This is a big week we’re heading into as interleague play is almost upon us and every team is gearing up to play a full slate of games. Hard to believe we’re already at that point as the season just seems to be flying by. Since yesterday’s format seemed to give way to me covering a little more information, we’re going to stick with it in an effort to make sure that you have everything you need to set up the strongest lineup possible for the week. There’s plenty to cover, so let’s get started.
One of the most anticipated games on Sunday was the Yankees/Mariners match-up as Andy Pettitte made his long awaited return to the mound. Whether you’re a Yankees fan or not, you’ve got to respect the career Pettitte has had and as a fan of the game, you can understand and appreciate the emotion involved. And as a fantasy baseball player, you know that Pettitte’s first start back, and return in general, is important to watch as his success or failure has major implications on the Yankees rotation. So how did he fare? Not too badly. Not great, but not too bad. His pitching line totaled out at 6.1 innings with four earned runs off seven hits and three walks. About as average a start as you can get, but not bad for a guy who didn’t throw a pitch all last year and has enough snow on the roof that you could tell he was closer to Jamie Moyer’s age than Clayton Kershaw’s. I imagine that during his next outing, the nerves will be much calmer and as he continues to work his way back, he won’t look so tired come the sixth or seventh inning. For those in dynasty leagues awaiting the arrival of Manny Banuelos, you’re probably going to have to wait that much longer.
Lots of big stuff happening in Cincinnati on Sunday which brings us to….
|Joey Votto, 1B CIN||4-5, 4 R, 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI|
It was just a matter of time before Joey Votto joined the MLB hit parade and what better way to do it than a three-home run day? Not only was the feat impressive – yes, unless of course your name is Josh Hamilton – but the timing of his home runs was even better. The first gave the Reds the initial lead, the second tied the game up in the fourth and then last but not least, the third was a ninth inning grand slam to win the game. Killer outing for fantasy as well as a big day for Reds fans. Votto may have gotten off to a slower start in the power department, but based on Sunday’s performance, there’s no reason not to expect another .300-plus season with roughly 30 HR and 110 RBI.
Votto’s third home run of the game also marked the third blown save of the year for Nationals interim closer Henry Rodriguez. There was nothing said after the game about Rodriguez’ job security, but in a year where closers are losing their jobs left and right, you should always keep track to make sure you’re prepared in case the rug gets pulled out from under yours.
Speaking of which, some interesting closer aspects in the Mets/Marlins game as both Frank Francisco and Heath Bell put forth some poor performances that will undoubtedly make their managers think twice about their current situations. Bell came in for the Marlins in the ninth with game tied at two and promptly gave up a pair of runs off two hits and two walks. Not good for a guy who supposedly just got his closing job back, is it? Well, he was taken off the hook and actually back-doored into the win as Francisco came in to close it out for the Mets, coughed up the lead and was pulled after putting the go-ahead run on base in what was now a 4-4 game. Surprisingly no word from Ozzie yet, but it was known that Mets manager Terry Collins is planning on evaluating the situation on Monday. With Jon Rauch having out-performed Franky Frank thus far and has the experience in closing out games, it would seem that a change in near.
Should be interesting to see how things shake out in the near future, but Will Middlebrooks is making it awfully difficult for the Red Sox to just send him back down to the minors once Kevin Youkilis returns from the disabled list. After Sunday, he’s now batting .310 with four home runs and 13 RBI and looks to be fully capable of manning the hot corner for the Sox on a regular basis. Maybe it’s just a small sample size, but there’s obviously big-league talent there that shouldn’t be wasted down in Triple-A.
Satisfying or just a big relief, I’m not sure which it was just yet, but we finally got the Ben Zobrist breakout game that we’ve all (well, Zobrist owners, that is) been waiting for. I mean, the totals haven’t been so awful that you can’t stomach him, but the fact that Sunday’s effort raised his average to .217, means that the struggles have been plentiful. Hopefully this is the start to something a bit more exciting.
If you’re looking for middle infield help, then keep your eyes on Royals second baseman Johnny Giavotella. He was supposed to be the Royals starting second baseman but after a dismal spring, he found himself back in Triple-A to start the year. His performance down there, coupled with an injury to Yuniesky Betancourt, paved the way for a call-up and he’s been solid since. He didn’t get the start on Sunday, but came in as a pinch hitter late in the game and hit a two-run double to give the Royals a lead they would not relinquish. When he was called up, it was originally as just a bench player, but now manager Ned Yost has said that Giavotella will start at second against left-handed pitching as well as be a right-handed option off the bench. The Royals definitely want him there, but he will obviously have to out-produce both Betancourt and Chris Getz if he wants to land the full-time job.
Also for the Royals, some initial bad news for Danny Duffy owners. Duffy lasted just two-third of an inning during Sunday’s start and was immediately removed due to an elbow injury. He was being sent for an MRI and although we haven’t received the results yet, this can’t be good. Duffy missed a start last week due to elbow soreness and now this. Stay tuned, but if you do own him, get your contingency plans in motion.
Anyone else impressed with Scott Diamond? I’m certainly not one to jump all over a guy like this, especially pitching for the normally offensively challenged Twins, but that’s now back to back wins with 14 scoreless innings and a WHIP of just 0.71. He might be worth a look in AL-only play, but give it a little more time before running out and scooping him up in mixed leagues.
Time to start watching that Cardinals lineup a little closer. They’ve been surging as of late thanks to the hot-hitting Carlos Beltran and the return of Allen Craig, but now they’ve got Lance Berkman back from the DL and will have to do plenty of lineup shuffling to get everyone into the game. Expect to see Mike Matheny rotating his guys around which means that even Berkman and Matt Holliday will get a game off here and there.
Looks like Matt Kemp is going to need a few days off as he deals with a hamstring issue. The Dodgers are sending their prized player for an MRI, and while no one feels a DL stint will be necessary, the team is going to be cautious with him. Look for him to miss a few games, but he’s probably still worth starting this week so long as the MRI comes back clean. See if you can wait until the last minute on Monday before making your final decision.
And finally, although I didn’t put him on the list below, let Jered Weaver’s start in Texas be a lesson to you all. If you’re wondering whether to start a pitcher or not and he’s got a matchup against the Rangers in Texas, you’re going to want to sit him.
Now here are the top and bottom five of Sunday…
|Nelson Cruz, OF TEX||4-5, 3 R, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, SB|
|Elliot Johnson, SS TB||3-4, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB|
|Ben Zobrist, 2B TB||3-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB|
|Justin Verlander, SP DET||W, 1.29 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, 8 K|
|Scott Diamond, SP MIN||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 4 K|
|Howard Kendrick, 2B LAA||0-5, 3 K|
|Cliff Pennington, SS OAK||0-4, 3 K|
|Luke Scott, DH TB||0-5, 3 K|
|Paul Goldschmidt, 1B ARI||0-4, 3 K|
|Henry Rodriguez, RP WAS||L, BS, 54.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP|
First game doesn’t start until 7:05pm (ET) so make sure you check on all your players before setting your lineup!
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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