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MLB Skinny: Red (Hot) Sox

1st Chair: Akinori Otsuka
Injured: Eric Gagne
Skinny: Gagne left Sunday's save situation with a strained hip in the ninth against Oakland after retiring one batter. Otsuka came on to record the two-out save. If you're an Otsuka owner, this is another reminder of the brittle nature of Gagne, who is coming off serious elbow and back injuries. He apparently suffered the hip injury when he planted too hard on his follow-through after making a pitch. He is headed to the 15-day DL after further examination Monday, meaning Otsuka re-assumes a role that he has thrived in since coming to Texas last season.
1st Chair: Henry Owens
2nd Chair: Taylor Tankersley, Matt Lindstrom
Skinny: While Owens seems to be the front-runner to inherit the closer role, it's really hard to say anything definitive given that the team hasn't recorded a traditional save since April 9 (that was Owens). On Sunday, Kevin Gregg picked up a save (only the team's third of the year), but it was a three-inning job in which he allowed four earned runs. While Owens is the front-runner, Lidstrom and Tankersley have kept themselves in the picture with 2.16 and 2.45 ERAs, respectively.
1st Chair: Joakim Soria
2nd Chair: David Riske
Injured: Octavio Dotel
Skinny: Soria picked up a save on Sunday with an incident-free inning against Minnesota (1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) – give him extra credit for whiffing Justin Morneau while protecting a 3-1 lead. He has allowed a run in just one of his eight outings this season, posting a 2.89 ERA and 13 Ks in 9.1 IP. Meanwhile, Riske picked up a save Friday, but it was the unconventional two-inning job. He's allowed a run in each of past his past two outings and has been far less impressive than Soria overall (0-2, 5.40 ERA). Expect Soria to keep getting the call in the ninth inning for the time being.
1st Chair: Jason Frasor
Injured: B.J. Ryan
Skinny: Ryan is out for more than a month with an elbow strain, and Frasor assumed closing duties this past week, picking up a save last Tuesday in his first opportunity since taking over for Ryan. However, Frasor hasn't been tested in a save situation since as Toronto has lost five straight games as of Sunday.
1st Chair: Chad Cordero
2nd Chair: Jon Rauch, Jesus Colome, Saul Rivera, Ryan Wagner
Skinny: While not anything that the team is getting overly worked up about yet, Cordero is just 1-for-3 in save situations this season, blowing chances last Wednesday and Friday. He has allowed a run in three straight appearances and has walked seven batters in 9.1 IP total. In regards to his closer's struggles, manager Manny Acta said, "Obviously I'm concerned, because he's my closer. And he knows and we know what the problem is. He's still pitching behind in the count – By no means I'm going to give up on him." Pitching coach Randy St. Claire believes another issue is that Cordero isn't relying on his fastball like he did in the past. Look for Cordero to get back to the heater more in coming appearances. If he's still struggling, then the Nats have to start taking his struggles seriously.
Well, another week in the books, and five more home runs from Alex Rodriguez. Through Sunday's games, A-Rod had as many, or more, home runs (12) than eight teams. And while he's obviously the most common player found among the top 500 fantasy teams in Yahoo! public leagues, his Yankees are just 8-9 after being swept by the Red Sox over the weekend. Interestingly, A-Rod has homered in all eight of those wins, but in just two of the team's nine losses. It just goes to show, as good as A-Rod has been, successful teams have to be more than a one-man show. So, as we take a look at the weekend that was, here's hoping your fantasy squad is getting contributions across the board …

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

  • Boston's Josh Beckett, currently the No. 4 ranked SP in the Yahoo! game, became the league's first four-game winner on Friday, besting the Yankees with totals of 6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 7 K, 2 BB. The nice thing about pitching for the Red Sox is that you can count on offensive support and, sure enough, Beckett leads starters with an average of 11.68 runs backing him up. The former Marlin struggled last season in his AL debut (5.01 ERA), but won 16 games thanks to the 24th-best run support (5.89) among the 84 starters that pitched at least 160 innings. And while opponents only hit .245 against him in '06, he allowed 36 HRs, which was more than twice his previous high (16). The good news is that he has allowed just one home run in 24.2 IP in '07. However, Friday's outing was the first in which he allowed more than one run, and the fact that it came against the Yankees is a little concerning.

