What a week! We've watched several top pitchers make their returns from the DL and several others take those first steps back. We've also chalked up two more bizarre injuries and trade rumors galore.
The weather is heating up, the homers are flying out of parks like we remember and activity on the field is dizzying. Here's hoping that you enjoy your holiday weekend. We'll monitor the action and get you caught up when you return.
It's time for a peek inside Fantasy Baseball This Week .
Curt Schilling, SP, Bos: Sporting a goatee, Schilling went five strong innings for Triple-A Pawtucket in his first game action since April. He threw 78 pitches (54 strikes) and moved well off the mound to cover first. Look for him to make one more start at Triple-A before he rejoins the Red Sox. Barring any setbacks, he'll face the Orioles just before the All-Star break.
Kenny Rogers, SP, Tex: Rogers has made his share of headlines this year, rolling off nine first-half wins at the age of 40 and making for a brilliant late-round selection. Now, he's been enchanted by the Dark Side, angrily shoving cameramen, slamming water coolers and hurting his non-pitching hand. He was held out of Tuesday's start, but is expected to be ready to go on either Saturday or Sunday against Seattle, unless a suspension hits him first.
Oliver Perez, SP, Pit: Not only has he risen toward the top of the list for 2005 Bust of the Year, but now he's battling for the title of most absurd injury. After kicking a laundry cart in the clubhouse, last season's dominant hurler turned this year's disaster (6.16 ERA, 1.64 WHIP disaster), Perez hit the DL with a broken toe. Zach Duke (12-3 with a 2.92 at Triple-A Indianapolis) will take Perez's place in the rotation and will start this weekend against Milwaukee.
Melvin Mora, 3B, Bal: Mora, who has missed the past week with a strained right hamstring, reports that he's been pain free for two days. The O's need him back to bring a spark to a listless lineup (1-6 in his absence), but he'll likely sit another couple days before getting back into action. Neither the Orioles nor fantasy owners can take an extended absence. Baltimore visits the Bronx for a brief two-game stint to start next week. I suspect those will be his first games back.
Brandon Lyon, RP, Ari: Lyon's promotion to the closer role made him a fantasy stud for the first six weeks of the season before an elbow injury sidelined him. He played long toss on Tuesday and reported no pain following the session. Lyon will start throwing off the mound in the next 7-10 days with his return targeted for shortly after the All-Star break.
Kelvin Escobar, SP, LAA: Escobar underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove a bone spur in his right elbow and will miss the next 8-10 weeks. The Angels are optimistic that he'll be back for the September pennant run.
Craig Wilson, LF/1B, Pit: Wilson is expected to begin a rehab stint after undergoing surgery for his injured middle finger. He's been swinging a bat pain-free for about a week and will spend a week or two at Double-A or Triple-A before getting recalled to the big club near the end of July. After news of the injury hit, coupled with his horrid start, Wilson was released in a large percentage of leagues.
Steve Finley, OF, LAA: Finley's been on the DL with a strained shoulder and expects to pick up a bat this weekend with an eye toward a return before the break.
Ramon Hernandez, C, SD: Hernandez's wrist injury is healing slower than expected and the possibility of arthroscopic surgery has been mentioned. That measure would sideline him for up to another two months. Hernandez owners should be looking into long-term options.
Javy Lopez, C, Bal: According to MLB.com, Lopez was cleared to resume baseball activities after a checkup on Tuesday. The bone in his right hand appears to be healing properly and may get him back in the lineup by the All-Star break. Like the report on Mora above, the O's need their big guns back.
Orlando Cabrera, SS, LAA: Yet another Angels starter makes the list. Cabrera had fluid drained from his right elbow and will be sidelined for the next several days. There is a good chance that this injury will land him on the 15-day DL.
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Det: Tigers fans are excited to see Ordonez's name in a box score, even if it is a rehab start for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. He went 1-for-2 with a double and RBI is his first game action since April 13th. He'll play out the week at Triple-A, but might be back with the big club for the series against Cleveland early next week.
- Joe Blanton, SP, Oak: Blanton became a different pitcher once the wall calendar flipped to June. It certainly didn't hurt that the offense awoke from a two-month slumber. He went 5-1 for the month with an ERA of 2.06 and WHIP of 0.82. Fantasy owners had taken a "wait and see" approach for the duration of the month after his 0-5 start through the end of May with an ERA of 6.65. After his latest start, owners are piling on him in droves.
