Here's hoping that you got some rest in those three days without the need to scour box scores and injury notes. Don't worry, we've been keeping tabs on and off the field activity to get you ready for the start of the second half.
A number of star hurlers are on the mend and ready to resume their place in your fantasy lineups. So, that's where we'll begin, with World Series hero and top-level gutsy performer Curt Schilling joining the ailing Red Sox bullpen.
Let's get inside Fantasy Baseball This Week .
- The long-awaited activation of Curt Schilling occurred Wednesday night in anticipation of a big weekend series against the Yankees. Schilling will pitch in relief for the time being, with both Keith Foulke and Matt Mantei on the DL. Fantasy owners want to see their ace back in the rotation, but will be just fine if he snags a couple of saves during this relief stint.
- The Braves will also welcome back two starters to their rotation over the weekend. Barring any setback in Thursday's bullpen work, Tim Hudson, who has been sidelined by a strained left oblique since June 13th, will get the start on Saturday against the Mets. Likewise, Mike Hampton is expected to be activated from the DL for Sunday's game against those same Mets. He's hasn't pitched since May 31st due to a strained forearm.
- Staying with the Braves for another moment, Chipper Jones played in a rehab game with the Class A Rome Braves on Wednesday as he attempts to return from a partially torn ligament in his left foot. He reported discomfort running the bases but felt fine on defense and swinging the bat. He's already been out of the lineup for over a month and eyes a return in 1-2 weeks barring setbacks.
- Brad Hawpe was added to the DL by the Rockies on Sunday after straining his left hamstring while sliding in Saturday's game against San Diego. He should miss the minimum amount of time required past on current reports.
- Nationals outfielder Ryan Church was activated for Thursday's afternoon tilt against Milwaukee. He was placed on the DL on June 22nd after injuring his ribcage while making a catch against the wall.
- The Orioles, who sagged heading into the break before taking 3-of-4 from the Red Sox, will welcome back Erik Bedard this weekend. He pitched five pain-free, shutout innings at Class A Delmarva on Tuesday night. He's apparently fully recovered from the strained MCL in his left knee that put him on the shelf May 22nd. Due to his extended stay on the DL, some owners finally gave up and dumped him to the waiver wire. Check your league to see if he's available.
- The Giants got some good news this week, with trainer Stan Conte advising that Armando Benitez could be ready to return for the Giants by mid-August. He's done some light jogging and threw off the mound for the first time in two months with no significant pain.
- The Blue Jays expect Orlando Hudson to return to the lineup this weekend after missing a week with a hamstring injury. The Toronto Sun reports that he was running well and experienced little discomfort.
- Nick Johnson, who's currently on the DL with a heel injury, was unable to begin his rehab assignment this weekend. He had been expected to return to action this weekend, but the timetable for his return has been tossed out the window. Owners can look to veterans Rafael Palmeiro or Jason Giambi if they're looking to replace the fragile Johnson.
- Owners waiting on Carl Pavano to get on track will watch him take the first step back on Sunday against Boston.
- Can you believe it? With his rehabilitation from their horrific groin injury far ahead of schedule, Nomar Garciaparra might be activated in 2-3 weeks. Maybe Derrek Lee will get help in the lineup besides Aramis Ramirez after all!
- One final note on the radar screen is the possible end of Al Leiter's 18-year MLB career. Saddled with a 6.64 ERA and 1.85 WHIP, the Marlins have no room for him on the staff and there's no interest on the trade market. It's unlikely that many fantasy owners still retain Leiter's services at this juncture, but he certainly deserves a tip of the cap for his past fantasy contributions.
- Cory Lidle, SP, Phi: Lidle is on the move after three straight solid outings, including five-hit shutout ball over eight innings against the Nationals. He has allowed just four earned runs over his last 22 innings of work (1.64 ERA) with two wins. The big news is that he also fanned a total of 20 hitters over that stretch.
