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Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
6/22/2007 04:07:00 PM

Playing hurt

Johnny Damon
A variety of injuries has led Johnny Damon to .249 average but no trips to the disabled list.
Chuck Solomon/SI
Every team will have its share of injuries during the year, it's just the nature of the game. And of course it hurts when you don't have a big bat or power arm in your lineup. However, is it better to have your guys on sitting out games nursing injuries (and possibly earning a bench spot on your team) or gutting it out, possibly at the expense of their stats?

While it appears most teams are a lot more careful with their pitchers -- see starters like Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Jered Weaver just this week -- hitters can do a better job of hiding their injuries during a slump. All players will have their ups and downs during the season. Sometimes it's just bad luck (some hard-hit outs), sometimes it's a matchup situation, sometimes it's just a plain slump. And of course, sometimes it's an injury, but many times you can't necessarily see that. And sometimes even if it's obvious, teams are looking for lightning in a bottle like Kirk Gibson's famous World Series homer.

The main culprit right now for this is the Yankees' Johnny Damon. In just the past couple of years, Damon's health has been a big issue as he seems to pick up a variety of injuries here and there without any extended time off. A rib injury is the latest in a long list of ills that has kept him in and out of the lineup. He's spent time at DH with Melky Cabrera in center, but with no DH this week in NL parks, he's even gotten some time in the field, but at the plate, he hasn't looked the same. Even playing a little first base isn't necessarily going to help his cause. Instead, you'd almost want him to go on the DL if he's going to struggle like this (.212 in June).

Given that Damon was probably a high draft pick, it's very tough to cut him now, especially since he's still hacking away. Benching him is the most useful option right now, but if you're in a deep AL-only league, there aren't many players who can replace him on the roster. You may just have to suck it up and hope he turns it around soon enough.

A more intriguing situation may be developing with Miguel Tejada in Baltimore. He suffered a fractured wrist Wednesday after being hit by a pitch, but he kept his consecutive games streak alive on Thursday by bunting in his first at-bat in the first inning and then was lifted for a pinch runner after reaching by a fielder's choice. There's no way that charade can continue for the duration of his injury. Unlike some situations where serving as a DH can bail out an ailing hitter, an injury like this probably doesn't lend itself to time at the plate or a token at-bat at the beginning or the end of games.

Tejada does want to play through the injury and keep that streak alive (fifth-best in big-league history), but at what cost? While the Orioles may be struggling, your fantasy team may still be find with Tejada in the lineup. And while a trip to the DL would be disappointing, many leagues have extra roster spots for injured players, so would you rather take the risk with someone else up the middle (maybe Chris Gomez or Freddy Bynum, in Baltimore's case) or just see Tejada either hit his way in pain or make token at-bats for a week or so?

In some ways, these nagging injuries to stars are similar to ones in fantasy football. They're not necessarily enough to rule a guy out right away, but they linger enough that he'll see limited playing time or become a last-second scratch. You'd hate to be stuck holding the bag if a guy gets benched at the last second with no other options available. Same seems to be going here for Damon and maybe Tejada.

Other notes for Friday:
-- While Damon and Tejada are banged up, a handful of players are actually returning on Friday. As mentioned before, Kenny Rogers will make his 2007 debut going up against the Braves. Also, Aramis Ramirez is off the DL but will be a DH this weekend as the Cubs visit the White Sox. So those guys like Mike Fontenot, Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot can breathe easier for a few more days. On the other side, Darin Erstad is returning for the White Sox as they try to figure out where they'll get their offense. And almost on cue, Erstad is hurt in the first inning of Friday's game.

-- With Rogers returning, there was a glut of starting pitching in Detroit, so the Tigers dealt lefty Mike Maroth to the Cardinals on Friday. Maroth was 5-2, but had a 5.06 ERA and just 28 strikeouts (along with 33 walks and 97 hits) in 78 1/3 innings. Some icky stats, other than the win-loss percentage, but going to the National League might help him, as the Cardinals are desperate for rotation help. Don't go out of your way in NL-only leagues to get him, especially with some high-profile names potentially switching teams at the trade deadline.

