino.

According to MLB.com, Paulino is being moved to the bullpen. His spot in the starting rotation is being taken by Brian Moehler, who is scheduled to come off the DL. In 3 starts, Paulino was 0-2, with a 2.55 ERA and 1.302 WHIP. In 17.2 innings, Paulino struck out 13 and walked only 4. In 6 minor league seasons, Paulino has a career K/9 rate of 8.4.

Should Hawkins fail in the closers role, and he has before, Paulino is a sleeper for saves in Houston.