We have one final push before the annual celebration of the All-Star game in Detroit. That'll give us three days to look at the schedules, split stats and hunker down for the second half. Although I do wish that they could add my guys' HR Derby totals to the standings …
Let's take a peek at Fantasy Baseball This Week for the final week of the first half.
Curt Schilling is on his way back to the Red Sox roster as a reliever and will combine with Mike Timlin and Alan Embree to close out games while Keith Foulke recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. GM Theo Epstein told the AP that the decision to bring Schilling back slowly with time in the pen "helps us avoid doing something desperate and short-sighted."
Atlanta Braves fans and fantasy owners got a double-shot of good news on Wednesday when both Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton pitched pain-free simulated games. They'll either make rehab starts this weekend at Myrtle Beach or Rome, or pitch another simulated game before returning to the Braves roster for the second half.
Staying in Atlanta, highly touted prospect Jeff Francouer was called up to replace the injured Brian Jordan on the roster. He had hit .275 with 13 HR, 62 RBIs and 13 stolen bases at Double-A Mississippi prior to the call-up. Francouer is expected to platoon with Ryan Langerhans and Kelly Johnson at the corner outfield positions.
Fantasy owners are throwing the voodoo at Brad Halsey, whose fastball broke J.D. Drew's left wrist and sent him to the DL for at least two months. Drew is expected to be in a cast for as long as six weeks before he can begin rehabilitation. Ricky Ledee will be activated from the DL this weekend to take Drew's starting gig. On Wednesday, All-Star shortstop Cesar Izturis joined him on the DL with the hamstring injury that had derailed him for nearly a month.
Josh Beckett will miss his next scheduled start on Sunday against Chicago with a strained left oblique (the same injury that has been a thorn in Tim Hudson's side the past two years). Al Leiter gets the call back to the rotation in his absence, and it's likely that Beckett will hit the DL from this one.
Derrek Lee owners held their breath after seeing headlines about his shoulder injury on Tuesday. The MRI came back negative and therefore Lee is listed as day-to-day. He may miss Thursday's double-header but return in time for the weekend series versus Florida.
Andy Pettitte won for the sixth time this season on Wednesday, but left the game after five innings with tightness in his left elbow. Phil Garner believes that Pettitte will be available to the team after the All-Star break, but we'll be sure to keep an eye on this situation. He'd allowed only three earned runs over his past 27 innings of work over four outings, winning three of those starts.
Erik Bedard is scheduled to make several appearances for Double-A Bowie before returning to the Orioles after the All-Star break. He threw 50 pitches off a mound on Monday without experiencing discomfort.
Besides the injury to Drew, the Dodgers continue to be without outfielder Milton Bradley. He was unable to swing a bat on Tuesday, citing pain in his injured finger. It would appear that surgery is around the corner.
Brandon Lyon reported discomfort in his elbow after a throwing session on Monday. Arizona doesn't believe this will impact his return date, but it may keep Brian Bruney in the closer role for an extended period.
Ray Durham was scratched from the lineup on Wednesday with a wrist injury sustained during batting practice. X-rays were to be taken Wednesday night, but the Giants made a pre-emptive roster move in calling up Brian Dallimore from Fresno. That would indicate that the injury may send Durham to his annual DL stint.
Ramon Hernandez wants back into action on Friday. He took BP on Tuesday and reported no ill effects on his wrist. And, who wouldn't want a shot at three games at Coors Field?
Mike Timlin, RP, Bos: He's already picked up two saves for the Red Sox and will be the main man out of the pen while Foulke recovers from surgery. He has also blown two opportunities and will split time with Alan Embree and Curt Schilling. Johnny Damon told the Hartford Courant that Bronson Arroyo would be the best choice for the role. Since the Red Sox will certainly win their share of games during Foulke's absence, Timlin is a solid waiver-wire acquisition.
Jarrod Wasburn, SP, LAA: Washburn hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in an outing since May 25th against Chicago. He's allowed only one earned run in his past 19 innings of work, including two brilliant outings against the potent Rangers lineup. Washburn is currently tied for fourth in the AL ERA race at 3.06.