- Esteban Loaiza, SP, Was: Loaiza closed the first half strong by winning three of his final four decisions and pitched well in a no-decision Sunday against Philadelphia. His ERA was a solid 2.52 in his final four starts to close the half.
- Bret Boone, 2B, Min: Interest in Boone spiked upon news that the Twins had acquired him. He'll assume the starting role at 2B, sending Michael Cuddyer, Luis Rivas and Nick Punto to the pine. He hit .267 with 13 homers and 47 RBIs after the break last year with 31 extra-base hits. Owners are hoping that his insertion into the scrappy Twins lineup will spark a resurgence in his bat.
- Rafael Palmeiro, 1B, Bal: Perhaps owners think opposing pitchers will look to join the record books by serving up Palmeiro's 3000th career hit this weekend in Seattle. Others are hoping that his three home runs and nine RBIs in the three games prior to the break are the start of something big for the second half.
- Jorge Cantu, 2B/3B, Tam: Multi-position eligibility and 15 homers at the break have managers claiming Cantu off the waiver wire. Though he hit a weak .195 in 41 July at-bats prior to the break, three of his eight hits cleared the fence and helped him to pile up 10 RBIs.
- Keith Foulke, RP, Bos: Owners have apparently made the decision for Red Sox management that Foulke is no longer the stopper in Boston. Foulke has been dropped in a large number of leagues this past week, with word of Schilling and Chad Bradford joining the bullpen. Though he's been positively brutal in save situations this year, Foulke is worth stashing at the far end of the bench.
- Any Pirates: Daryle Ward, Rob Mackowiak, Kip Wells and assaulter of laundry carts, Oliver Perez, have been among the top-5 most released players this past week. Ward's 52 RBIs clearly don't speak to owners, despite his dual position (1B/OF) eligibility. Mackowiak's versatility couldn't outweigh his .188 average to start the month. And, except for a tremendous four-hit shutout against Philadelphia on July 5th, Kip Wells has been positively brutal of late. He lost five of his last six decisions, accumulating a sizable 7.33 ERA over that stretch. Perez's temper tantrum finally signaled the end of owners' faith that he'd turn it around.
- Jake Westbrook, SP, Cle: Westbrook has had a few terrible starts this year, but has mostly been victimized by the Indians' offense. They'd finally rallied to his defense in June, when they scored nine or more runs in three of four outings to close the month. He then dropped two decisions to start July, allowing eight earned runs, 11 hits and six walks in just 11 innings pitched. Owners have responded by kicking him to the curb during the All-Star break.
- Derek Lowe, SP, LAD: He's allowed six home runs in his last nine innings of work (almost HR Derby quality) and surrendered 14 hits in those outings. Lowe last tasted victory on June 6th, and has since his ERA leap by 2/3 of a run since.
- Preston Wilson, OF, Was: The finalization of Wilson's trade to Washington triggered a wave of drops like no other. Owners didn't wait to see if he could produce for his new club. He responded to fantasy owners sentiments by depositing a Doug Davis pitch into the seats in his first at-bat for the Nationals.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Eric Byrnes, OF, Col
Owners in NL-only leagues always welcome fresh blood to the starting lineup of the Rockies. Byrnes also warrants consideration in mixed leagues as well, as he did hit 20 homers with 73 RBIs a year ago in Oakland. The Rockies have 34 home games remaining and Todd Helton is heating up. That means good times for Byrnes in the second half.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Craig Counsell, 2B, Ari
Counsell started the season with a bang, displaying great balance with a high batting average, a handful of homers and stolen bases. He's stolen only two bases in his last 37 games and is hitting only .158 to start July.
HOT AND COLD
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Atl: He's the latest of the young Braves to rise to the Major Leagues and started his tenture with a bang. Francoeur launched a three-run homer in his Major League debut and later launched a second before the break. He's expected to retain a piece of the outfield work alongside Ryan Langerhans and Kelly Johnson. The 21-year old Francoeur is worth a look-see for teams needing some pop in the outfield.
