After watching countless games via my laptop and nodding off during extended West Coast games via the XM Satellite Radio, I finally took in a live game. And of course, I couldn't settle for any ballpark. I took the train down to the Big Apple for Saturday's tilt between the Yankees and the Blue Jays.
Rain delayed the first pitch by a full hour, allowing me to take in the park and the surrounding crowd. Throngs of adoring fans bearing decorative signs in support of Chien-Ming Wang could be seen around the stadium.
Wang's slow and deliberate motion threatened to give him the nickname "Human Rain Delay," but he was efficient with his pitches. He had good action on the ball and stayed around the plate, allowing the Blue Jays to put the ball into play, albeit weakly. The only solidly hit ball through the first five innings was a single in the fourth off the bat of Corey Koskie. Toronto scored two in the fifth on a series of slow dribblers. Though he didn't strike anyone out, Wang gave manager Joe Torre, GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees precisely what they needed.
When Tom Gordon surrendered the tying home run to Koskie in the eighth, the fans let him have it. And those fans with their signs certainly were among the loudest.
The promotion of Wang was the first of a long line of activity from Cashman this week. He promoted 2B prospect Robinson Cano, which will put Tony Womack in LF, Hideki Matsui in CF and Bernie Williams in the role of pinch-hitter and platoon outfielder. The Boss isn't waiting to get things moving. This should make for an entertaining summer in the New York area.
Here are the happenings in Fantasy Baseball This Week.
- Terrmel Sledge headed to the DL with a right hamstring pull. That opened the door for the return of Endy Chavez from Triple-A New Orleans. Chavez was hitting .269 with one homer and three RBIs in the minors after a miserable spring. Teams lacking speed need to rush to the waiver wire to claim Chavez. He swiped 32 bags last season while posting a respectable .277 batting average.
- Randy Johnson joined the ranks of the Sam Malone groin injury club when he tweaked himself in Friday's start. Depending on which source you believe, Johnson will miss anywhere from one start to a prolonged stint on the DL.
- The Yankees should welcome back Tanyon Sturtze during the middle of the week from his strained oblique muscle. He pitched well in a rehab start at Class-A Tampa.
- Travis Lee also hit the 15-day DL with a groin strain on Monday. While he likely only is forced into action in AL-only leagues, Eduardo Perez (he of the dramatic HR) will see more playing time and is worth a look-see.
- Jim Thome has missed two straight games with extreme pain in his lower back. His early-season woes have had fantasy owners griping, and on Tuesday he finally made the trip to the DL. Discontented minor league powerhouse Ryan Howard gets his trip to Philly sooner than expected. Howard owns a .316 batting average with four home runs and 14 RBIs at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre upon his call-up.
- In what seems to be the weekly update, Kerry Wood likely will miss at least a month with a muscle strain in his right shoulder. He left Saturday's start after three innings and will be shelved for some time. That means that it's time for Dusty (Baker) to shuffle up and deal in Chicago. For the time being, the Cubs will use a four-man rotation with Glendon Rusch taking Wood's turn in the rotation. With Rusch taking on that role, Ryan Dempster becomes another closer candidate out of the beleaguered Cubs pen. With all confidence in LaTroy Hawkins as a closer lost, Dempster stands to receive a couple of save opportunities.
- Nick Swisher hit the 15-day DL with a sprained right clavicle. His injury opens a spot for Bobby Kielty to play every day. He owns a .250 lifetime batting average with a season high of 13 homers. That warrants a roster spot in AL-only leagues
- Former Arizona closer Jose Valverde was activated over the weekend to offer another option to the overworked Diamondbacks bullpen. He immediately jumps in as the primary vulture (read: set-up man) for Brandon Lyon. Valverde struck out one hitter in his first inning of work on Monday.
- Khalil Greene of San Diego is scheduled to start a rehab assignment on Tuesday night and may rejoin the club as early as next Monday. The timing is key, as San Diego lost backup Geoff Blum to a bruised chest after a collision on Monday night. Jesse Garcia and Damian Jackson will man the spot until Greene's return.
- Seattle starter Bobby Madritsch, sidelined with a torn ligament in his left shoulder, received some positive news after a recent MRI. He's going to be in a sling for some time to come, but at least it appears that it's not quite so dire a situation as previously thought. With that said, it's safe to release him if you've been hanging on for more news.