- Mike Timlin, RP, Bos: Wednesday's appearance by Timlin in a save situation prompted fantasy owners to jump to the waiver wire on the off chance that Terry Francona should decide to replace Keith Foulke (11.00 ERA in save situations) in the role. In Wednesday's Red Sox broadcast, the announcers speculated that Bronson Arroyo might also be tapped to join the closer battle once Curt Schilling rejoins the staff. For now, Wednesday's save by Timlin came only because Foulke had thrown 47 pitches the night before. But, Foulke's been down this road before when his Sox were White. If you're a Foulke owner, check Timlin's availability.
- Travis Hafner, DH/1B, Cle: Based on the early lack of production, Hafner had been tossed to the waiver wire all over Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball leagues. In the past 10 games, he's compiled a third of his season's HR and RBI output (4 HR and 16 RBIs) while raising his batting average nearly 20 points. With the number of acquisitions still occurring as of this writing, there's an outside shot that he remains available in your league.
- Jesse Crain, RP, Min: Teams facing an uphill battle to climb back into the ERA and WHIP race of their leagues are looking the way of the Minnesota reliever. He's already vultured seven wins and has an ERA of 0.99 and 0.83 WHIP in 36.1 innings of work. He's a perfect 10-0 over his two-year big league career. Crain will celebrate his 24th birthday on Tuesday.
- Garrett Atkins, 3B, Colorado: Atkins has absolutely been roping in the month of June, hitting .359 and tying for ninth in the Major Leagues with 24 RBIs. Be warned, however, that Atkins' production comes almost entirely in the wonderful home atmosphere of Coors Field. He's hitting .412 with five homers and 26 RBIs at home. Atkins' road average is an anemic .212 (200 points difference!) with only one homer and eight RBIs. Enjoy the home stand!
- Sammy Sosa, OF, Bal: The Orioles have dropped the slumping HR slugger all the way to sixth in the batting order, and Javy Lopez and Melvin Mora aren't even playing! While he's provided five homers and 10 RBIs this month, he's still hitting an awful .217 for the month (after an injury-shortened .158 May). Sosa has just one hit in his last 24 at-bats.
- Ryan Freel, 2B/3B/OF, Cin: The versatile speedster is on the DL with a toe inflammation, but is eligible to return on Monday. Though he hit only .200 in 12 June contests, Freel did swipe eight bases. Those in need of speed should check the waiver wire. He'll also contribute to both the batting average and runs columns on the scoresheet.
- Mike Lowell, 3B, Fla: Fantasy owners are finally screaming "No mas!" and have begun dumping Lowell to waivers. He's mired in a year-long slump (hitting .217) and has just three home runs. Dave Roberts has outslugged him, for crying out loud! His .607 OPS for the season is downright depressing.
- Chris Reitsma, RP, Atl: The Braves haven't made the move yet, but with four blown saves in 10 opportunities, there's rumblings that Danny Kolb might ascend back to the closer role in Atlanta. Fantasy owners aren't waiting for the official word; they're tossing Reitsma off their squads right now. He's blown two in a row and allowed five earned runs in those outings.
- Glendon Rusch, SP, ChC: The return of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood to the Cubs rotation signaled the end of fantasy value for Rusch, as he'll slide into middle relief. Jerome Williams will be the fifth starter for the time being.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Shelton's hit safely in eight of his past ten games, hitting three home runs and driving in 11 runs during that stretch. The Tigers love this sweet-swinging first baseman, and who wouldn't with a .338 average.
DROP OF THE WEEK
The lower ERA, WHIP and high win total expected with his move to Philly haven't materialized. OK, he's piled up eight wins, but Lieber possesses a miserable 6.29 ERA since May 1st (including his Thursday start against New York).
HOT AND COLD
Morgan Ensberg, Hou, 3B
Why he's being dealt: Third base has been the Achilles heel of many fantasy teams, with slow starts and injuries to players such as Adrian Beltre and Scott Rolen. Not only is Ensberg clubbing homers (10 in June), he's also stolen a few bases along the way (6).
What you're getting: Ensberg has been dealt straight up over the past week for Adam Dunn, the struggling David Wells, and Tigers hurler Jeremy Bonderman. In package deals, Ensberg has been paired with closers such as Huston Street or Joe Nathan in exchange for starting pitching (Mike Mussina, Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo) and outfield help (Corey Patterson, Magglio Ordonez and Torii Hunter).
Edgar Renteria, Bos, SS
Why he's being dealt: His .271 batting average, 30 RBIs and six steals just aren't enough for current owners (though they project out to match his '04 totals) and others are looking to get him on the cheap.
What you're getting: Recent deals involving Renteria have included a straight swap of shortstops (Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal) and closer help (Todd Jones and Keith Foulke). Package deals involving Renteria have paired him with top hurlers such as Jake Peavy or Andy Pettitte in exchange for middle infielders (Orlando Cabrera, Chone Figgins, Mark Loretta) and recovering hurlers Mark Prior, Josh Beckett or Tim Hudson.
