Hot, cold and injured players

Mike Harmon
Yahoo! Sports

It's only been about three weeks since most teams opened the season, but things already are shaping up strangely. Lost in the hoopla surrounding A-Rod's slow start are the struggles of the rest of the boys in pinstripes. Jeter, Bernie, Matsui and Sheffield are being outslugged by the likes of Ray Lankford and the rejuvenated Jermaine Dye.

Maybe A-Rod just needs to get back his old jersey number. I just retired the No. 3 in corporate softball, and they're already clamoring for its return – of the jersey number, not me in it. That's valuable real estate.

Tradition be damned. Pull the No. 3 down off the wall. The Babe would want ARod to have it, or some nonsense like that. Big Stein needs wins, and bunt singles from this guy aren't going to cut it.

Here are a few other oddities: Henry Blanco has matched the RBI production of Manny Ramirez, Hideo Nomo has three victories in April despite an ERA worse than 6.50 (I think the Dodgers scored a total of six runs last April), Charles Johnson has as many stolen bases as Johnny Damon.

A quick glance at the Buzz Index of Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball shows that several thousand owners have dropped Aubrey Huff and Brian Giles. Now, I know that it's discouraging to watch a guy roll off to a .152 start with little to no power, but take heed from a Matt Romig motto: "It's only April." You can't just drop 30 home runs and 100 RBIs to the waiver wire and watch the guy at the top of the priority list steal that production.

I'm scratching my head as I watch the drop totals for these players mount, while luminaries such as Lew Ford and Alex Gonzalez of the Cubs are being added to rosters by the truckload. Fourteen games does not a season make! Guys who mash for years on end don't suddenly just lose it and vice versa (remember, Brady Anderson only showed a one-year power surge, and Greg Vaughn had a nice run before his late-career plunge.)

Pitchers generally do not enjoy the type of long-term success that a lot of hitters do, but there aren't many Mark Fidrych-like characters running around either. It is only appropriate to speak of "The Bird" given the tremendous start by the Tigers.

Let's take a look at the temperature gauge to see who's making a name or piling on shame in the big leagues this week.

Scorching

Vinny Castilla, Colorado Rockies: Castilla's return to Colorado has been everything a fantasy owner could hope for, and that's with only three games at Coors Field. His .318 average, four home runs and nine RBIs this past week warrant a look at the waiver wire.

Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles: Roberts has filled in admirably in Jerry Hairston Jr.'s absence. Roberts' .360 average and seven runs this week offered owners solid value, but the key to his contribution was two stolen bases. He's still available in about one-third of leagues.

Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs: After a slow start, Ramirez woke up last week. He launched five bombs and drove in 14 runs while hitting .500. Oh yeah, that's five more home runs and 14 more RBIs than he had in the first seven games. Historically he hits his stride in the summer, so the best is yet to come when the wind starts blowing out at Wrigley.

Matt Lawton, Cleveland Indians: Lawton is one of the players benefiting from the departure of Milton Bradley. He put up an outstanding week (three home runs, 11 RBIs, .409) and forced fantasy owners to the waiver wire. They're hoping for a 20-home run and 20-stolen base season in the heart of the Indians' order.

Joe Kennedy, Colorado Rockies: The former Devil Rays prospect who posted a 3-12 record in 2003 has found refuge in Colorado. He stepped up with two wins, a 2.08 ERA and 1.000 WHIP against Los Angeles and Arizona. And he won both of those games at the launching pad. Now that's impressive..

John Thomson, Atlanta Braves: Nobody's confusing this staff with that of Atlanta's heyday, but Thomson is off to a nice start for the Braves, earning a victory against the Mets and contributing a solid outing against Cincinnati. Unfortunately, he's not going to bring you a bunch of strikeouts, and his career WHIP and ERA are frightening. Can Atlanta be the grand elixir to get him going? He's a spot starter in a head-to-head league only.

Jose Mesa, Pittsburgh Pirates: It's good to see Mesa off to a great start after getting bounced from Philadelphia. He put up two saves and did not yield an earned run. He's perfect in save opportunities so far, with five in Pittsburgh's seven victories. If that ratio holds throughout the season, that's big output and a huge bonus to shrewd owners.

Freezing

Carlos Delgado, Toronto Blue Jays: I omitted Delgado from last week's piece figuring he would get it together. Well, it looks like it's going to take a little longer. He put up a pathetic one run and .105 average last week with zeroes across the board in the power categories. We'll see if the Blue Jays' upcoming road trip gets him on track.

Eric Chavez, Oakland Athletics: The A's expected huge things out of Chavez this year as the cornerstone of the franchise (OK, except for those pitchers). So far, Chavez is being upstaged by the resurgent Jermaine Dye. Chavez put up a .111 batting average with two runs and two RBIs last week.

Edgardo Alfonzo, San Francisco Giants: The Giants have got to do something about the lack of production out of Alfonzo. Pedro Feliz has been stellar in limited duty, posting a .333 average with two home runs and six RBIs. This past week Alfonzo posted a .200 batting average and a bunch of blanks. Off to the waiver wire with him.

David Wells, San Diego Padres: After a brilliant first outing against the Giants, Wells has been brutalized in his last two starts. He never was a big strikeout threat, but two Ks over 10 innings? He'll get his next start over the weekend at Arizona. I'm not ready to pull the trigger on Wells just yet, but I've now officially PIPed him. (That's California speak for process or performance improvement plan.)

Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox: Even if they don't hit it hard (see tape for A-Rod's bunt on Tuesday), it's a bullet to the gap in fantasy baseball. After two solid outings, Buehrle struggled against Kansas City and the Yankees. His ERA ballooned to 5.96. He'll next take the hill against Tampa Bay, so give him the ball on the fifth day.

Kazuhisa Ishii, Los Angeles Dodgers: He had a great first outing but was roughed up in San Diego and Colorado. Ishii will take on the Giants this Sunday, and that means a couple of intentional walks to Bonds to augment his already bloated total.

Stone Chillin'

Roberto Alomar of Arizona hit the DL for the first time since 1998 with a broken hand. The Diamondbacks will use Matt Kata at 2B in his absence. He showed a little pop last season and some speed, legging out five triples. Note to Bob Brenly please let him run.

Mark Teixeira of Texas hit the DL retroactive to April 13th. Adrian Gonzalez and Herbert Perry will be splitting time at 1B in his absence. Neither warrants fantasy consideration.

Carl Everett of Montreal is out for a month with a tear in his shoulder. Ron Calloway and Juan Rivera will fill in. Pass.

Angel Berroa of the Royals struggled out of the gate and found himself on the DL with migraine headaches. He's expected to return on May 1. Rookie Andres Blanco is filling in for Berroa and drove in two runs in his debut.

I am disturbed that Blanco guy was born in 1984. I have truly gotten old. Next.

Jose Valentin of the White Sox hit the DL with a strained left hamstring. Juan Uribe is off to a great start and will fill in for Valentin.

• Valentin's teammate, Frank Thomas, also tweaked a hammy last weekend. He's listed as day-to-day.

• Finally, Chipper Jones was hobbled with a right hamstring injury this past weekend and has been spared from the DL for now. He'll miss a few games. Too bad, he was just starting to hit.

This weekend offers a veritable overload of sports entertainment. We've got playoffs in both the NBA and NHL. We've got Yankees-Red Sox, Part Deux live from the Bronx. And we've got the next round of fantasy draft choices on deck with the NFL draft. Next week, we'll track the goings on in Major League Baseball and take a peek at this season's impact rookies.

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