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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fantasy baseball: Closing chronicles, Part I

Kerry Wood's placement on the disabled list to the start the season will mark the closer's 13th career trip to the land once dominated by Carl Pavano (the Yankee version).

Wood is expected to miss all of April -- and possibly the first couple weeks of May -- because of a moderate strain in his upper back. The assumption is fill-in closer Chris Perez is just keeping the seat warm for the pitcher who has saved 54 games in 66 tries the last two seasons.

(Cue Lee Corso, since it's never too early for college football.) Not so fast, my friend.

Wood and the Indians lead our look at the six most volatile closing situations in baseball. It's so extensive we're going to drag it out into two parts.


Wood needs to finish 55 games to vest an $11 million option for next season, a salary the Indians would want to pay almost as much as Travis Hafner's. Wood's injury helps their chances, especially since the Tribe's struggles resulted in only 55 innings pitched for their closer last year, but if Wood comes back in May and the Indians' offense keeps them somewhat competitive ... then what?

Then Wood will get the chance to close games and prove he's healthy. If he does both, it's not out of the realm of possibility the Tribe will try to trade him in an effort to both get younger and cheaper (options away!).

If that's the case, don't be surprised if Perez both begins and ends the season as the Tribe's closer.

The 24-year-old will help you in strikeouts (he has 110 in 98 2/3 career innings), but he can be erratic (roughly one walk per two innings pitched in two years). He does, however, have the look (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and stuff to be a closer.

Wood's injury leaves him as a low-end No. 3 closing option in deeper leagues. Perez should be considered in the 30-35 range among all relievers, but don't be surprised if he is among the top 20 near the end of the season.


Huston Street, once viewed as a top-five closer entering the season, likely will miss most of April because of lingering shoulder stiffness. He hopes to return in a few weeks, and I certainly am not Dr. James Andrews, but the thought of "lingering" shoulder problems scares me enough to drop Street to mid-level No. 2 closer status in deeper leagues.

Lefty Franklin Morales, who had seven saves last September, will close in Street's absence. During a 10-day span last September, when Street was sidelined, Morales was 6-for-6 in save opportunities, throwing six scoreless innings and striking out six. He was a starter in his first two big-league seasons and hasn't been overpowering in his career (although he did have 41 K's in 40 innings last season).

Morales is a decent free-agent option for the season's first month and is worth playing in deeper leagues.


The Astros signed Brandon Lyon to a three-year, $15 million contract prior to the season, and it likely wasn't to be a setup man. But that's exactly what he'll be, at least for the time being.

Matt Lindstrom, who was 15-for-17 in save chances for the Marlins last season, will man the back end of the bullpen to begin the season. Lindstrom was shaky with the Marlins in 2009, compiling a 5.89 ERA and allowing 54 hits and 24 walks in 47 1/3 innings (a 1.65 WHIP). He's also not a big strikeout asset (an average of 7.1 K's per 9 innings the last two seasons).

Lyon, meanwhile, had 26 saves in 2008 with the Diamondbacks, a year in which he also compiled an unimpressive 4.70 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. And he's even worse of a strikeout pitcher than Lindstrom (Lyon has averaged 5.8 K's per 9 innings in his career).

The verdict: Lindstrom is a No. 3 reliever in deeper mixed leagues. If you need saves badly, Lyon should be an option at some point, since Lindstrom's hold on the job is shakier than the Tribe's financial situation.

Later this week: We'll break down the bullpens of Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

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