Fantasy baseball News & Notes: Frieri unreliable as Angels' closer

Ernesto Frieri has been supremely shaky at the closer's position, racking up a 6.28 ERA in 14.1 innings.
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A day ago, Ernesto Frieri threw a perfect ninth inning against the Yankees, and it looked like he had all but regained the closing duties he had lost earlier in the year to Joe Smith. With Smith out sick and dealing with shoulder tightness, Frieri took the mound in the ninth inning again Tuesday night, but allowed a solo home run to Brian Roberts and got pinned with the loss.

So here's the question: assuming that Smith can get healthy and that his shoulder injury isn't a long-term issue, who should be the Angels' closer of the future? It's a fair question to ask, because while Frieri has tangentially stepped back into the role, he's been flat-out awful this season, as indicated by his 6.28 ERA, and Smith was perfect in his three chances at closing.

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Fortunately for Frieri, the Angels don't have many other options, or at the very least, options that they would actually like to use. And that's the distinction that could keep Frieri relevant this year, despite his ghastly numbers. Mike Scioscia likes the idea of keeping Smith in the set-up man role, and it's not that Frieri is better suited for the job than Smith, but he's the most qualified reliever not named Smith in the Anaheim bullpen. For some reason, many managers possess a confounding resistance to giving the closer role to the guy who's pitching the best; the Nationals are a particularly nutty example, as they've avoided implementing Tyler Clippard in the ninth inning to such a degree that they're paying Rafael Soriano $11 million this year to do it for him.

While the Angels are unlikely to pull the plug again after one shaky outing, it's still Frieri's job to lose and owners should monitor the situation. If he keeps throwing up homers, Scioscia might have no choice but to turn back to Smith, or possibly Fernando Salas, who was closing games for the Cardinals only a few years ago. Smith isn't an optimum stash at the moment, but he could be down the line, depending on how Frieri plays from here on out.

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For your consideration

• Henderson Alvarez was terrific against the Mets, producing a complete game shutout while allowing six hits and no runs. Alvarez, who has a 2.62 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP, is an odd pitcher to give an appraisal to. On the one hand, he's only 24 years old and has already thrown a no-hitter in his career, and with the exception of maybe Philip Humber, pitchers who throw no-no's tend to be pretty relevant fantasy commodities. But what's curious about Alvarez is how often he relies on ground ball outs; in 2012 for instance, he struck out a measly 79 batters in 187.1 innings, and it's almost impossible to see a pitcher with a career strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate in the 4's becoming such a fantasy beast. Still, it's possible that Alvarez can iron out the kinks in his game (again, he's only 24), and he does play in Marlins Park, which is heaven on Earth for a young pitcher. More than anything, his next matchup is at Petco against the truly abysmal Padres, which makes Alvarez a tantalizing streamer add if nothing else.

• Aaron Hill went 2-for-4 yesterday with a home run and is finally starting to play like the near elite second baseman he's capable of being. Hill went 4-for-4 from the plate just the day before and has looked significantly better since being bumped down to the fifth spot in the Diamondbacks lineups, where he figures to stay for the foreseeable future. No matter where he bats, the rancid Diamondbacks aren't exactly a team that's fantasy baseball friendly right now. Nonetheless, Hill can produce in the counting stats like few other second baseman in the game, as evidence by his 36-home run, 108 RBI season in 2009. It goes without saying, but after a sluggish start, he's worth owning in all leagues.

• Tomorrow, Danny Duffy will make a start against the Seattle Mariners, who are playing a doubleheader today and could be ripe for the picking if Duffy brings his A-game. Duffy was a considerable prospect back when he was first called up in 2011, but he struggled mightily, and the Royals have spent the last couple years steadily grooming him in the minors as he recuperated from a torn ligament in his pitching elbow. Now 25 and healthy, Duffy has a chance to be relevant in fantasy leagues, although he does have an innings cap this year that will threaten to make him useless in September. Still, he's worth taking a shot at tomorrow, and from there, maybe that could be the start of something good.

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