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Closing Time: A.J. Burnett, Circle of Trust

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Down with AJB (USP)

It's a Casual Friday, all bullets, all the time. Settle in, and microwave if necessary.

The A.J. Burnett Revitalization Tour shows no signs of slowing down, no matter how skeptical roto players want to be. Burnett had little trouble with the Tigers on Friday (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K), grabbing his seventh consecutive victory. If you subtract the 12-run beating he took in St. Louis seven weeks ago — and anytime a pitcher allows 12 runs, it's partly on the manager as well — you come out with a heck of a season: 8-1 record, 26 walks, 60 strikeouts, 1.87 ERA, 1.11 WHIP. That's worth owning in any format.

Burnett's front-door ERA currently stands at 3.24, and it's supported by the secondary numbers. The .275 BABIP isn't that much different than his career mark (.289) and he's actually been a little unlucky with homers (11.8 HR/FB rate). The ERA estimators only call for the slightest of regression (3.60 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, 3.51 SIERA); this is a roto play that the statheads can embrace, too.

Burnett works at Philadelphia next week — no longer a spot to fear — and then he returns home for the Astros. PNC Park is driving the story as much as anything: Burnett has a 1.11 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in the forgiving confines. It's a far cry from the horror of Yankee Stadium, with the short porch in right field. The mercurial right-hander is still unowned in 43 percent of Yahoo! leagues, for reasons I can't fathom. Live in the present, amigos.

• Doug Fister suffered the loss at Pittsburgh, though he recovered from a rocky start and posted a usable line (6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K). Fister probably would have worked another inning had the game been in an AL park, but the Tigers needed offense and pinch-hit for him in the top of the seventh. I can't go to Fister next week at Arlington, but he's a strong play in the subsequent turn, drawing Minnesota at home. If healthy, this could be a solid $12-14 arm the rest of the way.

• John Axford needed a save conversion in the worst way and he came through against the White Sox, retiring the side on 11 pitches (six strikes). The stint had a rocky start — a leadoff walk to Gordon Beckham — but The Axman cruised from there, striking out Adam Dunn and inducing Paul Konerko to rap into a 5-4-3 double play. One step at a time.

Although the Twins continue to insist Matt Capps (shoulder) is fine, Glen Perkins is doing all he can to enter our good graces. Perkins has recorded two saves over Minnesota's last three games, posting a pair of scoreless innings and striking out four. He had to work around two singles Friday at Cincinnati, but he had no problem mowing down Zack Cozart and Chris Heisey to end the threat. Even with the left-handed bias at play, the Twins seem settled on Perkins as their Plan B in the ninth.

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Roy Ranger (USP)

The Rangers knew how to welcome Roy Oswalt into the mix: they gave him a home start against the struggling Rockies. The beleaguered Truants of Tracy have just 117 runs on the road this year (29th in the majors), and they slash at a puny .234/.292/.381 rate when living out of a suitcase. Oswalt pounded the strike zone early and often, realizing nothing bad was likely to happen.

Nolan Ryan & Company must feel pretty good about Oswalt's physical condition because they allowed him to throw 110 pitches (6.2 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K). Oswalt tired a bit in the seventh, then walked to the showers with a hearty Texas welcome at his back. Roto takeaway? I'd try to sell him before he runs into a real offense (Detroit) next week. Oswalt turns 35 in August, and this might be the worst park for a non-dominating right-handed veteran.

One Bad Inning, a one-man play starring Tim Lincecum. It's a rerun, isn't it? Lincecum made a mess of the first inning at Oakland (three runs), then slammed the door convincingly after that — he only allowed one hit over his final five innings of work. The bottom line makes for a solid roto turn (6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 8 K), but no one throws a parade for you when you barely manage a quality start in Oakland. Lincecum's last win came on April 28, and I don't envision him beating the Nationals next week, either.

Alas, the Giants found a way to rally Friday night, stunning the Athletics with a come-from-behind win in the ninth. Oakland closer Ryan Cook finally hit a rough patch, allowing four straight men to reach (walk, walk, double, single). Brandon Belt's two-run knock was the key blow (he's still out there in 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues, by the way). We'll live with the hits allowed but the free passes are really inexcusable; that's the only thing standing in the way of Cook becoming a star closer. I'll be surprised if he doesn't go back to the bagel parade in his next appearance.

• Jair Jurrjens returned to the majors this week for one simple reason: the Braves are in a pinch. Jurrjens couldn't do much right at Triple-A Gwinnett, posting a 5.18 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over 57.1 innings. Only a fool would have dialed up Jurrjens for Friday's assignment at Fenway Park.

Ah, you can't predict ball sometimes. Jurrjens stunned everyone with a gem in the Back Bay (7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K), watching his teammates run down 10 fly-ball outs. Until I see Jurrjens do it again, this start is going to stay in the fluke file. If you feel lucky, he's at home next week against Arizona.

Jason Heyward sparked the Braves offense, stroking three hits against Jon Lester. Is Heyward finally healthy and feeling confident again? He's rocking a .377/.406/.721 slash this month, with four homers. The only major hit to his roto value comes on the bases; after stealing eight straight bags in April, he's only 2-for-6 since.

• Ben Revere is doing all he can to gain your attention; he went 4-for-4 with two steals Friday. He's at .326 for his past 30 games, with 17 runs and 14 steals. No power here, but he's a contact ace who should provide three consistent categories of value. He consistently hit for a plus average in the minors, and you like seeing him parked in the No. 2 slot in the order.

Revere remains free to grab in 78 percent of Yahoo! leagues. You start picking him up, and we'll stop talking about him.

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