Hurdle had given his left-hander a vote of confidence on Wednesday, but Watson went out and blew his fifth save of the season that very same night.
Overall, Watson owns a 4.28 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and 20/8 K/BB ratio in 27 1/3 innings of work. Prior to him masquerading as the club’s ninth-inning stopper, Watson had been one of the finest and most reliable setup men in all of baseball. The Pirates’ will look to get him back on track and thriving again in a setup capacity.
As far as the ninth inning, it looks as though Hurdle is going to go with the dreaded closer-by-committee approach, at least initially. Felipe Rivero has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball this season, compiling a 0.58 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 34/6 K/BB ratio across 31 innings. The only thing holding him back from the prototypical closer’s profile is the fact that he throws left-handed. So does Watson though, so perhaps there’s hope yet for Rivero. He’s the preferred addition for those speculating on saves in mixed leagues or NL-only formats.
Hurdle has also named Juan Nicasio, indicating that the veteran right-hander will share the job with Rivero for the time being. While his 1.35 ERA looks good at a glance, the 3.91 xFIP paints a different picture as to the true effectiveness of Nicasio this season. He has yet to allow a home run in 26 2/3 innings and is stranding an absurd 86.2% of baserunners.
Could he be worth a speculative add in deep leagues? Sure. But Rivero is definitely the preferred target and the one who looks to have staying power in the closer’s role.
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Making a Statement
The Rays were dealt a major blow on Thursday when Kevin Kiermaier fractured his right hip while sliding into first base to avoid a collision on Thursday.
He was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Friday but is going to miss a substantial amount of time. The outfielder will require 6-to-8 weeks just to allow the hip to heal, before resuming baseball activities and working himself back into game shape.
In all likelihood, the Rays will be without one of the top defensive center fielders in all of baseball for at least the next two months, perhaps longer.
With every injury though, there’s opportunity. Enter: Mallex Smith.
The speedy 24-year-old outfielder had already appeared in nine games for the Rays this season, slashing .261/.346/.304 with three stolen bases in 26 plate appearances.
Smith was recalled prior to Friday’s game against the Athletics and inserted as the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. He’ll continue to function in that role as long as Kiermaier is sidelined and should have value in all mixed leagues.
Smith made a statement in Friday’s rout over the Athletics, going 2-for-3 plus a walk with two RBI and three runs scored. He also put his blazing speed on full display, swiping three bases.
He isn’t going to hit for much power, but his speed alone makes him an intriguing asset in most fantasy formats. He’s a player that’s available on most waiver wires and can be had for little-to-no cost.
Ervin does it All
Ervin Santana proved to be a jack-of-all trades on Friday, single-handedly defeating the San Francisco Giants.
The 34-year-old hurler spun his major league leading third shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over the Giants. Santana allowed just four hits and a walk in the ballgame and pulled a Maddux, needing fewer than 100 pitches to complete the game.
It was a terrific bounce-back effort for Santana who had been shelled by the Angels his last time out.
Not only was he able to hold down the Giants’ bats throughout the evening though, he did some sweet-swinging to help his own cause as well.
Santana came to the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and smashed a Matt Moore offering into the gap in right-center field for a bases-clearing double. In doing so, he became the first Twins’ hurler to collect three or more RBI in a game since Luis Tiant did so in 1970.
Santana has certainly pitched his way into the mix for early consideration for the American League Cy Young Award this season. With Friday’s victory, he now sits at 8-3 on the season with a stellar 2.20 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 63/33 K/BB ratio across his 90 innings of work.
American League Quick Hits: Justin Verlander (groin) has been cleared to start on Saturday against the Red Sox… Carlos Gomez (hamstring) will begin his minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday… Manny Machado missed his second straight game due to a strained left wrist… Adrian Beltre (ankle) was held out of the lineup on Friday, though no decision has been made yet about a potential return to the disabled list… An MRI on the injured shoulder of Danny Salazar came back negative, though there’s still no clear timetable for his return… James Shields (lat) will make one additional minor league rehab start before rejoining the White Sox’ rotation… Mitch Haniger (oblique) will be activated from the disabled list on Saturday or Sunday… Welington Castillo (groin) is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Saturday… Cameron Maybin (oblique) returned from the disabled list and swiped four bases and scored four runs in a victory over the Astros… Jose Abreu was forced to leave Friday’s game with a bruised left leg. He’s considered day-to-day… Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi confirmed that Aaron Hicks will remain the team’s starting center fielder even after Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) returns. Hicks blasted a pair of home runs in Friday’s victory over the Orioles… Jonathan Lucroy went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI in a win over the Nationals… Steven Souza went 3-for-5 and had a jack and a bag in a rout over the Athletics… Alex Cobb fired six innings of one-run ball to beat the A’s… Jordan Montgomery allowed two runs over seven strong innings in a victory against the Orioles… Jackie Bradley Jr. clubbed a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning on Friday to beat the Tigers… Corey Dickerson launched his 14th homer of the season, one of five Rays’ long balls in a win over the A’s… Andrew Cashner fired seven innings of one-run ball to beat the Nationals.
National League Quick Hits: Noah Syndergaard (lat) is still not close to resuming his throwing program… Homer Bailey (elbow) began his minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Pensacola on Friday… Brandon Finnegan (trapezius) will begin his minor league rehab assignment on Sunday… Anthony DeSclafani (elbow) is behind schedule and unlikely to return until August… The Cardinals designated veteran infielder Jhonny Peralta for assignment… Jameson Taillon (cancer) is set to rejoin the Pirates’ rotation next week… Neil Walker missed his second consecutive game due to a knee injury… The Brewers recalled pitching prospect Josh Hader, though he’ll work out of the bullpen initially… The Brewers placed Travis Shaw on the family medical emergency list prior to Friday’s game… Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring) will be activated from the disabled list on Saturday… The Padres optioned Ryan Schimpf to Triple-A El Paso. He had clubbed 14 homers but was hitting just .158/.284/.424… Yadier Molina was scratched from Friday’s lineup due to minor back stiffness… Madison Bumgarner (shoulder) threw 20 pitches off of a mound on Friday and is on track to throw a simulated game next week… Justin Turner (hamstring) returned from the disabled list and crushed a two-run homer in a victory over the Reds… Greg Holland converted another save in Friday’s win over the Cubs and is now a perfect 23-for-23 in save opportunities this season… Amir Garrett was forced to leave Friday’s start against the Dodgers after taking a line drive off of his pitching hand… Joe Panik missed Friday’s game, and could miss several more, due to a sprained left thumb… Tyler Moore belted two home runs and plated four in a victory over the Pirates… Matt Harvey fired five shutout innings in a no-decision against the Braves… Kenta Maeda racked up six strikeouts over four innings of one-run relief against the Reds, earning his first career save… Joey Votto clubbed his 17th home run in a losing effort there… Jake Lamb blasted his 16th homer in a loss to the Brewers… Giancarlo Stanton launched a mammoth home run, his 16th of the season, in a win over the Pirates... Jonathan Villar left Friday’s game with an apparent back injury. He’ll be re-evaluated on Saturday but a trip to the disabled list looks likely.