Wily Mo Pena, OF, Cin: Pena's finally seeing regular playing time and has responded in a huge way. He has hit safely in 11 of his past 12 games (.320) with three homers and 10 RBIs. Take the Ks with the big flies. He could make a run to 30 HR before year's end.
Esteban Loaiza, SP, Was: Loaiza has won four of his past five outings. He's still subject to the occasional brutal outing, as evidenced by his June 13th start against the Angels, but he has allowed three or fewer earned runs in four of his past six outings. I'd be looking to start Loaiza at home where he's 4-1 with an outstanding 2.36 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. He's been battered on the road, compiling a record of 1-4 with a bloated 5.24 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Opponents are also hitting .314 against him on the road.
Frank Thomas, DH/1B, CWS: In 25 games since returning from the DL, Thomas has slammed 11 homers and knocked in 21 runs. He also owns a modest five-game hitting streak.
Bret Boone, 2B, NA: Boone was designated for assignment last week, prompting owners who had ridden out his miserable start to finally kick him to the curb. Reports have both the Twins and Yankees interested in his services, provided that they can get Seattle to pick up a big portion of his huge salary. If you're in an AL-only league with room on your bench, check to see if he's been dumped.
Rob Mackowiak, 2B/3B, Pit: Mackowiak became a hot commodity when his batting average ran to .350 and he was knocking in piles of runs. He has hit just .162 (12-for-74) since June 15th with zero homers and just six RBIs. Fantasy owners have jumped off of the bandwagon.
Rodrigo Lopez, SP, Bal: Lopez has lost three in a row after piecing together a three-game win streak. He was hit hard in Tuesday's loss to the Yankees (11 hits and 10 runs, only five of which were earned). He pitched well in his previous start against Cleveland, having allowed only three earned runs over seven innings, but three rough outings in his past four starts have owners dumping him to the waiver wire. Even with his brilliant June 15th outing against Houston (one earned run in eight innings pitched), Chen has an ERA of 6.27 since June 1st.
Nick Johnson, 1B, Was: Despite his lofty .320 average and solid returns in both the RBI (42) and Runs (43) columns, Johnson's stint on the DL with a heel injury has owners tossing him to waivers. It's true what they say, fantasy owners dig the long ball. Well, from the 1B position, anyway.
Kyle Lohse, SP, Min: Owners are going against the grain with this one. Typically, a pitcher is on the add list after allowing just one earned run over 14 innings of work. Perhaps owners chalk those outings up simply to the strength of competition (Milwaukee and Tampa Bay). Lohse had, after all, given up 10 earned runs in his previous two outings (Detroit and San Francisco). I can't say I understand his release before a Thursday start against Kansas City.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Willy Taveras, OF, Hou
Taveras remains available on the waiver wire in a number of leagues despite his 22 stolen bases. He hit .343 during the month of June and is off to a great start in July with a .407 average (11-for-27) with four steals. Use him at Minute Maid Park, where he's hitting .366 for the year.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Corey Patterson, OF, ChC
Patterson will taunt you with big home runs and some thefts, but Dusty Baker's use of him in the leadoff role sent him into a tailspin. He hit .218 in the leadoff role (.179 in the two-hole) and hit an awful .157 in June.
HOT AND COLD
Juan Encarnacion, OF, Fla: Might he get dealt and sent to a more hitter-friendly home park? Whatever happens, Encarnacion has put together a solid run over the past two weeks. He's hit .359 since June 23rd with two homers and nine RBIs.
Adam Everett, SS, Hou: He had a big week, cracking two homers with five RBIs and three important stolen bases. Everett also hit .357 (10-for-28) during this stretch.
Gary Matthews Jr., OF, Tex: I previewed Matthews last week as he started pilfering at-bats from Richard Hidalgo. In the past week, he's hit .318 with three homers, solidifying his place in the Rangers outfield.