-- Josh Johnson may be back for the Marlins, but they'll be without Anibal Sanchez for the rest of the year as he'll undergo shoulder surgery. It's a tough hit for Florida, especially after Sanchez's no-hitter last year.

-- As for a player you almost hope was injured to give an excuse for his woes, Vernon Wells finished this last series against the Dodgers 0-for-14. That dropped his average this month to .206 with just one homer.

-- Erik Bedard increased his major league in strikeouts after fanning nine in just six innings against the Padres on Thursday but left with a strained hamstring. However, it appears the injury isn't serious and he should make his next start.

-- Josh Phelps has a new home after the Yankees let him go to make room for Andy Phillips, as the Pirates claimed him off waivers. Phelps won't have much value as a pinch hitter. While Adam LaRoche has been a major disappointment, he's actually hitting better against lefties than righties (.257-.201), so the chance of Phelps filling the righty part of the platoon seems unlikely.
posted by JQ | View comments | Add a comment  
6/21/2007 03:02:00 PM

Anybody healthy?

Curt Schilling
After his near no-hitter, Curt Schilling has allowed 12 runs and 19 hits in his last two starts.
AP
I used to call this time of year Pedro Martinez's summer vacation as he'd seem to come down with some minor injury in June or July in the past few seasons that would shut down for a couple of weeks. It can't be the case this year since Pedro started the year on the DL after shoulder surgery but is preparing to return later this year.

Instead, a whole gaggle of top-flight arms are dropping like flies, sending many fantasy owners scrambling. I'd already mentioned Jason Schmidt's season-ending surgery yesterday, but the Dodgers have plenty of viable options to replace him in the rotation, and it looks like Chad Billingsley will take that spot and be useful for all fantasy leagues.

But Wednesday comes the news that Curt Schilling will go on the DL with a shoulder problem, although a recent MRI didn't find anything seriously wrong. It looks like Josh Beckett will be moved up the rotation one day to setup a showdown against Jake Peavy on Sunday in a battle of potential All-Stars, while Jon Lester will take Schilling's place in the rotation, likely starting next Tuesday.

Both Dontrelle Willis and now John Lackey are unsure if they'll make their starts on Sunday. Willis left Tuesday's game early with a forearm injury and Lackey has some shoulder woes that could bump him back a couple of days. Lackey's teammate Jered Weaver will miss his start Friday after jamming his shoulder sliding into second against the Dodgers last weekend. Joe Saunders, who had his moments for the Angels last season, was called up from the minors to take Weaver's place.

On the other hand, Randy Johnson looked good throwing from flat ground as he deals with back issues that landed him on the DL. He may not be able to return right away when he's eligible to come off the disabled list, but he's looking a little better than just a couple of days ago.

As for some other chronically injured players, Chipper Jones injured his groin Wednesday, adding to his list of injuries that includes two sore hands, while Rocco Baldelli had yet another setback that could keep him out another six weeks.

Other notes for Thursday:
-- It's almost criminal that Jeremy Guthrie only has four wins this year. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his nine starts since May yet has only three wins during that time, including a nine-strikeout gem against the Padres on Wednesday to end the Orioles' long losing streak. He seems to be one reason why wins are such a crap shoot. In that same time frame, Jeremy Bonderman has won all seven of his starts, despite going only more than seven innings once and allowing five runs in three of those outings.

-- The A's made an intriguing move by designating Milton Bradley for assignment. While he is hitting .292 this year, he has missed 51 games with an assortment of injuries. While his personality is questionable, the talent is there, and he could still have plenty of value if he lands with a contending team in need of an outfield bat. Keep Bradley benched for now if you can, because there's still value if he lands in the right situation.