Craig Monroe, OF, Det: The Tigers' RBI leader is happy to see Magglio Ordonez back in the lineup. Monroe carried a seven-game hitting streak into the break, adding two stolen bases, a home run and seven RBIs during that stretch.
Barry Zito, SP, Oak: He started slow, but has rounded into shape. And, it looks like the A's are ready for another of their patented second-half runs. Zito has been brilliant in his last four starts, earning three wins and a no-decision, including two wins over the White Sox. During that four-game stretch, he allowed four earned runs in 29 1/3 innings pitched (1.23 ERA).
Horacio Ramirez, SP, Atl: He's won four of his last five starts, including a three-hit gem in his last start against the Cubs. He got hit hard in his prior outing against Philadelphia when he surrended six earned runs. While Ramirez isn't piling on strikeouts, he has worked at least five innings in seven of his last eight starts.
Angel Berroa, SS, Kan: Berroa carried an eight-game hitting streak (six straight multi-hit games) into the All-Star break. He's showing some flashes of his 2003 Rookie of the Year self. The key is that Berroa is putting the ball into play more consistently, dropping his K/AB ratio from 1/5 to nearly 1/10.
Cliff Lee, SP, Cle: Lee still holds a season record of 9-4 and a respectable 3.89 ERA. However, he's struggled of late in a three-game against the AL East (Bos, Bal, NYY). He allowed 14 earned runs in 18 innings pitched in those three games, compiling a record of 1-1 (7.00 ERA and 1.61 WHIP).
Jason Bay, OF, Pit: Perhaps he's the root of the Pittsburgh purge referenced above? Bay hit .214 in his last dozen games (9-for-41) with four extra-base hits and four RBIs. He's currently mired in a 1-for-18 drought.
Scott Rolen, 3B, StL: To those who've written to me this week about the prospect of releasing Rolen (and there were many), you're kidding, right? Yes, he's got one hit in his last 17 at-bats and hasn't generated the monster numbers you expected. But, you can't simply cut him loose. If necessary, put him on the bench if you think you have other options and wait to see how his second-half develops. Or, dangle him as trade bait and get some pitching help. Anything but the outright release!
Chris Young, SP, Tex: Young still holds a solid 4.01 season ERA, but has seen it rise 2/3 of a run with two sub-par outings in a row to close the first half. He allowed 10 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in home starts against Boston and Toronto (14.22 ERA).
Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, Tam: Huff turned it on in the second half a year ago and it looked like he was ready to do so again when he opened July with a six-game hitting streak (3 HR, 7 RBIs), but he limped into the All-Star break with just one hit in 15 at-bats during a four-game series against Detroit.
Johnny Damon, Bos, OF
Why he's being dealt: He's dialed in with a .343 average and 42 RBIs, but isn't providing much assistance to the HR (4) or SB (9) categories. Last year, his average dropped 36 points after the break.
What you're getting: Straight up deals involving Damon have returned pitchers such as the aforementioned B.J. Ryan, Jon Garland, Mike Mussina and Mark Prior. Most deals involving other position players have been multi-player deals. Damon is typically paired with a pitcher (Dustin Hermanson, Francisco Rodriguez, Barry Zito) in exchange for sluggers such as Carlos Delgado, Mark Teixeira or Carlos Beltran.
Scott Podsednik, CWS, OF
Why he's being dealt: Owners with an overabundance of speed are trading the leader for help in other areas, most notably power and ERA/WHIP. Those in the market for Podsednik recognize an opportunity to make a move in the category with just half a season of his legs.
What you're getting: This past week, Podsednik was dealt straight up for Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Hideki Matsui, teammate Jon Garland, Jeremy Bonderman and Chris Carpenter. Package deals involving Podsednik generally return a closer such as B.J. Ryan or Joe Nathan and a multi-position player with some pop or speed such as Chone Figgins or Felipe Lopez. One deal that smacks of either desperation or collusion exchanged Podsednik for Carlos Beltran AND Ben Sheets.
