Closing Time

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While you should almost never make a knee- jerk decision in fantasy sports, particularly after watching just one game, the one exception may be at the closer role. Managers are famous for having a quick hook on all closers not named Mariano Rivera.

Thursday's six Opening Day games provided us some interesting insight into this year's closer roles in Milwaukee, Atlanta, St. Louis and both Los Angeles clubs.

Brewers closer John Axford had a nightmare afternoon, turning a 6-3 lead into a 7-6 loss in just 21 pitches. For those leagues which use "net saves" and "net wins," Axford's effort was the ultimate in failure.

But the good news is that this wasn't Axford's first game as a closer and manager Ron Roenicke has a track record to look at which should allow Axford plenty of time to recover from this season-opening disaster.

Axford's 2010 season, in which he went 8-2 with 24 saves in 27 attempts, means that he gets to continue as closer for the foreseeable future..

That might not be the case in St. Louis, where manager Tony La Russa likes to tinker with his lineup at almost every position except with his first baseman (and even then he might move him around in the lineup).

The Cardinals' closer at the moment is Ryan Franklin, who posted 38 saves in 2009 and 27 last season. But Franklin doesn't possess the 95 m.p.h. fastball that Jason Motte has and his lifetime ERA of 4.03 and WHIP of 1.30 doesn't exactly inspire a manager's confidence.

Facing the weakest hitting team in the National League on Thursday, Franklin let one get away from him, yielding a two-out, solo home run to Cameron Maybin.

Be very wary if Franklin is one of your closers and a handcuff with Motte might be in order, particularly if he blows another save within the next week.

In Atlanta they have two young "closer-worthy" candidates in lefty Jonny Venters and right-hander Craig Kimbrel. At least for Opening Day, it was Venters as the setup man in the eighth and Kimbrel finishing the game off, but that could be a fluid situation.

It's interesting to note that the lefty Venters faced three right-handed hitters and Kimbrel faced two lefties, so new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has already established that he won't simply go right vs. right and left vs. left.

Kimbrel seems to have the early upper hand as the team's replacement for the retired Billy Wagner, but when talking about a 22-year-old closer, anything can happen.

Out on the west coast, Jonathan Broxton, was coming off a bad 2010 season (22 saves, seven blown saves) and was looking for a simple 1-2-3 ninth inning to get off to a quick start, but that didn't happen.

After getting Buster Posey to ground out, Broxton left a pitch out over the plate that Pat Burrell deposited in the left field seats. Broxton got the next two outs, but after losing his closer's job last season, this was not what fantasy owners who took a gamble on him (ADP 161) wanted to see.

The other Los Angeles team, the Angels, have questions of their own in the ninth inning. Fernando Rodney, like Broxton, blew seven saves last season and his lifetime ERA of 4.27 and WHIP of 1.44 doesn't make it easy on a manager.

Rodney was his usual self Thursday, giving up a hit and a walk and taking 26 pitches before notching his first save of the season. He's going to make manager Mike Scioscia's life miserable this season. If you own Rodney, I'd stock up on aspirin in bulk.

All this...and we're just six games into the season.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at