Pecking Order: Rivera, Nathan still top dogs

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OK, Jonathan Papelbon, we get it. You're a really good pitcher (30 saves in four consecutive seasons to start his career) in a really good bullpen. But why would you challenge -- and that's what it was, a challenge -- the addition of former closer Billy Wagner, a lefty, to the Red Sox bullpen? To be fair, Papelbon has since claimed he wasn't slighting Wagner -- just trying to show confidence in the current bullpen. However, he must have an enormous ego if he thinks the entire bullpen situation in Boston is set in stone. Doesn't he realize that all bullpens are constantly in a state of flux, and that reliever's roles are never as clearly defined as fantasy owners or fans would love them to be? The hard truth is that injuries, big and small, happen in every bullpen almost weekly. Papelbon should realize that adding a quality, experienced southpaw to any bullpen down the homestretch is a major bonus, and a practice as old as the playoffs themselves.

Fantasy owners also should take heed, because even Wagner could be closing in Boston -- and racking up saves -- by the final week of the regular season. It's only a matter of a tired arm or a random injury. Sure, it's a kind of a long shot that Papelbon himself goes down, but so was the idea that David Aardsma and Fernando Rodney (who on Tuesday hit 100 on the gun for the second game in a row) would be fifth and sixth in the AL in saves by late August.

There are certainly complicated arbitration issues involved with the prospect of Wagner getting a closer's job in 2010. If he's offered arbitration and declines to become a free agent, he could easily end up pitching for the Nationals or Orioles next year, two teams that desperately need a closer and would love to sign him on the cheap. The guy obviously wants to keep pitching, and after his concerns about 2010 and the dustup with Papelbon, I'm convinced he loves the game, not the money. Keep tabs on how Wagner, who busted his butt to get ready to pitch this season, performs the rest of 2009. He might be a great late-round value in 2010, especially for those of you who draft early.

Stats through August 26.

Brad Lidge, PHI25-for-34 (74%), 46.2 IP, 48 Ks, 7.33 ERA, 1.80 WHIPNext in line: Ryan Madson/Chad DurbinThird in line: Chan Ho Park/Brett Myers

Matt Capps, PIT23-for-27 (85%), 42.1 IP, 36 Ks, 6.38 ERA, 1.75 WHIPNext in line: Jesse ChavezThird in line: Joel Hanrahan/Evan Meek

Jim Johnson, BAL6-for-9 (67%), 14 HLDs, 57.2 IP, 41 Ks, 2.97 ERA, 1.23 WHIPNext in line: Chris RayThird in line: Cla Meredith/Danys Báez

Frank Francisco, TEX18-for-21 (86%), 36 IP, 41 Ks, 3.75 ERA, 1.11 WHIPNext in line: C.J. Wilson/Darren O'DayThird in line: Neftali Feliz

Mike MacDougal, WAS13-for-14 (93%), 34.2 IP, 18 Ks, 2.08 ERA, 1.30 WHIP (NL Stats only)Next in line: Jorge SosaThird in line: Tyler Clippard

Brad Lidge surrendered another game-winning hit on Tuesday, his ninth blown save this season. Charlie Manuel refuses to concede that it bothers him. Brett Myers (torn labrum in hip/eye injury) is hitting 94 on gun and is scheduled to make a rehab appearance this week in Double-A. It'll be his third rehab outing and he could be back with the Phillies in early September. Frank Francisco had another debacle versus the Yanks, yielding 3 hits, a walk and two earned runs before Melky Cabrera lined into a game-ending double play. Retiring AL East hitters is not his thing.

Carlos Mármol, CHC5-for-9 (560%), 27 HLDs, 58.1 IP, 69 Ks, 3.39 ERA, 1.44 WHIPNext in line: Angel GuzmanThird in line: John Grabow/Kevin Gregg

Rafael Soriano, ATL20-for-23 (87%), 6 HLDs, 58 IP, 79 Ks, 2.33 ERA, 0.93 WHIPMike González, ATL9-for-14 (64%), 13 HLDs, 58.2 IP, 75 Ks, 2.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIPNext in line: Peter Moylan

Leo Nunez, FLA15-for-19 (79%), 13 HLDs, 54.1 IP, 50 Ks, 3.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIPMatt Lindstrom, FLA14-for-16 (88%), 4 HLDs, 37 IP, 30 Ks, 5.59 ERA, 1.65 WHIPNext in line: Dan Meyer/Kiki Calero

Scott Downs, TOR9-for-12 (75%), 4 HLDs, 35.1 IP, 36 Ks, 3.31 ERA, 1.25 WHIPJason Frasor, TOR6-for-8 (75%), 4 HLDs, 43.1 IP, 38 Ks, 1.87 ERA, 0.99 WHIPNext in line: Jesse Carlson

Scott Downs returned to action and is, for now, sharing closing duties with Jason Frasor in Toronto. He'll be eased back into the role, but might not take it over unless Frasor's shoulder tendonitis gets worse. In Florida, it appears Leo Nunez (8.28 K/9, 2.50 K/BB) still has the edge over Matt Lindstrom, who hasn't been too effective (7.30 K/9, 4.86 BB/9) and has struggled with injuries this season.