Jason Schmidt, SF, SP
Why he's being dealt: Owners wonder if they haven't gotten the best possible from the Giants star for this season. After winning three straight to end June, he dropped two games before the All-Star break. Schmidt buyers are hoping that the rumors of a deal to Chicago or another contending team are actualized.
What you're getting: Despite his 5.01 ERA, Schmidt has been dealt up for a number of top first-half performers straight up, including Jon Garland, Miguel Cabrera and Joe Nathan. More commonly, Schmidt appears as part of a package deal with another starter such as Livan Hernandez, Cliff Lee or Matt Clement in exchange for under-achieving power producers such as Adrian Beltre, Carlos Beltran or Todd Helton.
Chad Cordero, Was, RP
Why he's being dealt: Current owners anticipate rough roads ahead for Washington and are selling high after 31-save first half. Owners taking him on need closer help and aren't convinced the Nats will fold so easily.
What you're getting: Cordero has been the subject of a great number of straight up swaps, generally for power -- hitting or pitching. Magglio Ordonez, Hideki Matsui, Roger Clemens and Dontrelle Willis are but four names that appear multiple times in this week's trade logs for Cordero.
Coors Field Factor:
- The lights are off at Coors Field this week, as the Rockies embark on a 10-game road trip that will take them to Cincinnati, Washington and Pittsburgh. I'll examine the Mets visit to Coors next week.
- In response to reader feedback, I've added a review of activity in Arlington as the Rangers look to break the single-season record for team homers. Of course, visiting hitters find a trip to play the Rangers refreshing as well. The Yankees will visit the Rangers for an early week set once they've finished their four-game set against Boston this weekend.
- Jorge Posada looks forward to the prospect of facing Kenny Rogers before he begins his suspension. Posada is 8-for-16 lifetime against Rogers with four extra-base hits and nine RBIs.
- Jason Giambi has always been comfortable hitting in Texas. He owns a lifetime batting average of .312, with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 47 career games at the ballyard.
- He got dumped back to the waiver wire in droves several weeks back, but David Dellucci rediscovered his power stroke as the first half of the season came to an end. He hit five homers in his final eight games before the break (three at home).
Matchups to watch:
- Bronson Arroyo, a singer in a rock n' roll band (sorry, Moody Blues fans), takes the hill Thursday night against the Yankees after performing at a nightclub on Wednesday night. A full dozen hours before the first pitch, local radio here in upstate New York was already questioning his decision of participating in the gig. He'll face Mike Mussina, who was won four of his last five decisions. On Saturday, Randy Johnson seeks his tenth win against Matt Clement. If both of these strikeout artists are on their game, this could be a classic confrontation.
- Former teammates collide on Friday night when John Smoltz and the Braves take on Tom Glavine and the Mets at Shea Stadium. Smoltz rides a five game winning streak (including three complete games) into the matchup. He faced Pedro Martinez in both of his previous outings versus New York this season.
- Tim Hudson returns to the hill for Atlanta against Victor Zambrano and the Mets on Saturday. Hudson defeated the aforementioned Glavine in his first outing against the Mets, hurling eight shutout innings.
- Mark Mulder reached double-digit wins at the break despite an ERA of 4.34. He looks to build on his seven shutout innings against the Giants as he welcomes Andy Pettitte and the Houston Astros. Pettitte left his last start with tightness in his surgically repaired elbow, but threw on the side earlier in the week and declared himself ready for action. He'll look for his third straight win as well.
- Johan Santana will look to see if he can start the path to replicating his sick second-half of a year ago when he toes the rubber against the Angeles and Bartolo Colon this weekend. Santana has gone five starts without a victory, dating back to a June 8th laugher against Arizona. His ERA has raised 2/3 of a run since that start to an uncharacteristic 3.98.
IT'S A FACT
We all know that Rafael Palmeiro is about to join a truly exclusive club by recording two more hits. He will join Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players to hit 500 homers and reach 3,000 hits. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this feat is that Palmeiro has eclipsed 200 hits just once (1991). He had an amazing nine-year run from 1995-2003 during which he hit at least 38 homers each year.