If we were deeper into the summer, one could blame the infamous Texas heat. But we're still in mid-April and already the Rangers bullpen is melting down.
In the first week of the season, closer Sam Dyson delivered a pair of hideous performances against Cleveland that amounted to two losses. He received a nod of confidence from his manager but Dyson's fortunes did not improve this week. On Tuesday against the Angels he coughed up a three-run lead in the ninth, leaving him with a 33.00 ERA after four appearances.
Making matters worse for Texas is the shaky situation behind Dyson. Matt Bush, who might be next in line, felt shoulder soreness at the beginning of the week and traveled back home to have the AC joint in his shoulder examined. It sounds like he's playing catch and should be OK but he hasn't pitched since last weekend. Jeremy Jeffress, another top setup man, has failed to impress in a handful of outings. But he has closing experience and would likely be first to get a look. Tony Barnette also is in the mix, worth rostering in deeper leagues especially if Bush hits any further snags with his shoulder.
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* It appeared that Adrian Beltre was nearing a return to the Rangers after opening the season on the disabled list with a calf injury. But the veteran third baseman experienced a setback last weekend and was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain. Beat writer T.R. Sullivan reported that he expects Beltre "will be out some time."
The likely future Hall of Famer has been remarkably durable throughout his career and has missed 20 or more games in a season only twice since 2002. However, he'll almost certainly eclipse that number before he's able to take the field this year, and we could be well into May before his activation if the Rangers take a conservative approach.
It's good news for Joey Gallo, who's been filling in at the hot corner in Texas. He's striking out a little less in the early going relative to his absurd previous rate in the majors, and has already homered twice with nine RBI through 10 games. He's got more raw power than perhaps any other player in baseball so he's certainly worth a flier if that's a need.
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* Beltre isn't the only star third baseman struggling to overcome calf issues. Josh Donaldson strained his in spring training, and then aggravated it twice this week, hitting the DL after Thursday's tweak. As the Rangers did with Beltre, the Blue Jays are finding out that you've got to let these things completely heal and can't rush it, so Donaldson could be out past the 10-day minimum. During his absence, Ryan Goins and Darwin Bailey figure to split time at third.
* Buster Posey landed on the seven-day concussion DL after a wayward fastball from Taijuan Walker hit him in the helmet Monday. The Giants insist it's precautionary and Posey reportedly felt better by midweek. He'll be eligible to return on Tuesday and all signs point to him being on track.
* Following an out-of-nowhere sensational rookie campaign, Tyler Naquin was a fairly obvious candidate to come back down to Earth. We wouldn't have guessed, though, that he'd be in the minors two weeks after Opening Day.
Naquin was optioned to Triple-A on Thursday to make room for Lonnie Chisenhall, back from a spring shoulder injury. Chisenhall was in center for his season debut, another indication that Cleveland's already amorphous outfield situation will persist. He'll join Michael Brantley, Abraham Almonte, Austin Jackson and Brandon Guyer in a fluid rotation that will continue to realign based on matchups.
* With Jeanmar Gomez already out, the Phillies are opting for experience at the closer spot. For now.
Pete Mackanin appointed Joaquin Benoit this week, and it's not a bad choice. The veteran has been dominant pretty much nonstop since 2010, and is still bringing gas at age 38. He has handled the ninth at times in the past, with 51 career saves already in the books. He's a very solid fantasy add.
But one does wonder whether the future-focused Phillies are merely keeping the seat warm for Hector Neris. He's more than a decade younger than Benoit and finished last year with a 2.58 ERA and 11.4 K/9 rate. He has the stuff to become an above-average closer, and could stick there for years in Philly on the cheap. If he gets going on a good run in the setup role and Benoit falters even a little, things could change quickly.
Alas, the job belongs to the elder statesman. For now.
* Nagging pain in his toe turned out to be a stress fracture in his foot, so now Jon Gray is going to need to spend significant time letting it heal. After X-rays revealed the true nature of the injury this week, Gray went on the disabled list and he'll remain there for at least a month. It's a tough blow for the Rockies as well as fantasy owners who gambled early on the righty's intriguing upside.
Colorado will likely go to a four-man rotation in the short-term with a few off days coming up, but after that Chris Rusin is a leading contender to replace the No. 1 starter in the rotation.
* As he is prone to do, Yoenis Cespedes got hot this week. Crazy hot.
The Mets slugger exploded for three home runs against the Phillies on Tuesday night, then added two more in Miami on Thursday. Cespedes is notoriously streaky, so we don't expect this torrid stretch to last forever (hopefully sitting on Friday due to flu-like symptoms doesn't mess up his mojo), but it's awfully fun to ride these streaks when they come along.
* He lost the first week of his season due to neck spasms, but Roberto Osuna was activated early this week and immediately resumed his role as Blue Jays closer. He's still waiting for his first save chance with Toronto trudging through a 1-9 start, but they should start to come along soon and he'll be ready after notching 56 saves on 65 chances over the past two seasons.
* An ugly spring training marred by arm issues that caused him to open on the DL raised some alarm around Drew Pomeranz, who stumbled to the finish line in Boston last year. In his season debut on Tuesday, however, the lefty showed no troubling signs, cruising through six innings of one-run ball against Baltimore while striking out six. For now, Pomeranz owners can breathe easy, but we'll still be keeping an eye on him for a while.
* Clay Buchholz underwent an MRI this week that revealed a partial flexor tear in his right arm. Ominous news. He'll visit Dr. James Andrews early next week, and that should clarify his prognosis. One way or another, we expect him to miss considerable time. Buchholz held some sleeper appeal with the favorable move to Philly, but unfortunately it looks like he'll have a tough time building value as free agency awaits.