-- Sammy Sosa became the fifth member of the 600-homer club with a shot off the Cubs' Jason Marquis (who happened to be wearing Sosa's old No. 21). Sosa can still turn up the power, although be sure you can afford to take the hit in batting average.

-- Congratulations to Jeff Weaver on finally getting his first win of the season, pitching a four-hit shutout not less against the woeful Pirates. Weaver's ERA fell from 10.97 to 8.96 with that game. However, his next start is against the Red Sox, so let's not get too carried away.

-- Mike Lamb's multi-hit streak ended at six games, but he still picked up a single to keep the overall hitting streak alive.

-- Another trade did go down on Wednesday as the Braves sent lefty reliever Macay McBride to the Tigers for fellow lefty Wilfredo Ledezma. Both have had their share of control issues and will be middle men with their new teams. Neither has much fantasy value.
posted by JQ | View comments | Add a comment  
6/20/2007 01:26:00 PM

Trade review: Barrett to Padres

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett is actually hitting .317 since his scuffle with Carlos Zambrano, but has just 12 RBIs since the end of April.
AP
After a couple of flare-ups with pitchers Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill, Michael Barrett officially found himself out of Wrigley as the Cubs traded him this morning to the Padres for catcher Rob Bowen and minor league outfielder Kyler Burke.

Barrett is one of the top fantasy performers in a usually thin catching pool because he can hit a handful of homers and hit in the .270-.280 range. This year, he's hitting .258 with nine homers and 23 RBIs, but just six RBIs since April. Despite his issues behind the plate defensively and with his pitchers, he has rebounded at the plate, hitting .302 this month. That will serve him well in spacious Petco, since his modest home run power will decrease in San Diego, although he has an outside chance to match the 16 homers he's hit the past three seasons.

Barrett seems to be following the lead of his teammate Zambrano and others like Andruw Jones and Jermaine Dye, who are struggling heading into free agency. A change of scenery and the potential to cash in this offseason could motivate Barrett to improve some of his stats in San Diego.

The big loser in the deal appears to be Josh Bard, who likely will lose his starting catcher job to Barrett and be relegated to a backup role once again. Bard has been a minor disappointment as the starting catcher, hitting .253 with just two homers. Like Barrett, Bard had a down May, hitting just .218. But maybe serving as a backup will help Bard, as he hit .338 with nine homers and 40 RBIs backing up Mike Piazza last season. However, he's definitely not the "potential sleeper" catcher many had predicted going into the year -- Russell Martin has up that honor.

Meanwhile, the Cubs now have a bunch of mediocre options behind the plate. Bowen was hitting .268 with two homers backing up Bard and might see a little more time with Chicago. While Barrett saw time on the bench, Koyie Hill was catching Zambrano, but he is just 4-for-25 since being called up from the minors earlier this month to replace the injured Henry Blanco. Mixed leaguers don't need to pay too much attention to the Cubs catching situation with Barrett gone.

Other notes for Wednesday:
-- It wasn't a good day for some veteran pitchers as it was announced Jason Schmidt would need surgery on his shoulder (probably knocking him out for the season), Randy Johnson was diagnosed with a herniated disk (originally, a tight glute put him on the DL), Curt Schilling was sent to Boston for an MRI (nothing really showed up there) and Dontrelle Willis left his start after the first inning with a tight forearm.

-- And just as he regained his closer's job, Brad Lidge is back on the disabled list with a strained oblique injury. Hopefully he won't be out longer than the 15 days, but it appears Dan Wheeler is back in the closer's role for now. On the other side of the equation, the Astros have arguably the hottest hitter in baseball right now in Mike Lamb, who has six straight games of at least two hits, leading to a .625 average (15-for-24) with three homers and 13 RBIs in that span. Lamb is keeping the struggling Morgan Ensberg on the bench.

