PLAYING TIME: Brewers lose Marcum, Ishikawa returns

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Marcum to DL, Fiers the beneficiary?

Oft-injured Shaun Marcum (RHP, MIL) has once again lived up to his "F" health grade, hitting the 15-day DL with right elbow tightness, retroactive to June 15. This marks the fourth time in the past five seasons that Marcum has succumbed to injury - including Tommy John surgery which erased his entire 2009 - and it's worth noting that Marcum's last DL stint in 2010 was also a result of right elbow inflammation. While there's no indication of any major issues, the Brewers plan to shut him down for at least a week to recover. 

Prior to the injury, Marcum had been his usual consistent self, with one noticeable improvement: His Dom, a serviceable 7.1 in 2011, has jumped to 8.4 this year, and has not come at the expense of Ctl (2.8). He's also relying far more on his slider, which, while inducing more Ks, may have played a role in aggravating the elbow. 

Marcum's loss is Michael Fiers' (RHP, MIL) gain, as he'll now likely stick in the rotation for the time being, even with Marco Estrada's (RHP, MIL) imminent return. Fiers has more than held his own in an albeit limited 26 IP sample, with a 8.3 Dom, 1.4 Ctl and 6.0 Cmd. While the competition has, for the most part, been soft (LA, PIT, SD, MIN) these are tasty skills worth speculating on. He was called upon for a one-inning relief appearance on June 20, but all signs point to a return to the rotation with Marcum sidelined. 

Further affirming this assumption is MIL's recent demotion of prospect Tyler Thornburg, who was roughed up for 5 ER in 5.1 IP in his first MLB start on June 19. Thornburg received an 8B rating from BaseballHQ.com, so this may not be the last we see of him this year. 

Ishikawa activated

To fill Marcum's roster spot, MIL activated Travis Ishikawa (1B, MIL), who had been on the DL since late May with a strained oblique. Ishikawa was a regular on BaseballHQ.com's "Potential Power Surgers" section, thanks to a 197 PX and 40% FB%. He had flashed moderate power in the past, but nothing close to his current level, much of which is a result of an unsustainable 24% hr/f%. Also, the respectable 82% ct% he posted with SF in 2011 has fallen dramatically to 69%, making his torrid pace seem even more fluke-ish.

NL short takes

MIL has taken a leap of faith on veteran Livan Hernandez (RHP, MIL) who was deemed expendable by ATL upon Kris Medlen's (RHP, ATL) return last week. Hernandez, one of the most reliable if unspectacular workhorses perhaps to ever grace the diamond, transitioned to a relief role for this first time in his career, yet his skills (5.5 Dom, 2.4 Cmd, 4.56 xERA) have not wavered much from past seasons. His only value, if any, is as a wins vulture, although that's hardly a chance worth taking in most leagues … 

Dallas Keuchel (LHP, HOU) was impressive in his start on Saturday, tossing a complete game six-hitter against CLE, striking out three and allowing just one run. He projects as an extreme GBer with low strikeout upside, so it's still a guessing game at this point if his success is sustainable in the long term. Bud Norris (RHP, HOU) is slated to return next week, but should Keuchel remain in the rotation he'll be in line for a favorable matchup against SD. Yes, that's a potential tire-kicking opportunity …  

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Colon to DL, Ross recalled

OAK placed Bartolo Colon (RHP, OAK) on the 15-day DL with a right oblique strain and recalled Tyson Ross (RHP, OAK) from Triple-A Sacramento. Colon had been displaying similar skills to those that resulted in a 4.00 ERA and 96 BPV in 2011, although he's exchanged some Dom (7.4 to 5.5) for Ctl (2.2 to 1.6). At this point in his career he probably won't to hurt you, but in most cases won't help you much either. He's unlikely to return until the All-Star break, at the earliest. 

Ross posted a disappointing 6.53 ERA and -20 BPV before getting sent down in May, but produced a useful line during a spot start against SD on June 17 (6 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 Ks). However, notice the 4.9 Dom and 4.2 Ctl—as one of our nation's former leaders once said, "Fool me once…" 

Crawford begins rehab assignment, eyeing All-Star break return

Carl Crawford (OF, BOS) began his 20-day rehab assignment Saturday with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, going 0-for-3 with two walks. Crawford has missed all of the 2012 season recovering from off-season wrist surgery, and has suffered a few setbacks along the way. Manager Bobby Valentine stated that at the very minimum Crawford would need 45 at-bats before rejoining the team, and will serve primarily as a DH during the assignment to avoid any further issues. If all goes as planned, he should be back in the majors shortly following the All-Star Break.  

So, will the real Crawford please stand up? After batting over .300 in 2009 and 2010, Crawford saw his average plummet to .255 last year, driven primarily by a .195 average versus left-handers, whom he typically handles at around a .250 clip. He was also less selective at the plate—his bb% dropped from 7% to 4%—and slowed down on the base paths (109 Spd, vs. 158 in '10). Whether Crawford's struggles were to due to the pressures of performing at Fenway, hidden injury or simply skill deterioration is uncertain, but given his age, a full return to form isn't guaranteed.

The biggest playing time loser upon Crawford's return will likely be the man keeping left field warm in his absence, Daniel Nava (OF, BOS), which is unfortunate given his promising skills thus far. While a 42% H% his propped up his average (.339 BA/.290 xBA), he's shown surprising power (147 PX) and a near elite plate approach (16% bb%, 0.91 Eye). He'll have more time to stake his claim with Ryan Sweeney (OF, BOS) and Scott Podsednik (OF, BOS) both DL'd, but the BOS outfield is set to become mighty crowded in a few weeks. 

AL short takes

Sergio Santos (RHP, TOR), who hasn't taken the mound since April 20 due to shoulder inflammation, resumed a throwing program this weekend. He had been shut down since early June after he experienced renewed discomfort in the area, and still has no timetable to start throwing from a mound. With a 13.1 Dom and 30 saves in 2011, owners had high hopes for Santos coming into 2012, but even if he does return he's unlikely to seize the job back from Casey Janssen, who's posted a 119 BPV and recorded seven saves since taking over in mid-May … 

OAK placed Collin Cowgill (OF, OAK) on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 2 left ankle sprain, which he injured attempting to make a diving catch Friday against SF. Cowgill has decent wheels (107 Spd), and posted a .302 average in 43 June ABs. However, given his 55% GB% and meager 28 PX, he's nothing more than an empty contributor. Brandon Hicks, a former ATL prospect, has been called up as a replacement. He's recorded a .272/.374/.548 line with 13 HRs and five steals in 65 games for Triple-A Sacramento ... 

Aaron Cook (RHP, BOS) will make a spot start for BOS on Sunday in place of Clay Bucholtz (RHP, BOS), who will miss the game due to illness. After getting pounded for 6 ER in 2.2 IP on May 6, Cook has languished in Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.14 ERA in 37.1 IP. There's a potential for profit here, if only because Fenway suppresses LHB HRs by 19%, and ATL's stars—Michael Bourn, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann—are all southpaws ... 


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