The Cubs and Mariners are potentially looking for long term solutions in the 9th inning. We'll explore how those situations might play out. The Tigers called up a promising youngster to help out in the pen. Could he end up taking over 9th inning duties in Detroit? I'll also touch on two promotions in the American league, one a second sacker and one a shortstop, that are not only great AL-only options but fellas you might consider rostering in mixed leagues as well. CUBS BULLPEN Candidates: Carlos Villanueva, Blake Parker, James Russell The expectation is that the Cubs will, wisely, deal Kevin Gregg before the bottom falls out (1.65 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 13-for-14 in saves). If the Cubs do deal him, who takes over the 9th? Russell has solid ratios (2.53 ERA, 1.19 WHIP), but he's left-handed, gives up too many fly balls, and frankly, just isn't that good if he's asked to face all batters (righties have hit .291 against him in his career and that number is .315 this season). Villanueva wants to start, but he's made 15 appearances out of the bullpen this season with lots of success (2.40 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.0 K/9 over 15 innings). Still, the leader to take over appears to be Mr. Parker (that's why I seemed to be adding him in all my leagues this past week. See: Fantasy Baseball – FAAB Report, Wk.14). “Maybe you could look at (Blake) Parker because he has done it in Triple A if that comes to (pass),” said Cubs' manager Dale Sveum. “But obviously you have to use somebody, so it'll be a wait-and-see situation... He has done it in Triple A, and his velocity is back (since the injuries). He has developed that split-fingered fastball that's helping him out at this level." Parker has 15 Ks leading to a 2.19 ERA and 0.89 WHIP through 12.1 innings with the Cubs this season and has looked mostly sharp. He did have 25 saves back in 2009, and though injuries have crept into his game the past few years, he's still been able to post some saves including 13 in his last 37 appearances at Triple-A. If you have a free roster spot right now why not fill it with Parker I say. MARINERS BULLPEN Candidates: Tom Wilhelmsen, Oliver Perez, Yoervis Medina, Carter Capps Wilhelmsen leads the club with 16 saves, but he's also blown five chances, has two loses, has seen his ERA swell to 3.89 and he's got a terrible 1.59 K/BB ratio. He does have 3-straight scoreless outings on the books, so he might be close to reclaiming the 9th inning job a year after he saved 29 games for the Mariners. Still, he's floating right now and the Mariners are searching for answers. Capps has great stuff, 40 Ks in 31.2 innings proves that, but he's also sporting a 5.97 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, and he's given up 10 earned runs in his last four outings. Perez is a lefty, that usually causes teams some pause, but he's been very effective this season (who thought they would ever write that?). Perez has a 1.52 ERA and a huge 43 Ks in 29.3 innings, but he's also walked 14 guys, has a 1.28 WHIP, and in his last outing he allowed two runs to pick up the loss. That might mean that the best option behind Wilhelmsen is Medina. The guy throws heat, his average fastball is 94.7 mph, and he's posted 29 Ks in 29.1 innings this season. He's also generated an excellent 62.3 percent ground ball rate that has helped him to go 29.1 innings without allowing a home run. The only real blemish on his record is that 5.52 BB/9 mark. Wilhelmsen will likely get the job back if he keeps progressing, but Medina is a wild card that you should at least keep on your watch-list. TIGERS BULLPEN Candidates: Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque, Bruce Rondon Rondon has been called up by the Tigers. The fire-balling righty dominated at Triple-A with a 1.52 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 12.13 K/9 mark. That was exactly the type of effort the Tigers were hoping to see from Rondon after he bombed in Spring Training. There are still some concerns, he walked 3.94 per nine even with all his success at Triple-A, though he did walk only one batter over his last eight outings. Regardless of the stuff or how well he was pitching Jim Leyland has definitively stated that Rondon will not close right now. It's possible he could slide into that role at some point, but right now the team will continue to go with Benoit who has been great this season (1.89 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 11.07 K/9, 4.10 K/BB, 5-for-5 on saves). Benoit isn't going to be removed from the 9th unless he's hurt or he bombs, which isn't likely. Alburquerque could also be in the mix if Benoit struggles as he has an amazing 15.16 K/9 mark and owns a career GB/FB ratio of 1.77, but oh boy is he a high-wire act with 18 walks in 19 innings this season an a 6.54 K/BB ratio for his career (hello Carlos Marmol). RECENT PROMOTIONS Johnny Giavotella was called up, yet again, by the Royals, and you cannot blame them for making that decision. First, Chris Getz cannot hit. I think we can finally admit that now, can't we Royals? Hitting .214 this season, Getz has hit .252 with three homers an a .310 OBP through 1,315 big league at-bats. He brings speed though he's not flashed that much this year with four steals on the season. Second, Elliot Johnson wasn't hitting either as his line includes a .219 average, two homers and a putrid .248 OBP. The 11 steals are nice, but that's all he's offered and it isn't enough. So the Royals figure to give Johnny G. as much work as he can earn at second base. The undersized second sacker can hit though you wouldn't know that from looking at his major league numbers that include a .248 average, .276 OBP and three homers in 363 career at-bats. However, his minor league numbers suggest there is some talent to mine here. The 2008 second round draft selection hit .323 with 10 homers, 71 RBIs and 67 runs scored in a mere 89 games last season at Triple-A. This year he's hit .289 with seven homers and 38 RBIs in 77 games at Triple-A. Giavotella is worth an immediate add in any AL-only league in which he is available, and ditto those of you in 15 teamers. If you're in need of a boost up the middle and your league uses middle infielders, you could look his way in 12 team leagues as well. Brad Miller has been called up to The Show and it sounds like the Mariners plan to play him daily. Nick Franklin was called up a while back, and he's locked down second base with a rock solid effort to this point (.295-4-15-11-5 in 31 games). Dustin Ackley is also back with the big league club, and though he's being looked at in the outfield right now, he certain can still handle second base to support Franklin. Therefore, the loser appears to be Brendan Ryan. The former Cardinal is a special fielder, but as a hitter he, frankly, blows chunks. Ryan is hitting .199 with two homers and four steals, and the Mariners finally admitted he's just not capable of getting it done offensively. Ryan will struggle for any kind of work other than late inning defensive replacement type of stuff now that Miller is up. Miller has two hits in his first 11 at-bats but he was stroking it in the minors with a .356 average through 26 games at Triple-A after hitting .294 in 42 games at Double-A. Miller has a bit of speed on the bases, he stole 23 bags last season, and he has a wee bit of pop (he also hit 15 long balls last season). It's the average though that excites as he has hit .334, and check out these numbers too: .409 OBP and .516 SLG in 219 minor league games. Miller is worth an add, just like Giavotella. In 15 teamers and all AL-only leagues. Also like Giavotella he's worth a shot in 12 team mixed leagues with middle infield options. Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.



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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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