-- Johan Santana had an unorthodox way of shutting out the Mets, throwing only 92 pitches and recording just one strikeout in his four-hitter. Santana's record is a pedestrian 7-6, but as most people know, he doesn't really show his dominance until the second half of the season. Ben Sheets also went the distance Tuesday to beat the Giants, and he struck out just four. But he's also heating up, winning four of his last five starts.

-- Rookie Tim Lincecum is running into a little trouble, allowing 13 runs in his last two starts. The Giants could skip his turn in the rotation to help him find his way as he hits his first real major-league slump. Meanwhile, fellow stud prospect Homer Bailey earned his second major-league win, allowing just one run and two hits to the A's over seven innings. Bailey's control still needs some work as he walked four and struck out just three, and his totals to date are 11 walks and seven strikeouts.

-- Congratulations to Sean Casey for hitting his first homer of the season. He was the only player listed on the AL All-Star ballot at first base not to go long until Tuesday night. But what is he doing third in voting?

-- Ryan Howard really took off after the All-Star break last year, and he's showing signs of the same this year, as he drove in four and hit his 16th homer of the season against the Indians. Howard already has seven homers this month, his best total of the season to date, and hitting .290 to boot.
posted by JQ | View comments | Add a comment  
6/19/2007 03:07:00 PM

Better late than never?

Josh Johnson
Josh Johnson got roughed up in his first start of the season on Monday.
AP
Mixed in all the latest hot prospect arms and the now-annual Roger Clemens midseason saga are the returns of a couple of pitchers whose fantasy stocks plummeted after major spring training injuries.

First up is Josh Johnson, who had an array of arm injuries after a solid 12-7, 3.10 ERA campaign in 2006. He finally returned Monday against the White Sox and proceeded to get lit up for eight runs (although only four earned) and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. It's definitely not what Johnson, or the Marlins, wanted. However, his performance last year still makes him a nice candidate to boost your team's stats in the second half. While he's still an iffy play in mixed leagues, he's fine for NL-only leagues, and might even be a buy-low candidate.

Following Johnson is Kenny Rogers, who's scheduled to make his season debut Friday against the Braves after missing the first part of the year following surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm. Like Johnson, he's probably a decent play in AL-only leagues at first, while mixed leaguers should be wary. Plus, with the rust, don't be surprised if he gets roughed by that Atlanta lineup.

The other pitcher down the line to watch out for when he makes his 2007 debut is Pedro Martinez, who is making good progress from last year's shoulder surgery and might be back later in the summer. He could be a great difference maker late in the year for a fantasy team needing an extra boost in wins and strikeouts.

Other notes for Tuesday:
-- Yovani Gallardo was impressive in his first major-league start, allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings to beat the Giants and adding an RBI double to help his own cause. Gallardo may need to do a little more to keep his place in the rotation and the bigs, especially when Chris Capuano comes off the DL. Lack of a regular spot in the rotation is a big reason why Gallardo waited until now to get called up, compared to fellow prospects Homer Bailey, Tim Lincecum and Philip Hughes.

-- Talk about a turnaround. Chone Figgins needed 11 games and 40 at-bats to pick up his first six hits of the season. Figgins picked up six in six at-bats Monday night, including a walkoff triple. After starting the season 2-for-32, he's hitting .336 with 15 steals. Even better is his June, where he's hitting .440 with 13 RBIs and 10 steals. Sometimes a little patience is all you need, especially since was trying to rebound from broken fingers.

-- On the other end of the spectrum, Andruw Jones has just two hits in his last 24 at-bats to drop his average to .205. Plus, he hasn't homered since June 9. Jones has always been known as a streaky hitter, but it will probably take a really extended run to get his average into an even passable level. Last night's latest 0-for-4 was more disconcerting given that the Braves pounded out 15 hits, including starting pitcher Chuck James getting an RBI single.

