This “Mike Gonzalez as closer” situation in Baltimore is fast becoming one to watch closely, or to simply avert your eyes from if you’re an Orioles fan. Gonzalez was given the ball with a one-run lead in the ninth at home against the Blue Jays. He was taken out of the game two-thirds of an inning later to a chorus of boos at Camden Yards after giving up the lead on a sacrifice fly. That makes two blown saves in three chances this year for the 31-year old reliever. If you’re in a league where save chasing is the norm, you should have your sights fully set on Jim Johnson or even Cla Meredith. Most experts like the righty Johnson, who has three solid outings this season, but Meredith could get a few looks as well.
- Jorge De La Rosa was straight dealing in his season opener Friday against the Padres at Coors. The lefty threw seven sparkling innings of one-hit ball and struck out nine in the Rockies’ 7-0 win. De La Rosa should be owned in every league and after tonight he probably won’t be on anyone’s trading block. Congrats if you were sharp enough to get him in your draft, you can fully expect more of the same stuff from him throughout the season.
- Detroit sophomore hurler Rick Porcello wasn’t super sharp Friday, but he had plenty to pick up his first win of the year. Porcello went five innings, allowing five hits and two runs while striking out three. The talent is definitely there, but owners should be mindful of the innings jump of 45 on the young arm last year. Don’t be surprised if Porcello shows some negative effects from that increase at some point in 2010.
- One of the most anticipated starting debuts of the year came tonight from the Twins’ Francisco Liriano. The lefty is looking to rebound from a nightmare 2009 season, and he took a step in the right direction tonight. Liriano didn’t factor into the decision, but he did post a solid start. The final line was six innings of four-hit, three-run baseball. Not stellar, but Twins fans should take it after last year’s mostly-down roller coaster. Liriano did walk five White Sox hitters on the night, a number that could get him into a trouble down the road if it’s not addressed.
- Javier Vazquez had a night he would probably like to forget in Tampa. Vazquez threw 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits and eight runs in taking the loss. The 33-year old had a stellar 2.87 ERA last year in 219 innings for Atlanta, but the year before in the AL Vazquez’s ERA was 4.67 in 208 innings with the White Sox. Look for the ERA to go up at least a point and a half now that he’s back in the AL.
- Gio Gonzalez took his first turn of the year for the A’s and had a very solid outing. The lefty struck out six in six frames, allowing just two runs in defeating the Angels 10-4 Friday night. Gonzalez should remain no more than a spot start candidate in most leagues, but could be a good find in deeper formats.
- Houston doesn’t look too sharp through four games do they? The Astros lost their fourth in-a-row Friday, 8-0 at the hands of the Phillies. Bud Norris got the start for Houston, but he only lasted 2.2 innings. Norris’ final line included six hits, three earned runs and four walks. Norris has some spot start upside in deep leagues this year, but he definitely didn’t show it tonight.
- Diamondback starter Rodrigo Lopez turned in a good outing against the Pirates, throwing six innings and allowing just six hits and a run while striking out five. Lopez’s counterpart Charlie Morton struck out five through two innings, but then promptly allowed a six-run third to put a kibosh on any good feelings fantasy owners had for him.
Hitting Heads Up
- Jeff Mathis started for the fourth time in five games this season in place of Mike Napoli and for the fourth straight game came through with a hit. The story for most owners isn’t Mathis, but rather the dent in Napoli’s playing time that has suddenly developed. Napoli owners shouldn’t make any hasty decisions just yet, when he plays he should produce, but at least keep your eyes on the situation in the coming weeks.
- Daric Barton had another good night for the A’s. The first baseman went 3-for4 with a pair of doubles and is hitting .438 on the season with seven RBIs.
- Could Garrett Atkins be a rebounding success story in Baltimore? The veteran has compiled six hits in four games this year batting out of the eight slot in the Orioles order. Atkins is certainly not the player he once was, but a solid rebound after last season’s dreadful .226 average and nine homerun campaign in Colorado may well be within reach.
- Edgar Renteria collected three more hits in the Giants’ 5-4 win over Atlanta in 13 innings. The veteran shortstop is hitting .688 on the season. Consider us skeptics still, but feel free to ride the hot streak while it’s still warm.
- Reds’ sensational sophomore Drew Stubbs hit a go-ahead grandslam in the eighth to propel Cincinnati over the visiting Cubs. Stubbs continues to show a lot of power for a prospect that many experts say doesn’t have much.
- Jeff Francoeur blasted two homers for the Mets as New York downed Washington 8-2 Friday. Francoeur now has six hits for the year in 14 at bats. Not a bad play going forward at this point.
- The Royals’ Rick Ankiel (have to admit, that is a little tough to type) rapped out four hits, including a homerun Friday night as Kansas City downed Boston 4-3. As a Cardinals’ fan myself, I’ll be rooting for Ankiel wherever he plays, it would be nice to see him give the Royal lineup some more nights like tonight. He might even be able to help your fantasy team too.
- Texas centerfielder Julio Borbon went hitless again Friday and now sits at 0-for-16 on the season. Patience will be a virtue for Borbon owners. Put the young speedster on the bench for the time being, but fully expect good things from him in the near future.
- While Mike Gonzalez couldn’t close the game in Baltimore, Kevin Gregg actually did. With Jason Frasor having pitched three straight games, Cito Gaston went with Gregg in the bottom on the ninth after the Jays had taken the lead. The veteran didn’t disappoint. A fly ball and two strikeouts later he had recorded his first save of the season.
- Jose Valverde collected his first save as a Tiger Friday night with a low stress ninth against the Indians… Francisco Cordero allowed a Derrek Lee homerun and two singles in the ninth, but induced a tapper back to the mound to record the final out for his second save as the Reds beat the Cubs 5-4… All-time save leader Trevor Hoffman blew one tonight just a strike short of shutting down St. Louis. Reserve outfielder Nick Stavinoha connected on a breaking ball with two strikes and deposited it into leftfield stands to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead. Ryan Franklin came on in the bottom of the inning for his second save… Jon Rauch picked up his third save of the year, allowing two singles but no damage in the 11th as the Twins beat the White Sox 4-3… Joakim Soria notched his first save of the year. Soria is one of the most consistent closers you’ll find. Mike Gonzalez could take some notes.
Topics: Bud Norris, Charlie Morton, Cla Meredith, Daric Barton, Derrek Lee, Drew Stubbs, Edgar Renteria, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Liriano, Garrett Atkins, Gio Gonzalez, Jason Frasor, Javier Vazquez, Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Mathis, Jim Johnson, Joakim Soria, Jon Rauch, Jorge De La Rosa, Jose Valverde, Julio Borbon, Kevin Gregg, Mike Gonzalez, Mike Napoli, Nick Stavinoha, Rick Ankiel, Rick Porcello, Rodrigo Lopez, Ryan Franklin, Trevor Hoffman