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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.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fantasy baseball: The endless closer chronicles

By my unofficial count, nine major-league teams have changed closers this season, and that doesn't count Brian Wilson beginning the season on the disabled list in San Francisco and Brandon League taking over for an injured David Aardsma in spring training.

The White Sox have gone from Matt Thornton to Sergio Santos, the Twins from Joe Nathan to Matt Capps, the Rangers from an injured Neftali Feliz to Darren Oliver, the Angels from Fernando Rodney to Jordan Walden, the Phillies from Brad Lidge to Jose Contreras to Ryan Madson, the Nationals from Sean Burnett to Drew Storen, and those wacky Cardinals have switched from Ryan Franklin to Mitchell Boggs to what we are led to believe is a committee of two (Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas).

In the last two days, the Dodgers and Astros have been added to the list. And could the Blue Jays be next? Frank Francisco, who was expected to be Toronto's closer this season but was injured this spring, earned the save Wednesday, a day after Jon Rauch blew his first save of the year.

The Dodgers could turn to Vicente Padilla or Hong-Chih Kuo, and the Astros are giving the closer's job to Mark Melancon.

Let's take a quick look at the two situations:

-- Dodgers: Jonathan Broxton has been shut down with elbow pain, which might explain his 5.68 ERA, 1.89 WHIP and nine walks in 12 2/3 innings.

Don Mattingly could call on Kuo or Padilla in the ninth inning.

Padilla recorded a save on April 27 and has pitched six innings this season, with a 1.50 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. He hasn't been a full-time reliever since 2001, and he doesn't seem to be a better choice than Kuo, who was terrific after Broxton lost his job last season.

Kuo was 12-for-13 in save chances and posted a 1.20 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 60 innings in 2010. He returned from the disabled list May 1 and allowed four runs in one-third of an inning. On Wednesday, he pitched a scoreless frame.

Don't be surprised if Padilla gets more opportunities early as Kuo is eased back into the bullpen. In the coming weeks, however, he should be the choice as long as he's healthy.

If that's the case, he's a top-15 closer in any format.

-- Astros: Brandon Lyon has a partial tear of his rotator cuff and biceps tendinitis. Surgery isn't required and I don't play a doctor on the Internet, but I'm guessing he will be out quite a while.

Melancon has appeared in 18 games and been effective -- a 1.72 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 12 Ks in 15 2/3 innings. He's in his third year and was very productive in the minor leagues (19-3, 2.79 ERA, 15 saves and 211 strikeouts in 216 innings).

He could keep the job for the rest of the season but shouldn't be considered much more than a low-end No. 2 closer in a 12-team league, if that, because of Houston's status as one of the worst teams in the National League.

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