- Frank Thomas was spotted running the bases prior to Saturday's game. He ran well, but reported great soreness later in the day. Thomas and the White Sox project a mid-June return, which means he should be finding his swing around the time hitters are fading in the dog days of August. He's worth a bench spot.
- Those looking for a boost to their pitching staffs may want to see if an impatient owner booted Kris Benson to the curb. Victor Zambrano may have pitched himself out of the rotation, meaning that Benson may jump into the mix as early as Thursday.
- David Dellucci cracked his fifth home run on Monday night against Oakland. For the year, he's hitting at a .305 clip with 13 RBIs, 22 runs and two SBs. Through Monday's games, he's third in the majors with an on-base percentage of .488.
- Erik Bedard had been spectacular in three of his first four starts, but he hadn't caught the eyes of fantasy owners until his start last Thursday. Take out his disastrous outing against Detroit, and Bedard has an ERA of 0.66 over his other four outings. Bedard's tremendous stretch should be taken with a grain of salt, as two of his outings were against 8-18 Tampa Bay. He's worth a look-see on the waiver wire and there's some speculation that the Orioles' hot start might put them in the market for a top starter, meaning that Bedard may be leaving the hard-hitting AL East.
- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen continues to play games with fantasy owners, calling on Dustin Hermanson to close out Saturday's game against Detroit. Shingo Takatsu owners should protect themselves from the possible ill effects of Guillen's flight of fancy if still possible. Hermanson already has picked up three saves and has yet to allow an earned run in 11.1 innings of work.
- Juan Rincon has been dropped in thousands of leagues after receiving a 10-day suspension in accordance with the new performance-enhancing drug policy. As Rincon is a key component to the Twins' bullpen, take advantage of this opportunity to shore up your bullpen. Rincon already vultured two victories in 12 appearances with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings of work. Last season, Rincon won 11 games for the AL Central-winning Twins while striking out 106 hitters.
- Russ Ortiz got hammered by his former team, allowing seven earned runs to the Giants. He failed to escape the fourth inning and demonstrated the control problems that have plagued his career. It was his first truly horrific outing of the season and raised his ERA by almost 1.50. His current WHIP of 1.46 stands in line with his career mark of 1.42.
Guillermo Mota joined the list of disabled closers with swelling and tightness in his right elbow. He is scheduled to begin throwing as early as next week and could return in as few as three. Todd Jones earned his first save as Mota's replacement with 1.2 innings of work on Friday night. Jones hasn't seen extensive work in the closer role since 2001 with Detroit.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Corey Koskie, Tor, 3B
After a miserable start, Koskie has put it together over the past week. He's posted three three-hit games and has hit safely in six straight. Those looking to spell a slumping Mike Lowell or who await further word on Scott Rolen may want to see if Koskie remains available.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Daniel Cabrera , Bal, SP
Cabrera has been one of the weak links on the otherwise dominant Baltimore roster. He has struggled tremendously with his control, walking 13 in 20 innings of work and allowing 26 hits (1.95 WHIP). Those hoping that he'd gotten past the growing pains of the second half of 2004 have suffered a tremendous letdown.
HOT AND COLD
Lyle Overbay, Mil: Over the past week, Overbay has hit an absurd .818 with three home runs and seven RBIs. He has hit safely in nine straight games in which he has played.
Alexis Rios, Tor: While other parts of the Toronto lineup have cooled off after hot starts, Rios has been inserted into the lineup and produced nicely. He hit .462 with five RBIs and two all-important stolen bases. Don't expect much pop from this guy, but he could fill the need for speed.
Jarrod Washburn, LAA: Washburn has strung together two stellar outings after a rough turn against Cleveland on April 21. On the road against New York and Seattle, Washburn has allowed just one earned run in his last 15.1 innings while striking out nine hitters.
Kenny Rogers, Tex: The 40-year-old hurler continues to confound hitters. In his past two starts (both wins), Rogers has pitched 14 innings of shutout ball, spreading out six hits over that span.
Esteban Loaiza, Was: Loaiza is showing the stuff that made him a Cy Young candidate with the White Sox in 2003. Though he only has one win to show for it, Loaiza has turned in five quality starts in six outings. He earned his first victory by turning in six strong innings against Los Angeles on Monday.
Adrian Beltre, Sea: Beltre has been a major source of frustration for fantasy owners. Over the past week, he's hit just .219 with one HR and two RBIs.
