2011 Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Back Off the Lidge, It Was Only Opening Day
The weather is getting nicer outside, and Opening Day came and went with six games that each had interesting endings.
We had studs like Mariano Rivera and Heath Bell shutting the door on their opponents, and John Axford and Ryan Franklin looking just a bit shaky.
Let's take a look at the news we missed in the preseason edition and then dive into Opening Day.
Shortly after the preseason edition of this column went live, it was announced that Neftali Feliz will be the closer for the Texas Rangers to begin the season.
The certainty that he is the closer for this team moves him into my top five closers and if you're drafting this weekend, he's absolutely worth taking at the right value.
The consensus is that he will be set up by Mark Lowe pitching the eighth and in deep leagues that count holds, he might be worth a look.
The Phillies shut down Brad Lidge with shoulder pain during the final few days of spring training and they expect him to be out 3-6 weeks. Jose Contreras has been named the fill-in over younger Ryan Madson while Lidge is out.
If Lidge is on your team, hopefully you have gone out and gotten Contreras to fill that hole while Lidge is on the DL.
Previously, there was just speculation about Andrew Bailey and Brian Wilson, but now it is confirmed that both California closers will start this season on the 15-day DL.
Wilson is eligible to come of the DL April 5 and will likely take over as soon as he gets back to full health; until then, Sergio Romo will likely fill in at the closer role.
Bailey will also be available on the April 5, but the Athletics may take a little extra time bringing back their young closer, especially with an experienced veteran like Brian Fuentes in the bullpen able to close games.
If you need quick saves for a week, I like Romo more than Fuentes while their counterparts are out.
Finally, Frank Francisco will start the season on the DL for the Blue Jays and Jon Rauch will be the closer to start the year. Rauch is the best option in the bullpen while Francisco is gone and could regain the job if Francisco struggles in his comeback.
Opening Day Games
In the first game of the day, C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander both went six innings and neither got a decision, leaving the ballgame to their respective bullpens.
Joba Chamberlain pitched a clean top of the seventh and Phil Coke could not do the same in the bottom of the inning, giving the win to Chamberlain.
Will John Axford hold the closer spot all season?
The Yankees used Rafael Soriano in the eighth and earned a hold and will be a great guy in holds leagues. Mariano Rivera came in and shut the door like he does so well and got his first save of the season.
None of these sentences are particularly surprising and this will likely be consistent for the Yankees, barring any injuries.
Craig Kimbrel got the first shot in the committee in Atlanta and finished the job in a 2-0 win over the Nationals, striking out two in the process. Jonny Venters pitched the eighth and earned a hold, keeping the Nationals hitless.
If you were to draft this weekend and you wanted a Braves closer, I'm leaning harder toward Kimbrel being the better guy for the year, but I still believe it's a committee. If the Braves go a couple weeks and Kimbrel pitches every time he's available, then the job is his and Venters owners can go ahead and release him.
The first blown save of the year belongs to John Axford and his awful mustache of the Brewers as the Reds scored four runs in bottom of the ninth to beat the Brewers 7-6. Takashi Saito pitched an ugly, but scoreless eighth inning and would likely get the first save chance in the bullpen if Axford were to struggle.
I believe Axford has a bit of leash but as a young guy, if he were to blow three in a row, maybe Saito gets the next chance.
Fernando Rodney closed a two run game against the Royals in the afternoon game, despite giving up a hit and a walk. I have a hard time believing in Rodney coming into the year and the Angels are high on Jordan Walden, but want to ease him into a setup role behind Rodney.
I believe Walden will settle into the eighth inning role and possibly a chance at saves when Rodney is not available.
We got bonus baseball and a second blown save in the win by the Padres over the Cardinals, 5-3. The Padres were helped by a blown save by Ryan Franklin and a poorly timed error by Ryan Theriot.
I'm not worried about Franklin for now, but Jason Motte is the guy in the shadows in case Franklin really struggles. Heath Bell closed the door in the 11th for his first save of the year.
And finally, as much as I was hoping to get a look at Sergio Romo, the Dodgers beat the Giants 2-1 and Jonathan Broxton got the ugly save. Broxton gave up a home run to Pat Burrell, but gave up no other hits and walked none.
Broxton looked slimmed down in appearance in comparison to last year, which may help his stamina. Hong-Chih Kuo got a hold and may be the king of the holds this year just like he was last year.
Written by Jim Dingeman exclusively forwww.thefantasyfix.com
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