Glen Perkins was just about perfect in the first half of 2015, converting all 28 of his save chances and closing out the All Star Game for the American League. From there, things went downhill in a hurry. After the break he posted a 7.32 ERA, and opponents put up a 1068 OPS against him while his body broke down at an inopportune time for the Twins.
This year, unfortunately, he's picking up right where he left off.
Perkins blew his first save chance last Sunday despite being given a two-run cushion, with his reduced fastball velocity raising eyebrows (he was clocking at 90-91 MPH after averaging 93.7 last season). Then, on Wednesday, the Twins placed him on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.
It's an ominous sign for the 33-year-old lefty, who has now encountered health problems in three consecutive seasons. He'll be out until at least early May (I'd guess longer) and in the meantime, Kevin Jepsen will assume closer duties in Minnesota.
Jepsen took over the ninth-inning role for the Twins late last season and performed very well, converting 10 of 11 saves with a 1.33 ERA over the final six weeks. He's off to a bit of a rough start this year but should settle in as a mid-tier closer option for fantasy owners while Perkins is sidelined.
* Have yourself a game, Vince Velasquez! The 23-year-old Phillies righty, acquired from Houston during the offseason in the Ken Giles deal, turned in perhaps the best performance we will see from a starting pitcher all season on Thursday when he spun a complete game shutout against the Padres, notching 16 strikeouts with zero walks and only three hits allowed.
He was a strikeout machine in the minors and obviously his stuff is playing well in the majors. Velasquez is a highly appealing fantasy asset, but some inconsistency should be expected given his age and experience. Also worth noting: he has never thrown more than 124 innings in a season, and totaled just 166 over the last two seasons combined, so he'll probably be looking at an innings limit coming into play before September. The Phillies, who have little riding on this season, may be inclined to move him to the bullpen midway through to conserve his arm.
This presents an opportunity for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who signed on as a backup in September. As you may recall, Salty appeared to be cooked when the Marlins released him last May with almost two full years remaining on his contract, but he latched on with the Diamondbacks and enjoyed a resilient second half, posting an 805 OPS with eight homers in 70 games. He had a strong spring with the Tigers, so he's worth a look if you want to add some power potential at a position that generally lacks it in the American League.
* Felix Doubront had a good enough camp to win the Athletics fifth rotation spot, but in his final spring start he exited with a forearm injury that turned out to be rather serious. The 28-year-old righty underwent Tommy John surgery this week and will miss the entire 2016 season. It's a tough break as he sought to get his career back on track following forgettable stints with the Cubs and Blue Jays.
The A's have turned to lefty Erik Surkamp, for now, but his leash figures to be short. Jesse Hahn, who performed fairly well in Oakland's rotation last year, lurks as a potential replacement.
* Justin Verlander's outstanding performance down the stretch last year inspired hope that he was ready to once again be a force at the front of Detroit's rotation. His first couple starts here in April have dashed those hopes somewhat.
He allowed three runs over six innings in a decent first turn against the Marlins on Opening Day, but was absolutely crushed by the Pirates in his second start on Monday. Verlander coughed up seven runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings in the loss, finishing with two walks and just two strikeouts.
If there's a silver lining, it's that the veteran had a few clunkers of this nature shortly after he joined the Detroit rotation midway through last summer but was able to get on track and finish strong. Still, it'll be tough to trust him as a fantasy option until he gets on a sustained run.
* The Red Sox placed embattled third baseman Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list, ostensibly because of a left shoulder sprain, but there seems to be more to it than that. Team officials have been frustrated with the shape he is in, and have outlined a conditioning plan to trim him down. His former trainer came out and said that the hefty slugger needs a "babysitter" to help control his weight.
Despite all of that noise, it appears there is something actually wrong with his shoulder. He's going to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion and Sox GM Dave Dombrowski mentioned that surgery is a possibility.
With Sandoval out, Travis Shaw takes over as Boston's regular third baseman and he offers solid power potential in that capacity.
* Breakout alert! Marlins lefty Adam Conley piled up nine strikeouts over six scoreless innings against the Mets on Sunday, flashing the promise that made him an intriguing preseason sleeper. The former second-round draft pick was excellent last year between Triple-A and the majors and had a brilliant spring. Available in 80 percent of Yahoo leagues, he's definitely one to target. He's also a two-start pitcher in The Week Ahead.
* The Pirates signed Justin Masterson to a minor-league deal. The righty, who put up a 5.61 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 18 appearances with the Red Sox last year, will report to Class-AAA Indianapolis. Given the history of seemingly washed up veteran starting pitchers landing in Pittsburgh, we expect him to be up in the majors and dominating in no time. (Kidding. Kind of.) Hard to believe Masterson is still only 31.
* The Rockies placed Charlie Blackmon on the DL with turf toe. He'll be out until at least the end of April.
* The Rangers signed veteran third baseman Adrian Beltre to a two-year, $36 million contract extension, locking him up through 2018.
* Braves outfielder Hector Olivera was arrested in Virginia on Wednesday in connection with assault charges. He has been placed on administrative leave and his return timetable is unknown.