Darin Erstad, LAA: After a torrid start, Erstad has struggled terribly at the plate. He hit .233 in 30 at-bats this past week with just one RBI. Having been relegated to only 1B eligibility, Erstad is no longer a fantasy option.
Ted Lilly, Tor: Lilly has been positively awful for the Blue Jays, failing to pitch into the sixth inning in four of his five starts. Additionally, he's allowed 17 earned runs over his last 14.1 innings of work. Kick him to the curb.
Joe Kennedy, Col: Like Lilly (above), Kennedy has been just awful in four of his five outings. His lone victory (and solid outing) came at home against San Francisco. To show the miserable nature of his start, he allowed five earned runs over 6.1 innings and actually got his ERA to drop by one-third of a run.
Bernie Williams, NYY: Williams finds himself the victim of the big shake-up in the Bronx. He hit just .222 over the past week with one extra-base hit and three RBIs. Williams will be relegated to pinch-hitting opportunities and an occasional start.
Mike Lowell, Fla, 3B
Why he's being dealt: Nervous owners have had enough of his Mendoza Line exploits. Others are willing to take him on the cheap.
What you're getting: Lowell has been going straight up for under- or over-achieving starting pitchers such as Mike Hampton or Barry Zito. In package deals, he's been teamed with closers such as Trevor Hoffman and Francisco Cordero in exchange for fellow 3B Eric Chavez or Troy Glaus and underachievers such as Oliver Perez.
Phil Nevin, SD, 1B
Why he's being dealt: After a subpar April, some are casting him off. Those seeking to acquire him hope his hot week is a sign of good things to come.
What you're getting: Deals involving Nevin have him going straight up for closers such as Mariano Rivera and Braden Looper. In one deal, an owner received the struggling Jason Giambi and injured Guillermo Mota in return for Nevin.
Moises Alou, SF, OF
Why he's being dealt: Owners in need of closers are dangling powerhouses on the mend.
What you're getting: Alou has been packaged with middle infield help in a number of deals in exchange for a wide range of relief help, from the normally reliable Keith Foulke and Miguel Batista to the more adventuresome Danny Graves and Troy Percival.
Victor Martinez, Cle, C
Why he's being dealt: Fantasy owners are tired of waiting for his bat to come around. Others will gamble that he'll break through any time now.
What you're getting: Straight up, Martinez still has been drawing top starting pitchers such as Roy Halladay and Tim Hudson. In package deals, he's been teamed with players such as Javier Vazquez or the injured Lance Berkman or Curt Schilling in exchange for sluggers such as Carlos Delgado or Jim Thome.
Coors Field Factor:
- The Rockies are on an extended road trip that culminates on Sunday. They'll return home next Monday against Atlanta.
- Mike Hampton is a bit nervous about returning to Coors after his tremendous start to 2005. Though he owns a career record of 17-10 at Coors Field, his ERA stands at a robust 5.70 with a WHIP of 1.70.
- Fantasy owners hoping that a few games in Colorado will jump-start Rafael Furcal's bat might not find the answer to their problems. He owns just a .250 average in 11 career games at Coors. He has hit two home runs in his 48 at-bats.
- Owners contemplating a trip to the pines for Andruw Jones will need to ready him for next week. Jones holds a career mark of .336 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs in 107 career at-bats at Coors.
Matchups to watch:
- The red-hot Orioles will face the Blue Jays on Wednesday in a matchup that pits Roy Halladay against Erik Bedard, who threw seven shutout innings against Toronto on April 23.
- The resurgent Matt Morris, who has won two of his first three outings, will look to build on his solid start on Thursday against San Diego. He'll face Brian Lawrence, who has been alternately brilliant or terrible through the first month. If the trend continues, then the Cardinals will brutalize him.
- Assuming he's cleared to pitch, Roy Oswalt will face John Smoltz on Friday in Atlanta. After a rough return to the starting rotation, Smoltz has strung together two straight victories, allowing two earned runs in 13.1 innings of work.
- Bronson Arroyo has been, perhaps, the most consistent of all starters in the arms race between Boston and New York. He'll take a two-game winning streak into Detroit on Thursday.
IT'S A FACT
We've all been hit by the injury bug in the bullpen. Through games of May 2, 52 pitchers already have recorded at least one save. As amazing as that seems, we're not even close to what transpired one year ago. Ninety-nine different pitchers successfully closed one out in 2004.