We opened the summer season this week with a couple of streaking ballclubs in the AL. For the first time, we're not talking about the White Sox or Orioles in this capacity. No, we're caught up in the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox. The Indians entered the mid-week series against the Red Sox with a nine-game winning streak and then went out and got swept. The sweep gave the Red Sox nine wins in 10 games. Happily for fantasy owners, the Red Sox are averaging 6.9 runs scored during this hot streak.
The Yankees got ahead of the calendar with their offensive fireworks on Tuesday night against the Devil Rays. Fantasy owners welcomed back the power stroke of Gary Sheffield.
And what about Andruw Jones? He's still not hitting for average, but nobody's going to argue with his nine homers and 18 RBIs in his past 11 games.
With so much to talk about, let's bust out the microscope and get into Fantasy Baseball This Week .
- What a difference a day makes! Last week in this space, I reported about the early diagnosis of Eric Gagne's injury, and it originally looked like an injury that would sideline him for a couple weeks. As we all now know, he's scheduled to undergo the second reconstructive elbow surgery of his career on Friday. Yhency Brazoban returns to the closer role, where he's converted 12 of 15 save opportunities.
- Good news for Tigers fans and owners looking for a possible spark in their outfield for the second-half. Magglio Ordonez is expected to begin a rehab stint early next week. Ordonez went 0-for-10 for the Tigers in three April games before his extended trip to the DL.
- Melvin Mora, who is having another All-Star season at 3B for the Orioles, pulled up lame in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game with hamstring pull. He'll be held out of the weekend series against Atlanta, and a trip to the DL has not been ruled out.
- J.D. Drew is battling a sore left knee and had an MRI done. No structural damage was revealed, so a trip to the DL should be averted. Keep an eye on his status for the weekend.
- Johnny Damon sat out Wednesday's game against Cleveland with a sore right shoulder. Proclaiming himself "a fast healer," Damon expects to be back in the lineup for this weekend's series against Philadelphia.
- Ramon Hernandez landed on the DL with a wrist injury, meaning that San Diego will have Robert Fick and Miguel Ojeda minding the plate. You'll find better options than this tandem on the waiver wire, including Mike Matheny and Bengie Molina.
- Mike Hampton of the Braves, dominant in his first nine starts (1.83 ERA and 1.07 WHIP) continues to be sidelined by an injured forearm. He's expected to begin light throwing in the next week, but no timetable has been set for his return.
- Aubrey Huff is a hot topic in my mailbag based on his feeble four-HR power production. Lost in those diatribes is the fact that he's hitting .293 in June (he hit .206 in May). He's listed in this space because he is now sidelined with a knee injury. The D-Rays will likely hold him out of this weekend's series.
- Adam Eaton was sent to the DL with a strained flexor tendon in his right middle finger. The Padres made the move retroactive to June 16, so he should only miss one turn in the rotation.
- The Angels placed Steve Finley on the DL due to a strained right shoulder that he sustained in the first week of April. The injury has limited Finley's bat speed and cut down his power production (.225, 8 HR). Mickey Hatcher told the AP: ``I think he's making the right choice now. And if he wasn't going to make it, I was going to make it for him.'' The Angels hope that the 2-3 week break will allow him to strengthen his shoulder and get him bat right.
- Phil Nevin will be sidelined with a strained oblique sustained in batting practice. He's down for at least the next week, but these injuries take as long as six weeks to heal.
- Finally, Curt Schilling tossed a pain-free simulated game on Monday and is scheduled to throw some batting practice on Friday. If that goes well, he'll start a rehab assignment next week. The Red Sox are winners of eight of their last nine games and eagerly anticipate the return of their ace.
- Grady Sizemore, OF, Cle: With Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez still scuffling along, Sizemore's sizzling bat spurred Cleveland to its recent nine-game winning streak. He's hitting .398 for the month of June with an OBP of .444. Owners of those players in the Tribe's heart of the order wish they'd take full advantage of Sizemore's brilliance.
- Bengie Molina, C, LAA: Molina has hit safely in seven of his past 10 games. For the month of June, he's hitting a solid .317 with 12 RBIs.
- Danny Haren, SP, Oak: Haren has won four of his past five starts, including a six-hit gem against Seattle on Monday night. He's dropped his ERA nearly a full run in one month to a respectable 3.98, having allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of his past six outings.
- Cliff Politte, RP, CWS: Owners have dived on the Politte bandwagon after he vultured three victories in a week's time for the seemingly unstoppable White Sox. He pitched 5.1 shutout innings in piling up those wins. Owners anticipate the White Sox to battle into the late innings every time out, and for Politte to continue to pilfer victories out of the pen.