Bob Wickman, Cle, RP
Why he's being dealt: Injuries and possible demotions have owners scrambling for bullpen help. Closer-rich teams are cashing out.
What you're getting: Wickman has been dealt straight up this past week for Matt Morris, Shawn Green and Johnny Damon. Package deals have paired him with players such as Omar Vizquel and Jeff Kent in exchange for power producers Carlos Delgado or Moises Alou.
Barry Bonds, SF, OF
Why he's being dealt: As legendary philosopher Homer Simpson once said, "Awww, the waiting game sucks, let's play Hungry, Hungry Hippos !" Current owners are tired of non-committal reports on Bonds' return to the field. Others are willing to roll the dice that a month or two of Bonds' bat will be well worth it.
What you're getting: Several leagues must be playing a retro version of fantasy baseball featuring the 1998 season, as Bonds was exchanged straight up for Sammy Sosa. He was also dealt straight up for Lance Berkman and Jim Thome. In package deals, Bonds has been shipped out with players such as Ryan Church, Larry Walker or Todd Helton in exchange for pitchers such as Dustin Hermanson, Kerry Wood or hitters such as Pat Burrell or Troy Glaus.
Coors Field Factor:
- After a weekend series at St. Louis, the Rockies will return home for a seven-game home stand to bring them into the All-Star break. They'll first welcome the Dodgers for four games and then welcome the Padres next weekend. This week, I'll take a look inside the Dodgers lineup. We'll save the Padres for next time.
- J.D. Drew is hoping that his knee holds up and allows him to participate in that series. He's hit .361 in 17 games at Coors with two homers and 11 RBIs.
- Jeff Kent can't wait to return to Colorado. In 56 games at Coors between San Francisco, Houston and Los Angeles, he's hit .345 with 19 homers, 22 doubles and 56 RBIs. His OPS is a ridiculous 1.107 at Coors.
- Dodgers hurler Jeff Weaver wants to make up for his lone start at Coors. He lasted only four innings, allowing 13 hits and eight earned runs.
- This just might be the cure for the ills of Cesar Izturis. He possesses a .330 lifetime average in 28 career games with an On-Base Percentage of .394.
- Looking at the Rockies for a moment – Todd Helton has undoubtedly been a disappointment for fantasy owners this season. Taking a closer look at the splits among Rockies hitters, he's logged only the fourth most RBIs at Coors.
Matchups to watch:
- The Yankees shook up the roster on Thursday by cutting veterans Mike Stanton and Paul Quantrill. Will that help to shake them out of the haze? On Friday, they'll send Randy Johnson to the mound against Jeremy Bonderman. Johnson earned a no-decision against the Mets after his horrible outing June 21 versus Tampa Bay (seven earned runs). It will mark Johnson's first start at Comerica Park. Bonderman allowed four runs (three earned) and nine hits over six innings in his first start against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
- Matt Clement of the Red Sox will look to earn his 10th victory of the season and fourth in a row when Toronto visits Fenway Park on Friday. Clement has been dominant at Fenway, with a record of 5-0 and wicked 2.75 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. He's also allowed only two home runs over 55 2/3 innings at home. The final game of that series is also intriguing, as Roy Halladay will seek his 12th win against Bronson Arroyo. Halladay has been touched for eight earned runs in 14 innings pitched in two starts against Boston this season.
- It will be interesting to see how the still-smoking White Sox fare this weekend against the A's in Oakland. That trip normally works horribly against the White Sox, and they're catching the A's during a surge from both their hitters and pitchers. Jon Garland pitched a four-hit shutout in his only meeting with the A's this season and will face Kirk Saarloos (he earned a no-decision in his prior start against the Sox in April). Saarloos has allowed only one earned run in his last 15.1 innings of work. Fans in Oakland will then be treated to a battle of tough lefties when Mark Buehrle and Barry Zito face off on Sunday. Buehrle's record of 10-1 tells you what you need to know about him, but Zito has truly turned things around, allowing two or fewer earned runs in six of his last eight outings.
- Jason Schmidt will take the hill for the Giants in search of his fourth straight win against San Diego on Sunday. He's allowed three earned runs in his past 22 innings pitched. It will mark his third start against the Padres this year. He allowed seven earned runs in 10.2 innings over those two starts at Pac Bell. Last season, Schmidt won both his starts at PETCO Park.
IT'S A FACT
On Thursday afternoon, the Rangers took batting practice against the Angels, clubbing eight home runs (three by Kevin Mench). It marked the second time that they've hit eight in a game this season . With this explosion, the Rangers are averaging 1.66 homers per game this year.