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Upgrade/Downgrade

Vazquez, Mulder pick it up; Phils' Burrell slows down

Posted: Tuesday April 26, 2005 3:00PM; Updated: Wednesday April 27, 2005 10:04AM
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Jon Lieber
Jon Lieber is tied with thre other pitchers for the most wins in baseball with four.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The big stories in baseball are the surprising starts by the White Sox and Dodgers, the dreadful start by the Yankees, the dominance of the Marlins' pitching staff and the emergence of Brian Roberts. But in the fantasy world, it's all about who to pick up, who to drop and who to keep an eye on. With that, we bring you the first installment of Upgrade/Downgrade.

UPGRADE

1. Troy Percival, Tigers: He finally earned his first save of the season Monday and struck out a pair of batters. He fanned only two hitters in his first seven appearances of the season.

2. Lance Berkman, Astros: There could be light at the end of the tunnel for Berkman owners. He's expected to play in extended spring-training games this week before starting a rehab assignment over the weekend.

3. Chad Fox, Cubs: Manager Dusty Baker finally got fed up with LaTroy Hawkins' inconsistency. Fox picked up his first save of the season Sunday, and he could continue to do so until Joe Borowski returns.

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4. Javeir Vazquez, Diamondbacks: Has he turned things around? After getting bombed in his first three starts, Vazquez has turned in back-to-back gems, picking up two wins and lowering his ERA from 11.77 to 6.11.

5. Ronnie Belliard, Indians: Following the best season of his career, Belliard is off to a strong start for the Indians and experienced a power surge this past week, belting three home runs.

6. Mark Mulder, Cardinals: Admit it, you were worried after his first two starts, especially since he posted a very un-Mulder-like 4.43 ERA the year before. Well, Mulder since has tossed 18 innings without giving up an earned run.

7. Jon Garland, White Sox: Talk about steady improvement. In his first start, Garland gave up three earned runs. In his second start, two earned runs. In his third start, one earned run. In his last start, no earned runs. I'm not sure what Garland can do next.

8. Jon Lieber: With a year under his belt after Tommy John surgery, Lieber looks ready for a monster season. So far he's had a monster start, going 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA.

9. Brad Hawpe, Rockies: Clint Barmes is the Rockies' rookie sensation getting the pub, but Hawpe deserves props as well. He's come out of the gates batting .366, and more important, is getting the playing time despite Colorado's crowded outfield.

10. Yhency Brazobán, Dodgers: After a poor debut this season (two earned runs in 1/3 of an inning) Eric Gagne's fill-in has been lights out, allowing one earned run in eight inning while picking up five saves.

DOWNGRADE

1. Chipper Jones, Braves: He bruised his left foot Sunday and was out of the lineup against the Mets on Monday. Maybe he just wanted to skip hearing all those "Larry" chants from the New York crowd. Jones' status for the rest of the week is up in the air.

2. Pat Burrell: How can we put a guy who's leading the NL in RBIs here? Easily. He had 17 RBIs in his first seven games. In 12 games since, he's had three.

3. Kerry Wood, Cubs: More tendinitis for the right-hander. You'd have to be the most optimistic fantasy owner to keep him on your roster if  you can find someone willing to trade for Wood. How can anyone expect him to be healthy all year long?

4. Jack Wilson, Pirates: You'd be hard-pressed to find more hideous numbers across the board than Wilson's: .157 BA, .192 OBP, one double, no homers, two RBIs. After batting a career-high .308 last season, it looks like it's back to earth for Wilson. The question now is how long manager Lloyd McClendon sticks with him.

5. Ben Sheets, Brewers: The right-hander probably will miss another start because of an ear infection. Manager Ned Yost has said Sheets could be out 6-12 days.

6. Kiko Calero, A's: Many thought Calero was about to take the closer job away from Octavio Dotel, but now Calero, who hasn't pitched since April 16 because of right-elbow tendinitis, could land on the disabled list if he isn't back by the end of the week.

7. Jaret Wright, Yankees: He's slated to miss 4-6 weeks with inflammation and torn scar tissue in his pitching shoulder. Before the injury, though, people already were wondering if he had the makeup to survive in the Big Apple.

8. Vicente Padilla, Phillies: Things have been ugly for Padilla since returning from a triceps tendinitis injury. First start: three IP, eight ER, one BB, three Ks. Second start: three IP, four ER, four BBs, three Ks. Maybe he just needs to build up arm strength. Or maybe he'll never take full advantage of his nasty stuff.

9. Jose Reyes, Mets: It's hard to put such a sparkplug here, but in the fantasy world, Reyes has to be considered a disappointment. His average is a respectable .267. His on-base percentage is an atrocious .267. You'd also like more than three stolen bases from a leadoff speedster.

10. Ray Durham, Giants: Like Reyes, here's another leadoff hitter not doing the job. Durham has one stolen base and a .197 average.

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