- Ted Lilly, SP, Tor: Don't let the season stats (6.08 ERA and 1.54 WHIP) scare you off. Lilly has put together back-to-back stellar efforts against Baltimore and St. Louis, allowing just two earned runs over 14 innings of work. He'll next take the mound this weekend against Washington.
- Ugueth Urbina, RP, Phi: He's no longer a closer and isn't the top option should anything befall Billy Wagner. Urbina's been lit up three times since joining the Phillies, including two straight miserable outings this week against the Mets.
- Cesar Izturis, SS, LAD: Four games missed with a hamstring injury and a pathetic .103 June batting average (zero EBH and zero SB) have fantasy owners tossing him back to the waiver wire.
- Vinny Castilla, 3B, Was: He made everyone believers in his abilities away from Coors with a huge April (.347, 3 HR, 16 RBIs), but has been positively atrocious since then. Castilla is hitting .167 in June, with just a single homer and eight RBIs.
- Juan Encarnacion, OF, Fla: His season totals aren't terrible (9 HR, 39 RBIs), but Encarnacion's slow June has him on the outs with fantasy owners. He's hit two homers and knocked in just five runs in 16 June contests.
- Justin Morneau, 1B, Min: Everyone anticipated the big breakout year from the sweet-swinging Minnesota 1B. Morneau has hit just .218 since May 1, and though he's knocked in 28 runs since then, owners are tired of waiting and have begun to look to the rejuvenated bats of veterans Rafael Palmeiro and Tony Clark.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Lew Ford, OF, Min
Ford is finally starting to hit more consistently of late. He's driven in eight runs and hit safely in eight of his past 10 games.
DROP OF THE WEEK
After finally putting together two great starts, Pavano has been battered in his past two outings against Chicago and Tampa Bay (8.25 ERA and 1.50 WHIP).
HOT AND COLD
Jason Schmidt, SP, SF: Amid the talk of a dead arm, Schmidt has not allowed a run in his past two starts. He went eight strong innings, striking out 10, against Arizona on Wednesday night. Schmidt will look to make it three straight wins when he faces the Diamondbacks again next week.
Justin Duchscherer, RP, Oak: With Huston Street sidelined by a hamstring injury, Duchscherer has made the most of his opportunities. He pitched 4.1 innings of shutout ball and picked up three saves. He's worth tucking onto your roster in the event that Street's return is delayed.
Dave Roberts, OF, SD: Everyone expected some speed out of Roberts, and he hasn't disappointed with his 13 steals. But who knew he'd show some pop as well? Roberts clubbed his fifth homer of the year, and third this week, which gives him a new career-high. He also delivered for those who nabbed him on draft day, swiping three bases to complement the power surge.
Jonny Gomes, OF, Tam: Tired of Alex Sanchez's antics, the D-Rays sent him packing last week to recall Gomes. The 24-year old outfielder has made the most of his arrival, hitting safely in eight straight games (.407). He's also hit three homers and driven in six runs. Once he cuts down on his strikeouts (33 percent of his at-bats), he'll truly be dangerous.
Casey Blake, OF/3B, Cle: Blake has hit safely in 10 straight appearances with three homers and nine RBIs in that stretch. After an awful start to the season (.197 through the end of May), Blake has turned it around, hitting a respectable .279.
Carlos Zambrano, SP, ChC: Zambrano has had three rough outings in a row, and turned in the shortest stint of his career on Wednesday night against the Brewers. In his last three outings, he holds a disastrous 12.46 ERA and 2.38 WHIP. He'll next face the Brewers at home.
Bret Boone, 2B, Sea: After a solid but unspectacular April, Boone has been positively awful. As a result, he's found himself riding the pines this week. Boone has been working extensively with Don Baylor on his mechanics. No doubt, Baylor had to throw in at least one session on improving your OBP through getting hit by pitches. We'll check back in on Boone in the FBTW space next week to see if the layoff paid any immediate dividends. It's just too hard to fully write off a second sacker with 25-HR potential.
Geoff Jenkins, OF, Mil: Too bad you don't earn any fantasy points for him robbing Jeromy Burnitz of a homer the other night. Unfortunately, success in the field hasn't translated to his plate appearances. Jenkins has been positively brutal this month, hitting a paltry .148 (though he has hit three home runs).
Jason Marquis, SP, StL: Marquis has taken it on the chin in his past two starts, allowing 11 earned runs over 7.1 innings of work. He also contributed a WHIP just under 3.00 in those outings. And, not that he's a strikeout artist, but he managed just one K in those starts. He can still be dominant (see the 6/10 start vs. the Yankees), but he's on ice for the moment.
