Most fantasy owners figured that it was only a matter of time before LaTroy Hawkins was booted from the Rockies’ closer role. They just didn’t figure it would be another 40-year-old replacing him.
OK, Rafael Betancourt actually won’t turn 40 until later this month, and he also hasn’t officially been named the new closer. But, it was indeed Betancourt who recorded a save for the Rockies Monday just hours after manager Walt Weiss announced that Hawkins would no longer be used in the ninth inning. Betancourt needed 16 pitches to dispose of the Giants in order, recording two strikeouts along the way. It was his 75th career save but his first since August 20, 2013.
After being limited to 21 rehab appearances last season in his return from Tommy John surgery, Betancourt held a 0.93 ERA and 11/2 K/BB ratio over 9 2/3 innings during spring training and has now tossed four perfect frames since the regular season began. Because he has closing experience and is coming off a spotless appearance in his first save chance, the odds would seem to be good that he’d get the call again the next time a save opportunity comes up.
Of course, perhaps the only reason it was Betancourt who was called upon in the ninth inning Monday was because Adam Ottavino had already pitched on Saturday and Sunday. Ottavino entered the season as the presumed next in line for saves after Hawkins, and he’s done nothing but strengthen his case by allowing just two baserunners and striking out seven over his first 4 1/3 innings. He’s Colorado’s best reliever right now, but Betancourt has the experience edge. Boone Logan and/or John Axford (once he’s off the family medical emergency list) could also be in the mix.
Weiss said after Monday’s game that he’s not ready to “declare a closer” yet, but in the past he’s indicated a desire to pick one closer and go with him rather than use a committee approach. Both Betancourt and Ottavino should be owned in mixed leagues.
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David Freese’s power has been in a decline the past few years, as his slugging percentage has dropped steadily and he hit a combined 19 home runs from 2013-14 after his breakout 20-homer campaign in 2012. However, we’ve seen signs that the third baseman could be poised for a power resurgence.
Freese slugged his third home run of the season Monday in his seventh game. Last season, he didn’t hit home run No. 3 until July 2 in his 61st contest. The early-season pop Freese has displayed has come after he crushed the ball in spring training, batting .364/.379/.600 with three longballs and 12 RBI. Freese noted recently that he’s in a much better place mentally and physically now than he was a year ago.
"I don't even remember how I felt last year," Freese told MLB.com last Friday. "But physically, mentally, it's just not where I'm at now. Things are good right now, and I like where I'm at."
We should note, of course, that, even with the three dingers, Freese is batting just .222 in the early going. The power display so far is definitely encouraging, though, and his placement in the middle of the Angels’ batting order puts him on the mixed league radar again.
Arm Injury Sends Alvarez to DL
The Marlins will already be without ace Jose Fernandez until June as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, so they couldn’t afford to lose Henderson Alvarez for an extended period of time. Alvarez is headed to the disabled list, but all indications are that his injury could have been much worse.
An MRI has revealed that the right-hander is dealing with shoulder inflammation and mild elbow tightness. The shoulder appears to be the bigger concern at this point, but the good news, obviously, is that the exam didn’t show any structural damage.
"It's hard to say. I think right now it's more calming down the inflammation and getting him feeling good and healthy," manager Mike Redmond told MLB.com. "How long it'll be, I don't know. That's kind of the unknown right now. It's really up to him and how quickly he feels better. We're going to make sure that he feels good and confident before he goes out and pitches again."
At the moment, Miami is hopeful that Alvarez won’t require a DL stint much more than the minimum 15 days. But, as Redmond alluded to, nothing is a given and they’ll just have to wait and see how the young right-hander recovers.
Taking Alvarez’s spot in the rotation will be David Phelps, who was chosen over Brad Hand. Phelps is currently on paternity leave but will rejoin the club in time to make his first start as a Marlin on Friday in New York against the Mets. The former Yankee was pummeled for four runs over just one-third of an inning in a relief outing last Friday, but his track record (career 4.32 ERA and 8.0 K/9 rate) suggests that he’ll be a capable fill-in, especially when considering nearly half of his appearances have come at Yankee Stadium.
National League Quick Hits: Devin Mesoraco is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his left hip ... Jorge Soler slugged a pair of two-run home runs and scored the winning run in Monday’s victory over the Reds ... Batting cleanup, Jayson Werth went hitless in three at-bats Monday in his first game back from the disabled list ... Working with continued diminished velocity, Mark Melancon gave up three runs in the ninth before finishing off the Tigers on Monday ... Jaime Garcia (shoulder) has resumed throwing off a mound ... Billy Hamilton sat out Monday due to a sore index finger but is expected to play Tuesday ... Yasiel Puig tweaked something in his leg Monday and could miss Tuesday’s game ... Hunter Pence (forearm) is not likely to play in rehab games within the next week ... Anthony Rendon (knee) threw from 100 feet on Sunday and will start hitting soft toss ... Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-4 Monday for the third straight game, dropping his average to .130 ... Jon Lester allowed six runs in six innings in a no-decision Monday versus the Reds ... Ian Kennedy (hamstring) is 2-3 days away from throwing a bullpen session ... Ender Inciarte went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, and four RBI in Monday’s win over the Padres ... Brandon Phillips went 4-for-5 with four singles and two runs scored in Monday's loss to the Cubs ...
American League Quick Hits: Nelson Cruz launched a pair of home runs in the Mariners’ loss to the Dodgers on Monday ... Marcus Semien singled and hit his first home run with the A’s in Monday’s win over the Astros ... Alex Rios will undergo X-rays after leaving Monday’s game following a hit by pitch in the hand ... Mookie Betts belted a three-run homer, drove in four runs and stole two bases in a win over the Nationals on Monday ... Kole Calhoun (calf) missed a second straight start Monday but was able to pinch-hit ... Scott Kazmir continued his early-season dominance with six frames of one-run ball against the Astros ... Stephen Drew clubbed a pinch-hit grand slam to help the Yankees edge the Orioles on Monday ... Brett Gardner left Monday’s game after being hit in the wrist by a pitch, but X-rays came back clean ... Jake Odorizzi held the Blue Jays to one run over eight innings Monday in his second straight terrific start ... The Indians signed Ryan Webb to a minor league contract following his release by the Dodgers ... Ricky Nolasco (elbow) will resume playing catch on Wednesday ... Lisalverto Bonilla will undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow Friday ... Ryan Rua will wear a walking boot for three weeks after being diagnosed with a severe right ankle sprain and broken bone in his heel ... The Red Sox activated Koji Uehara from the disabled list Monday ...