Beckett struggled mightily against AL East opponents last season – in particular, 9.45 ERA vs. NYY; 6.21 ERA vs. TOR; 5.03 ERA vs. TB. Looking at the AL offenses, after the Red Sox, the next three best team OPS averages come from the Yankees, Blue Jays and Devil Rays – in fact, including Baltimore, all five AL East teams rank among the top six in the AL in OPS. With that offense behind him, you certainly should be able to continue to mine Beckett for wins. But with the AL East portion of his schedule starting to heat up and given the fact that Beckett has a career ERA in April that is essentially at least a run better than any other month save September, you should know that he may be at his best sell-high position of the year.

  • I can't help but see similarities when I watch Rich Hill and Cole Hamels pitch. Both are tall, lanky lefties that come at hitters with this daddy long-legs spider, all-arms-and-legs style that makes it look they released the ball from about 30 feet away from the hitter. Hamels throws harder, and Hill has a better (the best?) curveball, but an argument about who you'd prefer to own in fantasy baseball is a worthy one. Both pitchers put together attention-grabbing performances their last time out – Hamels pitched a complete game against Cincinnati on Saturday, fanning 15 while allowing just one earned run, while Hill shutout Atlanta for eight innings (7 Ks) on Thursday. And both have enjoyed their breakouts in the majors at the same time. Take a look at what each has done since last August:

Rich Hill (August '06 to present): 98.2 IP, 9-3, 2.09 ERA, 96 K, 28 BB
Cole Hamels (Aug. '06 to present): 97.1 IP, 8-3, 2.59 ERA, 109 K, 25 BB

I think you'd agree that it is quite a parallel path. So who would you rather own? I'd probably take Hamels (who's three years younger), but it's really too close to call. If you have either, just be happy in the knowledge that you have – with apologies to Barry Zito, Tom Glavine, Dontrelle Willis, Ted Lilly, et al – one of the top two lefties in the National League.

  • Notable Notes: Eric Gagne strained his hip on Sunday and had to leave a save opportunity against Oakland with just one out in the ninth. Akinori Otsuka (I told you not to cut him loose yet) came on to garner the two-out save. As a precautionary measure, Gagne is headed back to the DL … Alfonso Soriano returned from a hammy injury on Sunday and had a pinch-hit double. Soriano is expected to be back full-time in left field starting Monday … An injured hamstring has likely landed OF Milton Bradley back on the DL – this made me think, wouldn't it be humorous (and appropriate) if Milton Bradley, the board game maker, switched out that guy in their Operation game (you know the one that buzzes if you don't perfectly extract the pieces from the guy's body) for a version featuring the likeness of the real Milton Bradley. For the record, this would be Bradley's ninth DL designation since '00 … Shoulder pain has made SP Rich Harden a scratch for his slated Tuesday start. It's being spun as a precautionary measure for a guy that has struggled with injuries throughout his short career … While Harden is out for Tuesday, Randy Johnson (back) and Chien-Ming Wang (hammy) will return from the DL to make their '07 debuts. Big Unit faces the Padres while Wang will open against the Devil Rays … Position-eligibility watch: Felipe Lopez needs three more starts to qualify at second base, Ryan Theriot needs two more starts to qualify at third base and Brett Myers (I still can't believe it) needs two more relief appearances to qualify at RP.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • J.J. Hardy, Mil, SS
    Owned in just 39 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Hardy has exploded in his past four games to the tune of .471 (8-for-17), 4 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R. Healthy now after sitting out 127 games in '06 with an ankle injury, Hardy is tied for third in the NL with 5 HR. And while he's not going to hit 47 bombs, as his current pace suggests, he does have enough pop in his bat to reach 20. He gets high marks for his ability to put the bat on the ball, which makes him ideal as a No. 2 hitter in the lineup. As Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder continue to develop around Hardy in the order, Hardy's production opportunities will continue to rise. If you need a middle infielder, jump on Hardy's hot bat, knowing that he has the ability to back it up.

PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm

  • Ryan Braun, 3B, Mil (ETA – May)
    If not for fielding issues, we'd likely already be seeing Braun man the hot corner for the Brew Crew. Milwaukee's current tag-team at third base, Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell, have combined for a .214 BA, 0 HR, 8 RBI and 4 Runs. Meanwhile, after launching five home runs and posting a ridiculous 1.317 OPS in spring training action, Braun has kept it rolling at Triple-A Nashville with 6 HR and a 1.091 OPS through 17 games (including a 9:7 K-to-BB ratio). Despite the production void at third base, Milwaukee still ranks third in the majors in team OPS, so Braun might not get his shot until the Brewers hit leaner times at the plate.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Kelly Johnson, Atl, 2/O – Johnson's 13-for-25 (.520) week included a two-homer game on Sunday, his second multi-HR game of the year and his fifth and sixth home runs total (tied for the NL lead).

Josh Hamilton, Cin, OF – Although just 1-for-8 over the weekend, Hamilton's (soon to be) made-for-Hollywood, feel-good story continued this past week with a .333 BA, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R and 1 SB.

Michael Barrett, ChC, C – Only A-Rod had more HR or RBI than Barrett this past week – .381, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 5 R.

Juan Pierre, LAD, OF – Pierre concluded the week by leading the majors in Hits (14) and Runs (11) while tacking on 3 SB.

Shane Victorino, Phi, OF – With 3 SBs this past week (.370 BA, too), Victorino now has more SBs (5) in 17 games this season than he had in 153 games last season (4).

Barry Zito, SF, SP – Daddy Big Bucks pitched 13.1 scoreless innings this past week to pick up victories against Arizona and at Colorado.

Tom Gorzelanny, Pit, SP – The Bucs lefty picked up road victories at St. Louis and Los Angeles this past week, pushing his mark to 3-0 on the road this season. In his past 12 starts, he's 5-3 with a 2.36 ERA.

Chad Gaudin, Oak, SP – Gaudin is just 1-0, but he has allowed just five runs in 24.1 IP (1.85 ERA) spanning four starts. He also has a respectable 20:7 K-to-BB ratio.

Jason Marquis, ChC, SP – Marquis allowed a combined one earned run (13 IP) in victories this past week over San Diego and former team St. Louis. In three of his four starts this season, he's allowed one earned run or less.

Adam Dunn, Cin, OF – As predictable as the tides, Dunn's sizzling start came to a halt this past week as he hit .222 with 0 HR and a league-high 15 strikeouts in 27 at bats.

David Wright, NYM, 3B – Another homerless week for Wright keeps him at 0 for the season. He has just 3 HR in his past 52 games, including the '06 postseason.

Carlos Delgado, NYM, 1B – Like teammate Wright, Delgado has yet to go deep in '07, and he's carrying a .211 BA to go with the goose egg (including .154 this past week).

Michael Young, Tex, SS – Young's batting average sat above .300 for the final 153 games of '06, but he has yet to reach .240 this season and, after a 2-for-24 week, he's mired well below the Mendoza Line at .162 for the season.

Zack Greinke, KC, SP – After allowing a combined two earned runs in his first two starts, Greinke has allowed eight earned runs combined in his past two outings (5.2 IP).

Jeff Francis, Col, SP – Francis came into the week 18-8 at Coors Field, but lost both his starts there this past week – incidentally, debilitating my head-to-head team with totals of 0-2, 11 IP, 13 ER (10.64 ERA), 5 BB, 4 K.

Yahoo! Sports Blog Funston League Update
While officially listed as being in seventh place, I'm only one point out of third thanks to a 6.5-point jump after Sunday's games. I still can't coax a HR out of Mark Teixeira and Carlos Delgado (for which they'll never be forgiven), but Michael Barret pitched in with four home runs the past week. Team Scottsbluff Hubris sits firmly in first place, and amazingly he's done it without benefit of A-Rod. In fact, his top two picks (Alfonso Soriano and Manny Ramirez) have struggled, but across the board production has kept him on top – he's pulling at least an 8 in 7 of the league's 10 roto categories. Sammy Sosa, Josh Bard and Shawn Green represent the three most recent waiver wire adds, league-wide.

You can follow along with the Yahoo! Friends and Family experts league here, but please spare me your ridicule – it's a long season.

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