-- Sometimes you hate to be right, but with Jason Schmidt and A.J. Burnett both about to land on the disabled list, it proved once again how big a health risk both pitchers were. Schmidt appears to have been rushed back to the majors after spending time on the DL with a shoulder injury. Surgery could be on the horizon for him. The Dodgers do have options to take his place in the rotation with Chad Billingsley, Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson available. Billingsley hasn't allowed a run in his last seven outings and might be the best bet.

Replacing Burnett could be a little trickier, with guys like Victor Zambrano and John Thomson lingering in the minors. It definitely isn't like the pitching depth the Dodgers have.
posted by JQ | View comments | Add a comment  
6/18/2007 01:13:00 PM

Speed burst

Carlos Gomez
Carlos Gomez had two of the Mets' 10 steals against the Yankees over the weekend.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The Mets may have lost two of three games from the Yankees this weekend, but they helped out many leagues in the stolen base department by racking up 10 swipes over the first two games. Jose Reyes once again led the way with five over the weekend, further extending his major league lead. David Wright had two in that series, plus two more against the Dodgers, and has six this month, although his 17-game hitting streak ended Sunday night. But Carlos Gomez also picked up two steals over the weekend, and he's already got seven in his brief career. Given the injuries to Moises Alou and Endy Chavez, the Mets will keep giving Gomez time out in left, and his speed makes him very valuable in all leagues.

But Gomez isn't the only cheaper player who can help you out in the always coveted stolen base category. Here are some other players heating up on the basepaths lately who might be available in your league (i.e. forget about Reyes, Ichiro or even the resurgent Chone Figgins):

-- Corey Hart, OF, Brewers: He's just the latest Milwaukee homegrown product to entice fantasy owners this year. While he's played reasonably well all season, he has broken out with six steals this month to go with a sudden burst of six homers.

-- Miguel Cairo, IF, Yankees: The Yankees' recent surge seems to have coincided with the veteran utility man taking over as the starting first baseman. He's done well enough to help AL-only leagues, stealing five bases this month and hitting .295. Who knows how long this will last, especially with the Yankees still searching for a regular first baseman, but might as well rid the hot hand like Joe Torre's doing.

-- Julio Lugo, 2B/SS, Red Sox: He's very aggravating to fantasy owners because the 19 steals (including four in June) are great, but his .207 average (including.125 in June) is definitely not.

-- Ryan Theriot, IF, Cubs: Aramis Ramirez's injury has given Theriot even more playing time, and while he's not hitting much -- .254 since the end of April -- he did pick up three steals this week to raise his season total to 12.

-- Felix Pie, OF, Cubs: He's also been off and running in the past week with three steals, despite going just 4-for-24 in that time. Sometimes you have to make the most out of your few chances on base.

-- Nook Logan, OF, Nationals: He doesn't hit much at all, but he does have six steals this season and three in the past month if you're really desperate for speed.

Other notes for Monday:
-- Interesting news from Oakland where it appears Mike Piazza will get time behind the plate as well as DH when returns from the DL. Thus, it will be a couple of extra weeks to get him back in the lineup. Jack Cust's emergence has helped prompt this move, not to mention Jason Kendall's struggles at the plate. However, Kendall finally found his swing last week, going 11-for-22 with six extra base hits, including his first homer of the year. Heading into this week, Kendall had just two extra base hits all season.

-- Chien-Ming Wang does have strikeout stuff after all, shattering his career high with 10 on Sunday night to beat the Mets. Wang continues to be on a tear, winning his last four starts with a 2.08 ERA in that time.

-- Jason Schmidt might've been rushed back after his most recent injury and could be headed back to the DL.

-- Rickie Weeks looks like he'll be coming off the disabled list on Monday, and hopefully that time off will have him catching up at the plate like some of his other Brewers teammates like Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy and now Corey Hart.

-- A blister will keep Ian Snell out of his next start on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Kei Igawa will be back for the Yankees on Friday in place of the demoted Tyler Clippard.
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