Coco Crisp, OF, Cle: Cleveland has been surging, led by Travis Hafner's HR barrage and Victor Martinez's 17-game hitting streak. Lost in those stories is Crisp's productivity. He's hit .353 (12-for-34) this past week with seven runs scored and two stolen bases.
Ted Lilly, SP, Tor: Armed with 23 runs of offense in his past two starts, Lilly allowed only one earned run over 13 innings pitched. That gives him four great outings and four wins in his past five starts. In those wins, he's allowed three earned runs in 27 innings pitched (1.00 ERA).
Jeff Francis, SP, Col: The rookie ran his record to 8-5 with his third straight victory on Tuesday. He's allowed three earned runs in his last 20.1 innings pitched (1.33 ERA), including two home starts and a road trip to St. Louis.
Brandon Inge, C, 3B, OF, Det: His catcher eligibility makes him a roster must and he's knocked in 36 runs and stolen four bases. However, he's been on ice over the past 11 games, hitting a weak .163 with zero homers and only one RBI.
Luis Gonzalez, OF, Ari: Gonzalez's swing has been off since missing several games at the end of June due to a death in his family. He's hit .103 since June 29th (3-for-29) with one homer and one RBI. Gonzalez had been on a role before his absence, so it's just a matter of time before he gets back on track.
Ervin Santana, SP, LAA: OK, so it's the yo-yo effect from this guy thus far in his rookie year. He'll have a great outing and then follow it with a dog. In his past four starts, he's alternated one-run dominant performances with seven-run debacles. So, in theory, he should have a big outing against Seattle on Sunday.
Dmitri Young, 1B/OF, Det: He has just one hit (a homer) in his past 26 trips to the plate. After a strong start in April, Young's power numbers and average have dipped each month (.213 with four HR and 10 RBIs in June).
Bill Hall, 2B/SS, Mil: Hall has hit the skids over his past 10 games, batting .091 (3-for-33). He hit two homers and stole three bags during that stretch, but struck out 11 times.
Jody Gerut, OF, Cle: Gerut's return from the DL had owners champing at the bit to get him into their lineups after two years of promise. He's eight for his past 34 at-bats with two extra-base hits and just three RBIs. Gerut's not generating a spark in any category, prompting his return to the waiver wire.
Magglio Ordonez, Det, OF
Why he's being dealt: Owners who had the luxury of storing him in a DL spot are taking advantage of power-starved owners banking he'll stay healthy.
What you're getting: Recent straight up deals for Ordonez saw him exchanged for stolen base king Scott Podsednik and struggling starters Mark Mulder and Jason Schmidt. Package deals involving Ordonez have paired him with closers such as Todd Jones and Brad Lidge in exchange for starters John Smoltz, Josh Beckett and outfielders such as Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.
Adam Dunn, Cin, OF
Why he's being dealt: The talk of Dunn stealing more bases has fizzled, but teams looking strictly for power aid need look no further.
What you're getting: Several leagues witnessed the exchange of Dunn straight up for Curt Schilling. Several others watched the straight up power for speed swap involving Dunn for Juan Pierre or the aforementioned Podsednik. Multi-player deals typically send Dunn and a closer (Mike MacDougal, Huston Street, Derrick Turnbow) packing for higher level closers (Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Cordero) and starting pitching help (C.C. Sabathia, Bronson Arroyo, Freddy Garcia).
Andruw Jones, Atl, OF
Why he's being dealt: Power barrage has his stock soaring. Current owners enjoyed the spark but expect his historical lack of plate discipline to return.
What you're getting: Jones has been involved in a huge number of deals this week, returning Dontrelle Willis, Randy Johnson, Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter and Carl Crawford in straight up deals. In several instances, owners have been able to command a huge premium for Jones, returning combinations such as Derek Jeter and Jermaine Dye, Vernon Wells and Cliff Lee for him alone.
Matt Clement, Bos, SP
Why he's being dealt: Healthy and dominant, current owners are reaping the benefits of a savvy pick. Those seeking him out expect a similar second half behind the Red Sox bats.
