Last week, in discussing the early-season struggles of Milwaukee's John Axford and St. Louis' Ryan Franklin I wrote, "Of the two, Franklin appears to have more job security, thanks to the fact that he has less competition and the fact that Tony LaRussa is notoriously loyal to veterans and loathe to make a change." I then noted that it would appear that if a change were to be made, it would likely be Jason Motte or Miguel Batista. As always, trying to predict the bullpen machinations of Tony LaRussa proved to be a futile exercise.
LaRussa, just days later, removed Franklin from the closer's role, and it has become apparent that the man who will close out games for the Cards will be Mitchell Boggs. The 27-year-old righty earned his first save on Wednesday in the second game of a doubleheader against the Nationals.
Boggs has been solid thus far this season, striking out 13 in 10 innings pitched to go along with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP. His strikeout per nine ratio is 11.70, and his stuff — mid-90s fastball, solid slider — would seem to indicate that he has a chance to succeed in the role. LaRussa is notoriously fickle, and Boggs' stats in 2010 (52 Ks, 27 walks, 3.61 ERA, 6.95 K/9) show that success isn't necessarily guaranteed, but for now at least he is the man you want out of the Cards' pen.
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Another closing change appears to be in the offing in Washington.
Drew Storen, widely expected to earn the job entering the spring but who struggled early, has earned two saves this week and hasn't allowed a run in his last nine appearances. Meanwhile, Sean Burnett, the likely competition for the closer's role, struggled in his last outing against the Cardinals. He gave up three singles, including an RBI base knock to Albert Pujols (although, not necessarily much shame in that). In the last week, Burnett has a 10.80 ERA with no saves and just one strikeout. And even more telling was the fact that the Nationals called upon him in the eighth inning against the Cardinals in his last outing.
It's far from written in stone, but it's hard not to like Storen moving forward.
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Sam Fuld showed what he can do a couple of weeks ago against the Red Sox and has continued his hot play since.
The Tampa Bay Ray is hitting .344 with a homer and 5 RBI this season, along with seven stolen bases. He's done most of that damage in the last two weeks since the unceremonious retirement of the artist formerly known as Manny Ramirez. With Manny gone, Fuld may get a chance to get everyday playing time and even if he doesn't keep up the pace in batting average, his speed could make him an intriguing outfield option in deep leagues or if you're streaming outfielders.
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Speaking of streaking players, Ryan Roberts has been on a tear of late.
The Arizona third baseman has hit safely in eight straight games and over the last 14 days he has hit .407 with 3 home runs and 9 RBI in 27 at-bats. It's a relatively small sample size, but with only aging Melvin Mora ahead of him one has to think that the Diamondbacks will want to roll the dice with the hot bat. So, if you're looking for a short-term replacement for someone like Ryan Zimmerman or Evan Longoria, Roberts may be someone to consider.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum has been Mike Stanton.
A player who was much-hyped in the preseason — and one whom I bought into heavily myself — Stanton really has struggled thus far, driving in just three RBI and hitting no home runs thus far this season for the Marlins. He hasn't been hitting for average either, batting just .216. He's been battling a nagging quad injury all season, so I have to think it's playing a role in his struggles. I still think the power will eventually come around, so I'm resistant to push the panic button yet. But it would be nice to see Stanton put together a solid stretch of games sometime soon.
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If you're looking for some pitchers to consider for streaming, here are a few suggestions.
Randy Wolf has been stellar of late, earning two wins with 20 strikeouts, a 0.96 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in the last two weeks. And like the rest of his teammates, Cleveland's Fausto Carmona has been playing well, striking out 15 with a 1.25 ERA and 0.78 WHIP and one win in the last two weeks. And keep an eye on reliever-turned-starter Alexi Ogando of the Rangers, who has two wins in the last two weeks with a 2.33 ERA and a 0.72 WHIP in 19 1/3 innings pitched. His strikeout total over that period is somewhat low (just nine), but he plays for a solid team and could, depending on the matchup, be worth taking a look at for a spot start.