The first round of inter-league play came and went this weekend without any major incidents. But there's plenty of information to pass along, including the never-ending list of injured players. Happily, several big fantasy stars are on the comeback trail as well.
The week will end with the next chapter in the ongoing battle between the Red Sox and the Yankees. But until then, let's roll through the fantasy baseball news for this week.
- The Angels lead the injury parade this week, losing both Vladimir Guerrero and Francisco Rodriguez to the DL. Rodriguez's injury had been in the offing for awhile and his placement on the DL was made retroactive to May 15th. He may return as early as Memorial Day. As for Guerrero, he's already moving around without a sling and jogging. He'll miss two weeks of play barring some unforeseen results from his MRI.
- After missing more than a month of action, Ben Sheets will return to the hill this weekend. And, as a welcome back present, he'll get to face the Astros.
- A.J. Burnett of the Marlins will miss at least one start with what has been termed "right elbow inflammation." He's on a plane to visit Dr. James Andrews in Alabama and will miss at least one start. Elbow soreness and a trip to Dr. Andrews sounds like a recipe for an extended absence. Stay tuned.
- San Diego Padres All-Star 2B Mark Loretta opted for surgery to repair his injured left thumb and will miss 2-3 months of action, if not more. Damian Jackson and Geoff Blum will split time at 2B while Loretta recovers. Owners in need of speed might turn an eye to the light-hitting Jackson, who already has five steals on the season.
- Kazuo Matsui of the Mets missed his second straight game with a tweaked back. He's listed as day-to-day, but one can never tell with a back injury. Miguel Cairo steps in while Matsui sits.
- The big news regarding Kerry Wood is that he's playing catch again. Wood played toss for the second straight day after three weeks of inactivity and reported no discomfort. His return to the mound is still a month or more away, but Cubs fans and fantasy owners will take any bit of good news.
- Guillermo Mota of the Marlins is scheduled to have his elbow re-evaluated on Wednesday. A clean bill of health would return him to the Marlins in time for the weekend visit by the Mets.
- Staying in closer-land, Brandon Lyon is expected to be activated this weekend after missing time with a strained elbow.
- The White Sox put Orlando Hernandez on the DL with a sore shoulder. He's expected to miss another two weeks. Brandon McCarthy took his roster spot and pitched well in 5.1 innings of work against the Cubs. He struck out six and allowed two earned runs. Managers in AL-only leagues may turn an eye in his direction for his next start against Texas.
- Frank Catalanotto was placed on the bereavement list on Tuesday, prompting the recall of outfielder Gabe Gross to the big club. He went hitless in six at-bats to start the season before being returned to Triple-A Syracuse.
- Looking out on the horizon, Mets hurler Steve Trachsel has been cleared to resume baseball activities. The Mets are targeting a July return from his herniated disc. I don't suppose many of you have a free DL spot, but if so, he warrants long-term consideration in deeper leagues.
- Chris Capuano, SP, Mil: Capuano pitched at least eight innings for the third consecutive game on Monday night and picked up his fourth win of the season. He's allowed just one earned run in his last 16.2 innings of work while striking out 12. Capuano has struck out six hitters in five straight starts.
- Ryan Wagner, RP, Cin: The gesture heard around the world ended Danny Graves' stay in Cincinnati and made Wagner the odds-on favorite to assume the closer role. Wagner strikes out hitters at a rate of nearly one per inning pitched.
- Danny Kolb, RP, Atl: The yo-yo effect is in play with Kolb after he was called on to close out Monday's win. Those who shuttled him to the waiver wire last week upon his demotion scrambled to reacquire his services.
- Craig Counsell, 2B, Ari: Counsell is a popular pick-up for owners faced with the loss of Mark Loretta for an extended period. He's hitting .353 in the month of May and ranks seventh in the National League with nine stolen bases.
- Ryan Klesko, 1B/OF, SD: Klesko started the month on a power binge. In the past seven games, he's failed to record an extra-base hit with a single RBI. Fantasy owners dove back off of the bandwagon.
- Jason Lane, OF, Hou: The month of May has been, to say the least, unkind to Lane. He's hitting a miserable .127 for the month with one home run and four RBIs. That is the story of the 2005 Houston Astros in a nutshell.
- Preston Wilson, OF, Col: Wilson has not homered for a full month while battling a myriad of illnesses, including a sinus infection. To add insult to injury, he's rumored to be on the way out of Colorado.
- Shingo Takatsu, RP, CWS: Takatsu went from getting the courtesy mention in one of Ozzie Guillen's post-game comments to being a non-entity. Dustin Hermanson is now the team's closer with Damaso Marte in the No. 2 slot. Shingo is looking to mop-up duty and an occasional save opportunity if the other two options get hurt or over-worked.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Michael Cuddyer, Min, 1B,2B,3B,OF
Cuddyer owns a 13-game hitting streak entering Tuesday’s action with RBIs in five of the past six games. He’s a versatile performer who offers some relief from the plethora of injured and under-performing players.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Craig Monroe, Det, OF
Monroe compiled a feeble .136 average over the past seven days (3-for-22). The Tigers have scored three or fewer runs in 15 of 22 games in the month of May.
HOT AND COLD
Chone Figgins, 2B,3B,SS,OF, LAA: Figgins hit at a .400 clip (10/25) over the past seven days and stole three bases. He's hit safely in six straight games entering Tuesday's action.
Laynce Nix, OF, Tex: Nix has put together a seven-game hitting streak and enjoyed a six-RBI day against the Astros over the weekend. I think he's being acquired on the waiver wire with the expectation that Texas launches a sustained offensive onslaught through the summer.