Mariano Rivera, NYY36-for-37 (97%), 53 IP, 59 Ks, 1.87 ERA, 0.92 WHIPNext in line: Phil HughesThird in line: Alfredo Aceves/Phil Coke

Joe Nathan, MIN32-for-36 (89%), 49.2 IP, 65 Ks, 1.63 ERA, 0.87 WHIPNext in line: Jose MijaresThird in line: Matt Guerrier/Jesse Crain

Jonathan Broxton, LAD27-for-32 (84%), 58 IP, 87 Ks, 2.95 ERA, 0.97 WHIPNext in line: George SherrillThird in line: Ramon Troncoso/Hong-Chih Kuo

Jonathan Papelbon, BOS30-for-33 (91%), 54 IP, 60 Ks, 2.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIPNext in line: Takashi Saito/Billy WagnerThird in line: Hideki Okajima/Daniel Bard

Heath Bell, SD30-for-33 (91%), 51.2 IP, 57 Ks, 2.26 ERA, 1.08 WHIPNext in line: Edward Mujica/Luke GregersonThird in line: Greg Burke/Mike Adams (DL)

Joakim Soria, KC20-for-23 (87%), 39.1 IP, 48 Ks, 2.97 ERA, 1.09 WHIPNext in line: Jamey WrightThird in line: Kyle Farnsworth/Juan Cruz (DL)

Trevor Hoffman, MIL27-for-29 (93%), 38 IP, 31 Ks, 1.89 ERA, 1.03 WHIPNext in line: Todd CoffeyThird in line: David Weathers/Mark DiFelice

Huston Street, COL33-for-34 (97%), 53.2 IP, 62 Ks, 3.02 ERA, 0.93 WHIPNext in line: Rafael Betancourt/Matt DaleyThird in line: Joe Beimel

Francisco Cordero, CIN26-for-28 (93%), 49.2 IP, 40 Ks, 2.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIPNext in line: Nick MassetThird in line: Arthur Rhodes/Jared Burton

Francisco Rodríguez, NYM27-for-32 (84%), 58 IP, 60 Ks, 3.10 ERA, 1.29 WHIPNext in line: Brian Stokes/Sean GreenThird in line: Pedro Feliciano

Bobby Jenks, CWS27-for-31 (87%), 44.1 IP, 43 Ks, 3.65 ERA, 1.24 WHIPNext in line: Scott Linebrink/Matt ThorntonThird in line: Octavio Dotel/Tony Peña

David Aardsma, SEA29-for-33 (88%), 57.2 IP, 67 Ks, 2.34 ERA, 1.23 WHIPNext in line: Mark LoweThird in line: Sean White

Ryan Franklin, STL33-for-35 (94%), 49.2 IP, 33 Ks, 1.09 ERA, 0.91 WHIPNext in line: Kyle McClellanThird in line: Dennis Reyes/Jason Motte

Brian Wilson, SF30-for-36 (83%), 60 IP, 67 Ks, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIPNext in line: Jeremy AffeldtThird in line: Merkin Valdez/Sergio Romo

Brian Fuentes, LAA35-for-40 (88%), 41.2 IP, 39 Ks, 4.10 ERA, 1.27 WHIPNext in line: Jason Bulger/Jose ArredondoThird in line: Kevin Jepsen

J.P. Howell, TB15-for-21 (71%), 59.2 IP, 71 Ks, 2.26 ERA, 1.06 WHIPNext in line: Dan WheelerThird in line: Grant Balfour/Randy Choate

Andrew Bailey, OAK18-for-22 (82%), 68 IP, 75 Ks, 1.99 ERA, 0.93 WHIPNext in line: Michael WuertzThird in line: Brad Ziegler

José Valverde, HOU19-for-23 (83%), 39 IP, 44 Ks, 2.31 ERA, 1.18 WHIPNext in line: Chris Sampson/Alberto AriasThird in line: LaTroyHawkins/Doug Brocail (DL)

Chad Qualls, ARI23-for-27 (85%), 50.1 IP, 44 Ks, 3.58 ERA, 1.17 WHIPNext in line: Jon RauchThird in line: Juan Gutierrez

Fernando Rodney, DET28-for-29 (97%), 56.1 IP, 53 Ks, 3.36 ERA, 1.28 WHIPNext in line: Brandon LyonThird in line: Bobby Seay/Ryan Perry

Kerry Wood, CLE15-for-20 (75%), 45 IP, 52 Ks, 4.60 ERA, 1.42 WHIPNext in line: Joe SmithThird in line: Chris Pérez/Tony Sipp