Jose Cruz Jr., OF, Ari: What ever happened to that player who seemed destined to string together 30/30 seasons? He now hits a few dingers (nine on the year), but the rest of his game is abysmal. Cruz is battling the Mendoza line and owns a batting average of .141 for the month of June. The dream is over. Anybody need some 1997 rookie cards?
Rafael Furcal, Atl, SS
Why he's being dealt: Current owners are tired of the miserable batting average (.221) and OBP (.275). Those looking to acquire him figure the worst has passed and that he'll still hit 40-50 steals.
What you're getting: Furcal has been dealt straight up for either power or saves. Recent deals have returned Richie Sexson and Bob Wickman. In package deals, Furcal has been teamed with pitchers such as Kenny Rogers and Danys Baez in exchange for starters in the vein of Pedro Martinez and Tim Hudson.
Randy Johnson, NYY, SP
Why he's being dealt: Inconsistency plagues current owners. Those in the market for Johnson are banking that they'll see more of the pitcher that dominated two starts before the D-Rays debacle.
What you're getting: Johnson has been dealt straight up for teammate Gary Sheffield, Mark Teixeira and fellow New York Mets enigma Carlos Beltran. Package deals involving Johnson usually break down to exchanges for other starters (Matt Clement, Roy Halladay, Carlos Zambrano, etc.) with an exchange of outfielders tacked on (Manny Ramirez for Ichiro Suzuki, Craig Biggio for Carl Crawford, etc.).
What you're getting: In the past week, Ensberg has been dealt straight up for Matt Morris and Scott Rolen. A number of deals have been consummated that include both Ensberg and Andruw Jones. Ensberg has been packaged with Edgar Renteria or Torii Hunter to return Jones and Jim Thome or Chris Young.
Oliver Perez, Pit, SP
Why he's being dealt: Though he's won five of his past seven starts, current owners have had enough of his 6.00 ERA. Perez buyers are encouraged by the increased strikeout total and think he's turning the corner.
Coors Field Factor:
- The Rockies open a homestand against the Kansas City Royals this weekend. They eagerly anticipate facing the Royals' staff and their 5.37 team ERA. The Royal limp in, having lost Mike Sweeney, Jeremy Affeldt and Ambiorix Burgos to the DL this week.
- D.J. Carrasco takes the hill for KC on Friday. He allowed only two earned runs over 4.1 innings in his lone career start at Coors.
- In deeper leagues, Matt Stairs might be worth a plug-in play over the weekend. He's holds a lifetime .387 mark with three homers and eight RBIs in 13 games.
- Lance Berkman will be excited to get to Coors on Monday. He's started to hit the ball with authority and has historically hit well in Colorado. He owns a .324 lifetime mark with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 18 career games. If you've had him reserved in anticipation of a breakout series, now's the time to activate him.
- Craig Biggio is confident that he'll play long enough to reach the coveted 3,000-hit mark. Playing a couple more games at Coors will help him reach that mark. He should be activated in all leagues this weekend, as he has hit .398 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 41 career games at Coors.
Matchups to watch:
- Inter-league play makes one last gasp this weekend, and in-town rivalries are renewed when Freddy Garcia leads the White Sox against Sergio Mitre and the Cubs. Garcia allowed one unearned run in seven innings of work when the Sox visited Wrigley last month.
- The Mets and Yankees will square off this weekend as well. On Friday, Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez will meet. Martinez is 7-4 in 15 career starts at Yankee Stadium, but he won't have the big Red Sox bats behind him. At least fantasy owners can look forward to Carlos Beltran bringing his "A" game.
- On Saturday, Jake Peavy takes the hill for the Padres against Seattle and Aaron Sele. Peavy has faced the Mariners three times in his career and has yet to allow an earned run in 21.2 innings pitched.
- Two pitchers that are passing each other on the performance elevator face off on Sunday. Oliver Perez is on his way up with his recent winning ways, and Jason Marquis has been awful. It will be a great glimpse toward the fantasy futures of both.
- David Wells will pitch in the 40th ballpark of his Major League career when he takes the hill against Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Ballpark. Wells has won three straight outings (including two great starts against St. Louis and Cincinnati) and will look to keep the Red Sox's recent revival alive. The Phillies average 5.7 runs per game at home, so if Wells is off, it could make for a long day.
IT'S A FACT
I mentioned Don Baylor earlier in the column when referring to Bret Boone's current woes. Baylor's lone MLB mark of distinction is on the verge of being passed. The next time that future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio gets plunked by a pitch, he will tie Baylor for the all-time mark at 267. As they say, "get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in," any way possible.