Given that the U.S. Open was starting and the NBA season was ending, you're excused if you didn't have both eyes glued to the sandlots for Thursday's play. I'm here to help fill in the cracks and get you up to speed on the important news of the past 12-24 hours. Settle in for some bulleted fantasy content, amigos.
• For years I've been talking myself out of Jeremy Bonderman(notes); maybe it's time to talk myself into a pickup. Bonderman has been fantasy-helpful in seven of his last eight starts, with the latest effort coming in Thursday's matinee victory over the Nationals (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 7 K). His K/BB rate goes along with the story; he's got 42 whiffs against just 11 walks since May 1.
Bonderman's current fastball is 2-3 mph slower than the one he owned earlier in his career, but he's spotting the pitch better; for the first time in his career, he's actually got a positive grade with his heater. And Bonderman's slider looked superb against the Nats here; it's no surprise that he's getting more swings outside the strike zone than ever before. I like Bonderman as a two-start option next week, getting road starts at the Mets and Braves.
• The John Ely(notes) pitch-to-contact tour took another shot Thursday at Cincinnati, as the Reds roughed him up for seven runs and three homers (Bronson Arroyo(notes), Joey Votto(notes) and Brandon Phillips(notes)). Arroyo's pitching wasn't pretty but it was effective; despite 11 baserunners and just one strikeout over seven innings, the Dodgers only scored one run off him. Without much fanfare, the Reds are the highest-scoring club in the National League.
• Neil Walker(notes) isn't the trendiest player wearing a Pittsburgh uniform these days, but he's worth our attention. He knocked his second homer of the year in Thursday's loss to the White Sox and he's got a respectable .289/.337/.458 line through 21 games, with 11 runs, nine RBIs and two steals. He's batted second, exclusively, since the Pirates gave him the call, and heck, second base isn't that deep a fantasy position. Walker is available in over 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues as we go to press.
• It's a broken record with Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) these days; he had to work around eight hits in eight innings at Minnesota but he only allowed one run en route to his 13th victory in 14 starts. Francisco Liriano(notes) was steady on the other side 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 6 K), rebounding nicely after a rocky first inning.
• Back in late April we wondered about Ike Davis(notes) and Justin Smoak(notes), who were called up in the same week and given a fair amount of promotion. Smoak had more buzz at the time and might project to be a better player down the line, but right now Davis is the guy who's consistently helping fantasy teams. We Like Ike posted a 5-1-2-2 line Thursday as the Mets got the broom on the Indians, and for the month of June Davis has a tasty .283 average and .500 slugging percentage, along with 11 runs, three homers and 10 RBIs.
We would like to see less strikeouts from Davis (he's already whiffed 51 times) and it's odd to see his OPS 90 points lower against right-handed pitching. But it's encouraging to see him producing like this during his second month in The Show, and his 16-percent ownership level looks a little thin to me.
• I'll admit, when Kevin Kouzmanoff(notes) gets on a hot streak, I allow the temporary production to overrule my long-term sensibility. He's on one of those patented surges right now, hitting .435 in June with three homers and a stolen base; he's also slugging .629 for the month. He's always reminded me a bit of Nomar Garciaparra(notes), with the compact right-handed stroke and the No. 5 on his back, and just once I'd like to see Kouzmanoff not sentenced to 81 games in a roomy pitchers park (Oakland, San Diego). Let's kick the tires and see where this leads us.
• I don't want to live in a world where Kyle Kendrick(notes) can waltz into Yankee Stadium and hold the Bombers to just four hits and one run over seven innings (2 BB, 3 K). Alas, that's what happened Thursday, making a tough-luck loser out of a solid Andy Pettitte(notes) (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3, BB, 7 K). Pettitte's biggest regret was a two-run homer allowed to Shane Victorino(notes), a somewhat-pedestrian blast that snuck over the left-field fence.
• The numbers won't jump out at you but James Shields(notes) was actually much improved in his Thursday turn at Atlanta (6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K). His lone walk was actually an intention pass, he hit the strike zone with 55 of 82 pitches, and the Braves got a couple of cheap hits off him during the evening. I'm without question using him back at home against San Diego next week.
The amazing Tim Hudson(notes) story continued on the other side of the ledger – he held the Rays to one run over seven frames, and he's yet to give up more than three runs in any of his 14 starts. The K/BB ratio certainly makes us nervous (41 whiffs, 34 walks), but Hudson's extreme ground-ball rate (66.9 percent) pays a lot of bills, and he's only given up six home runs. He's also holding right-handed batters to a .203 average.
• The White Sox gave 21-year-old Dayan Viciedo(notes) the call after Thursday's game; the Cuban prospect had a .290/.329/.525 line at Triple-A Charlotte with 14 homers in 238 at-bats. Andy Behrens has high hopes for the kid; the good doctor made an immediate Viciedo pickup in the Friends & Family League.
Injury Blog: Troy Tulowitzki(notes) took a pitch off the wrist on Thursday and might not be able to go Friday. We'll see what the team learns from an X-ray. … Jason Bay(notes) (quad) might be able to go Friday. … Aramis Ramirez(notes) (thumb) is starting a rehab assignment Saturday with the hopes of rejoining the Cubs on Wednesday. Nonetheless, he admits the thumb "won't be 100 percent for a while". … Erik Bedard(notes) (shoulder) had positive returns from a simulated game this week, but he's probably a good month away from rejoining the Mariners. … Trevor Crowe(notes) (knee) sat Thursday and remains day-to-day. … Clay Hensley(notes) (neck) probably needs a couple of additional days off. … Jeff Mathis(notes) came off the disabled list Thursday but Mike Napoli(notes) owners shouldn't worry too much; Napoli has been on a tear of late and Mike Scoiscia isn't shy about using him at first base. … The timetable on Jimmy Rollins(notes) (calf) keeps shifting; according to the Philadelphia Daily News, we might see him with the big club on Sunday. … It appears my BlackBerry Curve has died after about two years of service; if you've got a phone reeco to share, please do so in the comments.
Speed Round: Johnny Damon(notes) got a routine day off, recharging after an 0-for-10 stretch against Washington. … Vampire Manny Ramirez(notes) got his typical daytime rest; he'll be ready to go for his return to Fenway Park this weekend. Russell Martin(notes) was also rested Thursday, while Rafael Furcal(notes) is on the bereavement list. … Aaron Heilman(notes) must be taking to the idea of being a closer because on Thursday he did what so many bona-fide closers do – he made a mess out of a non-save appearance. The Red Sox knocked Heilman around for three hits and two runs, and he needed 29 pitches to get through one inning. … Miguel Montero(notes) is 6-for-16 over his last four games (with two walks mixed in) and looks ready to be the stud catcher we all expected back in March. He batted cleanup for the Snakes Thursday. … Travis Hafner(notes) had four homers and 10 RBIs on Cleveland's just-completed homestand, but he's going to be a pinch-hitter only while the Indians play nine straight games in National League parks.
It's time to lose the idea that Robinson Cano(notes) can't hit with men on base and in scoring position (I've seen some roto pundits discussing it this week). Cano has a .391 average with runners in scoring position this year. If the AL MVP voting were held right now, he's certainly in the Top 5 and maybe in the Top 3. … Matt Joyce(notes) has a .329/.460/.486 line in 70 at-bats at Triple-A and might be forcing his way into the Tampa Bay plans. Joe Maddon had positive things to say about Joyce this week, and remember the outfielder would have made the club in spring training if not for an elbow injury. … R.A. Dickey(notes) keeps rolling along merrily (5-0, 2.82 ERA), though his xFIP is almost a full run higher and he's also got a bloated 1.41 WHIP. He'll work at home against the Tigers next week, not the best of matchups. … Damaso Marte(notes) might not be accurate, but he throws harder than I thought (video evidence here).