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Closing Time: Carlos Quentin’s smashing return

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Vitamin Q (Associated Press)

When Carlos Quentin is going bad, no environment is likely to help him. But when this guy is locked in, there isn't a park big enough to hold him back.

The Q has been an absolute monster since joining the Padres a week ago, on a ballistic 12-for-23 tear with five homers. He clocked a couple of balls into the seats in Tuesday's victory over San Francisco, connecting against Tim Lincecum in the second inning (ball hasn't landed yet) and Jeremy Affeldt in the eighth (an absolute frozen rope to left-center). Quentin also had a sharp double in the sixth.

Although Quentin doesn't turn 30 until the end of August, I can't help but think his career might have a "what could have been?" feel to it when it's complete. He's been a walking medical journal since turning pro, never logging more than 131 games or 480 at-bats in any major-league season. Knee, shoulder, hand, ankle, hamstring, foot (and maybe I've missed a few things). He probably would have been the American League's MVP back in 2008 had a broken wrist not cost him the final month of the year.

Quentin's park splits in Chicago were curious to say the least. He didn't show much bias in the monster 2008 campaign; the home numbers were better, but not significantly so. In 2009 and 2010 he was strong at home, lost on the road. In 2011, shockingly, the story flipped: he was a .688 OPS drain at US Cellular and a .989 monster on the road (with 17 homers). It's been that sort of career for The Q, enigmatic, patternless.

My going-forward stance on Quentin is tied more to his injury history than the expanses of Petco Park. If he's seeing the ball well and taking good cuts, he'll be productive anywhere. But his history of breaking down, anywhere and everywhere on the body, can't be ignored. If I were doing a fresh-from-the-oven Outfield Shuffle Up right now, I'd slot Quentin in the $16 range. And if I owned him anywhere (I don't, phooey on me), I'd be looking to "move and outfielder" and hoping one opponent would take a liking to Quentin. I'm not betting against that medical file.

Mind you, if you're in a thinner pool and Quentin is still out there (he's only owned in 59 percent of Yahoo! leagues), sure, I'll sign off. Just see the story for what it probably is, a fun part-time thing. We'll have fun while the slugger is healthy, but the circus eventually is going to leave town.

As for Tim Lincecum, the story remains the same: one step forward, one step back. That messy second inning at Petco (four runs) ruined his line and forced him to a no-decision, though he was terrific in the other five frames and had his best K/BB numbers of the year (one walk, eight strikeouts). Linecum's changeup was so lethal against Yonder Alonso, I almost felt bad for the San Diego lefty. But if Lincecum cant waltz into Petco Park and post a lights-out start, when is it going to happen? How many better opportunities are we going to see?

You're on your own with Lincecum this weekend, at home against Texas. AT&T Park will hide some mistakes (and it's next to impossible to hit a homer by the bay these days), but the Rangers are a handful in any stadium. I'm really glad I don't own Lincecum this year; I'm not being smug with that comment, I'm actually showing empathy for the gamers who have to deal with this story every five days.

Anyone feel like letting Alex Presley back in their fake baseball life? The Pittsburgh outfielder made good in his 18-game trial in the minors (.277/.385/.631, five homers, four steals), and his first game back in Steel City was a success (homer, triple, two runs) out of the leadoff spot. He's not much of a hitter against lefties, but at his best he profiles to be the type of player Nate McLouth was back in the good old days (maybe closer to 2007's McLouth than the 2008 peak). In deeper leagues, keep an open mind. Presley is available in 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Homer Bailey was on the other side of Presley's story, allowing eight hits and six runs over three messy innings. So much for the Bailey revival, which covered four strong turns and included a four-hit gem at Pittsburgh last week. Everyone who was reckless enough to stream Bailey in this spot, raise your hand ruefully. Yeah, me too. A.J. Burnett didn't have his best stuff on the winning side (5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 8 K), but at least he filled the strikeout column nicely and secured the W. Burnett's recommended at home against Kansas City on the weekend (he's still trading at a mere 33 percent, far too low), but I'm not trusting Bailey against Detroit.

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Laser Show, in healthier days (AP)

You'll run into a lot of Mad Lib journalism when it comes to baseball injuries and the roto takeaways. It's like pundits are paid per every "linger" reference. Here's what I'd love to know: what physical problems are unlikely to linger? What type of lengthy injury can we safely forget about when a player returns? It can't be all that many things.

That rant out of the way (and the obligatory "I'm not a doctor" disclaimer up front), I'll admit to a long-running fear of thumb injuries. Have you ever done any significant damage to your thumb? All of a sudden the most routine of daily chores can become a hassle. When a bum thumb is on the docket, my eyebrows are raised and concerns kick in.

With all that in mind, I'm increasingly bearish on Dustin Pedroia and Justin Upton going forward. I'm going to wander into speculation territory here and you're welcome to disagree with me, but I call them as I see them. My experience and instincts from 24 years of roto playing tell me to be careful with these guys.

The Red Sox are whistling an optimistic tune with Pedroia's thumb injury. He's wearing a pad on the thumb but he might discard the equipment in a few weeks. Pedroia said he wasn't in pain during his first game back Tuesday (0-for-3, one walk, two strikeouts). The Red Sox have climbed back into the thick of the AL East race, so Pedroia will certainly try to play if at all possible.

It's not my thumb or your thumb, so who's to say how uncomfortable Pedroia does or doesn't feel. But I know two things: if his thumb isn't right, it's likely to sap his power, and a player with a bad thumb might be reluctant on the base paths. Pedroia only has three steals this year and he hasn't even attempted a swipe since May 7. He might be able to produce reasonable numbers through guts and guile, and the Boston lineup certainly offers a nice backdrop (only the Rangers have outscored the Red Sox). But I can't treat him like a Top 20 player for the remainder of the year. (Promotion Interlude: The Middle Infield Shuffle Up comes your way Thursday afternoon.)

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Kid Upton (AP)

You have to go back several weeks in the Upton file to come across his thumb injury. He missed a few games in mid-April, didn't need a DL stint. Upton's production wasn't good before the thumb news, so we can't necessarily pin his .243/.340/.365 mess on this issue. And he hasn't been afraid to run, stealing eight bases in 11 attempts.

Still, when Upton sits twice in the last four games (he didn't go Saturday or Tuesday), I wonder what's up. There's little incentive for any active player (or his team) to be forthcoming with his injury status. Why invite a daily parade of inquiring media? Why give any information to opponents? But when I see Upton's month-long crash (he's slugging .324 over his last 124 plate appearances), I can't help but wonder what might be going on here.

My Upton convictions were put to the test in my hometown league, where he was offered to my co-owner and I at a partial discount last weekend (key word is partial; it wasn't any sort of a giveaway). After careful consideration, we walked away and didn't do a deal. Maybe Upton will get back in gear soon and make me feel silly for passing on him, but something doesn't feel right. I welcome your observations and game plans in the comments; let's get through this together.

If Derek Holland looms trimmer to you these days, it's not a figment of your imagination. And it's not merely the trimming of his much-celebrated mustache, either. Holland lost about 10-15 pounds in the last couple of weeks due to a stomach virus, and that's considered the reason why Holland's velocity was in a free fall last week against Seattle (that eight-run horror show). Holland wasn't particularly sharp in Tuesday's victory at Oakland (5.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR), but at least his mates pushed him to a win. Do you like him at San Francisco this weekend, against Lincecum? I say you start him.

The flukiness of wins and ERA doesn't bother me, part of the game. That established, here's a good sample to laugh at: Derek Lowe has seven wins and a 3.06 ERA, somehow, despite a 1.46 WHIP and messy underlying stats. And then there's the comedy of Cliff Lee: 0 wins, 2.92 ERA, 1.01 WHIP. At least the Cubs finally gave Ryan Dempster a break, rolling up 10 runs at Milwaukee on Tuesday night. My looking-forward opinion on all of these guys remains unchanged: Lee is a legitimate No. 1, an ace; Dempster is a solid arm for the middle of a mixed-league rotation; and I wouldn't bother with Lowe in anything short of an AL-only league.

We've been through the Andy Pettitte story already, but man he's throwing the ball awfully well. He mowed down the Rays on Tuesday (7.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K), grabbing his third win and pushing his ratios down to 2.78 and 1.01. The strikeout rate has been surprisingly strong, too (8.07/9). Scoff at the Tampa Bay lineup all you like, fine, but it's not like nightmare matchups are on the way. Pettitte is in line to face the Mets twice and the Nationals once over his next three turns; while those are winning clubs, neither team has a threatening offense.

Pettitte is still unowned in 55 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so there's time for some of you to get in on the fun. I can understand the doubters pointing to Pettitte's unsustainable strand rate (90 percent, what fun), but he's also been unlucky with the HR/FB math (22 percent). Bottom line, I'll give Pettitte a Circle of Trust pass until he proves he doesn't deserve it.

(What, you want Francisco Liriano propaganda? Brad Evans is your Huckleberry. Click on over, clicker. If you prefer your Yahoo! Noise in video form, you can watch him below, talking a little football and baseball.)

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