Jermaine Dye, OF, CWS: The season batting average (.228) is still awful, but Dye has been dialed in for the past week. He's hit safely in eight of his last 10 games with eight extra-base hits and six RBIs.
Cory Lidle, SP, Phi: Lidle won both of his starts this week, allowing three earned runs over 15 innings of work. The key to this stat line is that he pitched against Baltimore and St. Louis.
Lance Berkman, OF, Hou: I got fired up upon Berkman's return. "He'll save the Astros offense," I told myself. Turned out that I was lying to myself and it pains me. In 15 games since his return from the DL, Berkman has compiled miserable stats (which is essentially an extended spring training that decimates our fantasy totals), hitting .173 with one HR and three RBIs.
Dmitri Young, 1B, Det: Young has hit safely in 12 of 17 May games, but has only one multi-hit game in that span which has seen his batting average dip 44 points. He also has only one HR and three RBIs this month after a hot April.
Sidney Ponson, SP, Bal: It looked like he might have turned the corner. Ponson had put up three dominant performances in his last four outings and then had a short stay against Kansas City before leaving the game literally battered and bruised. He pitched well against Philadelphia on Sunday, but made the inevitable mistake to Pat Burrell.
Jon Lieber, SP, Phi: He started the season with dominant performances upon his return to the NL. Lieber has been battered around in his last three starts, all defeats. He's allowed 16 earned runs in his last 15 1/3 innings of work.
Sammy Sosa, Bal, OF
Why he's being dealt: Current owners are tired of the never-ending injury. Those taking him on think there's still something left in the tank.
What you're getting: He's been dealt straight up for fellow DL players Ben Sheets and Guillermo Mota this week. Sosa also was exchanged for Juan Pierre in several leagues. Package deals involving Sosa typically pair him with a speedster or closer (Dave Roberts and Mariano Rivera are but two examples) in exchange for a top slugger such as Gary Sheffield or Adam Dunn.
Jim Thome, Phi, 1B
Why he's being dealt: First the DL stint and now relegated to pinch-hitting duties. They're selling while one member of the league remains hopeful of a return.
Carlos Lee, Mil, OF
Why he's being dealt: He's hit safely in 17 of 21 May games with RBIs in 12 games (nine in a row to start the month). Despite big power numbers, average lingers around .250.
What you're getting: In the past week, Lee has been dealt straight up for players such as former teammate Mark Buehrle, Carl Crawford and Jake Peavy. One package deal paired with Brian Roberts in exchange for Manny Ramirez.
Clint Barmes, Col, 2B/SS
Why he's being dealt: Those who can platoon him and wait for his home games are picking him up as the batting average slides.
What you're getting: Barmes was exchanged straight up for Johnny Damon, Adam Dunn and Eric Chavez this week. In one deal, a manager got the under-achieving duo of Edgar Renteria and Marcus Giles for him.
Coors Field Factor:
- Sorry, folks. There are no power-boosting games at Coors this week. Clint Barmes and company are on the road against Milwaukee and Chicago.
- The Rockies' team batting average is 88 points lower away from Coors (.229 opposed to .317). Brad Hawpe, Luis Gonzalez and Todd Helton are the only lineup fixtures with a road average over .280. Preston Wilson, Aaron Miles and Matt Holliday are all fighting to get back to .200.
- They've scored more than four runs in just four of 18 road games. By contrast, they've scored five or more runs in 12 of 21 home games.
- Action resumes at Coors on Memorial Day when the Cardinals visit the Rockies to begin a 13-game home stand.
Matchups to watch:
- Unbeaten Bronson Arroyo returns to the hill on Wednesday after serving his six-game suspension. He'll face the Blue Jays and Gustavo Chacin. Arroyo pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Jays in an April start. And, after winning four of his first five starts, Gustavo Chacin seeks to stop a four-game winless streak.
- The battle of two first-place teams in the American League continues on Wednesday when Freddy Garcia leads the White Sox against Jarrod Washburn and the Angels. Garcia was outstanding in his last start against the cross-town Cubs, allowing one unearned run on five hits over seven innings. Washburn has strung together two solid outings in a row, allowing just three earned runs over 14 innings of work.
- Pittsburgh's visit to Cincinnati isn't exactly a marquee event, but given the recent dismissal of Danny Graves it will be interesting to see how the Reds respond. Additionally, Wednesday's match-up features Oliver Perez on the hill for Pittsburgh. While he wasn't scintillating on Saturday against the Rockies, he did earn the W and struck out eight Rockies hitters in five innings of work.
- A battle of unbeaten hurlers takes place in Arizona on Wednesday when Jake Peavy faces Brandon Webb. The two have combined for six or more innings in only one of 18 and 19 starts. To put Peavy's dominance in perspective, his season ERA reached a high of 2.76 after two straight outings with four earned runs allowed. They faced off earlier this season with neither earning a decision. However, they each allowed only one earned run.
- Finally, the Mets travel to Florida for a four-game set against the Marlins. The first game features a battle between Pedro Martinez and Dontrelle Willis. It will be Pedro's third start against the Marlins. He allowed three earned runs over 14 innings in back-to-back starts in mid-April. The Mets avoided Willis and his league-leading 1.55 ERA in those two earlier series.
IT'S A FACT
The off-season acquisition of Scott Podsednik has catapulted the White Sox to the top of the stolen base category with 50 team steals. Podsednik has recorded 26 stolen bases through Monday's game against Anaheim. That total exceeds the number of stolen bases achieved by 19 Major League teams. And for those that feared the White Sox would abandon the long ball with the departures of Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez and the injury to Frank Thomas, they still rank seventh in the Major Leagues with 50 HR.