What you're getting: Straight up deals for Clement this past week has returned teammate Schilling, Eric Chavez and Livan Hernandez. He's been paired with players such as Adam Eaton, Johnny Damon and Mike Sweeney in two-for-one deals for Chris Carpenter, Eddie Guardado or Miguel Cabrera.
Coors Field Factor:
I've been asked on a number of occasions over the past week or two why we at Yahoo! Sports include the look-in for Coors Field and don't shift the focus to other parks. The rationale for its inclusion is that the offensive explosions that take place at Coors just might be worth a glance at the waiver wire to find a three-game sparkplug or to pick up a Rockies hitter for a pending homestand. Given this year's output at The Ballpark at Arlington, we just might look to add them to the mix in the second half.
The Rockies finish the first half by welcoming the Padres to town for a three-game set. After the break, they'll embark on an extended road trip to Cincinnati, Washington and Pittsburgh.
Khalil Greene can be found on the waiver wire in a large number of leagues and makes for a great short-term acquisition this weekend. He's a lifetime .368 hitter in 14 career games at Coors, slugging seven homers and 18 RBIs. Put another way, Greene has a ridiculous 1.297 OPS in 57 career at-bats at Coors.
Xavier Nady should see time at first base this weekend with Phil Nevin expected to sit until after the All-Star break. He hit two home runs in his first game at Coors this year (4-for-8 with four RBIs in the series). The Padres can also use another surge of his power game, as he has just one extra-base hit in his past eight games since his streak of four games with a homer.
Sean Burroughs is rumored to be heading to Triple-A to work on his swing. Burroughs has just seven extra-base hits in 235 at-bats. He'd like to stick around for the weekend, as he's compiled a lifetime .402 average with two homers and 11 RBIs in 25 Coors appearances.
Garrett Atkins continues his season of ridiculous split stats, pushing his home average to .405 with five homers and 26 RBIs. On the road, he's been a disaster, compiling a batting average of .215 with two homers and 10 RBIs.
Matchups to watch:
Jon Garland and Kirk Saarloos will do battle for the second time in a week when the A's visit the White Sox. Garland won their first tussle, allowing three earned runs over seven innings pitched. He's seeking to win his 14th game before the All-Star break. To show how effective he's been this year, he's gotten into the sixth inning in every start and has earned a decision in each outing.
Roy Halladay will look for win number 13 against the Rangers at Arlington. He pitched a complete game against Texas in their park earlier this year, allowing only one earned run on five hits.
The Cubs travel to Florida to take on the Marlins for a three-game series, with Carlos Zambrano opening things up against Dontrelle Willis. Willis has been dominant no matter where he pitches, but we cannot say the same for Zambrano. In nine road starts, he's compiled a record of 2-3 with an ERA of 5.13 and WHIP of 1.39.
In what would have been one of those "marquee" matchups before the season, Mark Mulder and Jason Schmidt will do battle on Friday when St. Louis visits San Francisco. Mulder currently possesses his highest ERA and WHIP marks since his rookie year, and Schmidt is sitting on an absurd 5.11 ERA with a WHIP of 1.59. Fantasy owners that drafted these guys early are praying that they see some signs of life heading into the break.
The embattled Kenny Rogers will take to the hill for the first time since July 3rd on Saturday versus Toronto in search of his 10th win. It'll be interesting to see how he responds to all of the attention and whether he can keep his remarkable season going strong.
Fantasy owners will get their final first-half start out of Randy Johnson on Sunday against Cleveland. He's alternated good and bad starts over his past five outings. Will he bring his "A" game and get his ERA under 4.00 with his ninth win, or will he send owners uneasily into the break?
IT'S A FACT
It's funny how Bartolo Colon received so much attention and derision for his struggles a year ago (5.01 ERA and 1.37 WHIP) despite winning 18 games. With three more wins this season, Colon will have reached 14 wins for the eighth straight season. He's not quite Maddux, but he sure answers the bell every fifth day.