If you're still reading this column, you're in contention for your fantasy league title and the recent spat of closer controversies probably has you in fits. Let's run them down.
In Colorado, Rafael Betancourt (3.31 ERA, four saves, 10.44 K/9) is doing everything he can to seize the job from Huston Street. The Rockies activated Street from the DL on Friday, and it was assumed that it would only be a matter of time before the Rockies' reliever (3.98 ERA, 29 saves, 8.48 K/9) was back in the ninth. But manager Jim Tracy has acted otherwise, turning to Betancourt, not Street, to protect a one-run lead on Sunday even though the hurler blew a save opportunity the day before.
Given Street's pre-DL struggles (he's given up six earned runs in his last eight innings), Betancourt has a chance to steal the job. He's been the superior pitcher and he's got a cheaper contract. Currently, Betancourt is owned in only 42.6 percent of leagues. That needs to change.
On the South Side of Chicago, Chris Sale (2.61 ERA, five saves, 9.20 K/9) is stealing saves from Sergio Santos. Sale has picked up three saves in August, while Santos (2.73 ERA, 26 saves, 12.47 K/9) has only picked up four. This is looking like a platoon, and unfortunately for Santos owners in 2011, it isn't going away anytime soon. According to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, the Sox are looking for "wins" and they'll continue to play the "best matchups" available.
If you have Santos in a keeper league, the forecast is more optimistic. Sale is expected to shift to the starting rotation in 2012, and according to MLB.com's Scott Merkin, Guillen believes Santos has the stuff to be the one and only closer in 2012.
In San Francisco, several relievers are battling for the save opportunities normally reserved for the injured Brian Wilson. Right now, Santiago Casilla (1.35 ERA, two saves, 6.75 K/9) is leading the pack. Many thought Sergio Romo, who was just activated from the DL, would also get a shot at the ninth, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the team is monitoring his innings. Santiago hands out too many free passes (22 BBs in 40 innings), but right now, he's the one to own if you're chasing saves.
How did the rest of the major league bullpens fare this week? Let's take a look around the league:
Axford (2.30 ERA, 10.48 K/9) notched his 40th save on Sunday to tie Craig Kimbrel for the major-league lead. These young hurlers have only gotten better since the All-Star break.
Putz's dominance continues. The Diamondbacks' reliever is 33 for 37 in save opportunities and is on the verge of First-Class status.
Farnsworth (1.80 ERA, 22 saves, 7.38 K/9) was battling elbow tenderness last week, but the Rays' reliever is expected to return to the lineup early this week. Get him in your lineup too. ... Long considered the heir apparent to the ninth inning, Jason Motte might finally get his chance soon. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Motte (1.70 ERA, 8.15 K/9) might see some save opportunities in the near future, which is bad news for Salas owners. Motte is owned in only 1.1 percent of leagues, but he's worth a speculative add in all NL-only leagues.
Francisco showed his shoulder is healthy with a four-out save against the Royals last Wednesday. Jon Rauch is beginning his rehab assignment, but the Blue Jays want Francisco (3.86 ERA, 9.53 K/9) to close. If the shoulder stays healthy, this is Francisco's job for the rest of the season.
Reports are Wilson (elbow) won't return from the DL when he's eligible. There's currently no timetable for his return, and he still appears to be a ways away. Hopefully he's back before the season ends.
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down: