Nobody throws a parade after beating the Nationals these days – Washington has the worst team in the majors. That said, there was a tangible sense of optimism at PNC Park Friday night as the Pirates debuted their new left fielder and snappy new look.
Yep, we're going to talk up Lastings Milledge(notes) in this space again, and why not? The newest Pirate came through with two hits and two RBIs and he looked dapper in his Pittsburgh uniform (No. 85 on your scorecard). I don't care how badly Milledge may have broken your heart back with the Nationals in April, it was a seven-game sample for crying out loud. It's important to remember what he did in the final two months of 2008 (.318-30-7-27-11) and it's time to get his ownership level where it belongs. In any size of mixed league, I'll sign off on an immediate Milledge pickup.
Milledge might be the newest Bucco in the lineup but overall it's a team of fresh faces; six of the eight positional starters Friday didn't start in the season opener. Andrew McCutchen(notes) set the table with two hits and two runs; he's up to .281 on the year. Delwyn Young(notes) didn't have any hits but he's starting to look more comfortable at second base; he's an interesting Swiss Army Knife to consider in deeper groups. Steve Pearce(notes) hasn't hit that much since his recall but he did come through against Washington, ripping a double and a homer. Never forget that every MLB club has fantasy value to offer, and in many cases it's the low-profile teams in the smaller markets that we really have to follow. Don't sleep on this Pittsburgh roster, some sneaky value is going to emerge from this group down the stretch.
• Cliff Lee(notes) probably joined the Phillies at just the right time; the lineup has been punishing teams in the second half, and the Phils have already crossed a handful of daunting ballparks off their visiting list (they're done with Arizona, Colorado and Cincinnati for the year). Lee's NL debut came in a cushy park Friday night – hello, San Francisco – and the classy left-hander toyed with the Giants, allowing just four hits and cruising to a complete-game victory (1 R, 2 BB, 6 K). It's always a little risky forecasting batting support and wins, but given how poorly the Indians backed up Lee this year (they didn't score for him or defend for him), the move to Philly looks like a definite win in my book. I've got Lee and Cole Hamels(notes) ranked at the same fantasy price from here on out, and that's not a knock on Hamels – it's a nod of respect to Lee.
• If I ran the Rangers I'd think long and hard about potentially making C.J. Wilson(notes) a co-closer along with Frank Francisco(notes). Wilson threw a perfect ninth on Friday against Seattle, picking up save No. 12. I can see why it's tempting to slot Wilson into a specialist role because he's absolutely owned left-handed batters this year, but he's been effective enough against righties to handle the ninth-inning assignments as they come. Tip your cap to medicine, he's made a lightning-fast recovery from elbow surgery.
• David Price(notes) didn't enter Friday night as the most confident pitcher around – five of his last seven turns were very messy ones – but a date against the pedestrian Royals lineup brought out his best form (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K). Price threw a manageable 104 pitches over his stint and seemed to have an easier time locating his fastball; perhaps that comes with knowing no one in the opposing lineup can really hurt you all that much. Nonetheless, I don't want any part of him next week against Boston, and in my book Price is just a spot-start option at the moment, not someone you can start-and-forget for the balance of the year.
Fantasy Takeaway: a lot of high-buzz phenoms seem to peak in value five minutes before they throw their first pitch. It's not that I don't like Price as a potential star down the road, but the expectations put on him in March were unrealistic, and it shouldn't come as a great shock that he's been so erratic in his first tour around the American League.
• Elijah Dukes(notes) was recalled by the Nationals after Friday's game, and if the club shows any commitment to playing him, he's someone I'd give a shot to in a mixed league. His bat looked fine during a three-week trial at Triple-A (.288/.397/.545), and he was active on the bases with five steals.
• Edward Mujica(notes) was ticketed for the Padres rotation earlier this week but perhaps the Jake Peavy(notes) deal put a kibosh on that. Mujica worked 4.1 scoreless frames against Milwaukee Friday and obviously will not start on the weekend as originally intended. The Pads won't waste any time getting a look at Clayton Richard(notes); he's going to start Saturday.
Injury Blog: Ian Kinsler(notes) (hamstring) sat out another one Friday, though he says he's merely day-to-day and doesn't expect a trip to the DL. … Matt Lindstrom(notes) (elbow) came off the disabled list but it could be a while before the Marlins use him in a high-leverage situation. Leo Nunez(notes) has a win and seven saves over the last month, and he cleaned up Friday's win over the Cubs. … Brendan Ryan(notes) (ankle) won't go on the disabled list yet but he's very limited by the injury and the Cardinals expect him to miss several games. It's not a big loss at the moment, as Julio Lugo(notes) has hit well since coming over from Boston. … Geovany Soto(notes) (oblique) begins his rehab assignment Saturday according to MLB.com, and he's aiming to be ready when the Cubs play at Coors Field next weekend.
Willy Taveras(notes) (wrist) missed Friday's home date with Colorado and is day-to-day. … Scott Hairston(notes) continues to rest his sore quad and is day-to-day, though he did work out Friday and he's got a chance at playing Saturday. … Michael Cuddyer(notes) left Friday's game in the 11th with a sore lower back. … Shane Victorino(notes) (knee) continues to sit out, which gives some run to newly-acquired Ben Francisco(notes). … Yunel Escobar(notes) (wrist) and Martin Prado(notes) (ankle) both were out of the starting lineup against the Dodgers, though Prado was healthy enough to pinch-hit in the ninth. … The enjoyable Brad Bergesen(notes) emergence is on hold for a while; his leg injury pushed him to the DL Friday. There's no timetable yet on his return. … Forget about Kevin Millwood(notes) (gluteus) this weekend; the earliest we'll see him is Monday.
Speed Round: Justin Duchscherer(notes) was scratched from his rehab turn in the minors Friday but the A's didn't explain much, saying it was for a "non-baseball related issue." … Make it a six-game hitting streak for Kyle Blanks(notes), who went homered and reached base four times against the Brewers. The Padres have smartly given him a regular spot and he's running with it; don't let the season stats dissuade you from a pickup. … George Sherrill(notes) worked the seventh inning at Atlanta and quickly impressed his new mates, striking out the side. He'll probably be the second closing option in LA when Jonathan Broxton(notes) isn't available, but it would probably take a Broxton injury (or toe setback) for Sherrill to be worth universal fantasy ownership again. … Cliff Pennington(notes) got the start in Oakland and went 1-for-3 with a run scored and a walk. He's been handed the starting gig now that Orlando Cabrera(notes) is out of town, much to the dismay of steaming vet Bobby Crosby. … John Smoltz(notes) had his typical 2009 line at Baltimore (6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 2 K) but fell into a win as his mates put up six runs against the struggling Jeremy Guthrie(notes). … One more Pittsburgh note to close the night: Jeff Clement(notes) had a bang-up debut with Triple-A Indianapolis, going 3-for-4 with two homers and a walk. He started at first base, for what it's worth. It will be interesting to see if Clement can get some time with the Bucs later this summer; yesterday's prospect fizzler could be tomorrow's post-hype sizzler.