Daily Notes: Igawa, Unit have big starts
Paul Byrd, RHP (2-1) versus Erik Bedard, LHP (3-2)
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: Byrd is not a trustworthy pitcher on the road or against lefty-heavy lineups, so this matchup greatly favors the Orioles. Aubrey Huff (4-for-9, 2 HR) hits him extremely well, and Jay Gibbons, Nick Markakis and Corey Patterson each get a prime chance to snap their early-season slumps. Bedard struck out 11 Indians in six innings in his last start, but he also allowed four runs (two of them on a Jhonny Peralta homer). I'm playing Bedard because it's a home game, but beyond your usual Indians, I'd throw Casey Blake, Ryan Garko and Peralta into the starting mix.
Cha Seung Baek, RHP (0-0) versus Kei Igawa, LHP (2-1)
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: The pitching matchup is a bit of a letdown; this was supposed to be Felix Hernandez's return game from the DL. Unfortunately, he's been pushed back to next week, giving Baek the unenviable task of facing the Yankees on their home field. Sure, Yankees hitters are largely unfamiliar with the right-hander, but considering Baek often racks up bloated pitch counts early, this is a team that should capitalize on his mistakes. I'd steer clear, and load up on Yankees. As for Igawa, last time we saw him, he tossed six shutout innings of relief against the Red Sox. He's hit or miss, but at least he'll have the advantage of facing a Mariners team that hasn't seen him before. That makes him AL-only worthy, but keep your usual Mariners in there regardless.
Dan Haren, RHP (3-2) versus Casey Fossum, LHP (2-2)
Game Story: The Athletics' offense seems snakebitten, as Piazza is headed to the DL, but at least that nearly guarantees Swisher's return to the active lineup at DH. The A's hammered Fossum when they faced him six days ago; he allowed nine runs in five innings. Buck (1-for-3, 1 HR) and Mark Ellis (4-for-5, 1 HR) warrant AL-only attention, and Swisher should be safe to activate in all formats. Although he is a must-start, Haren is no automatic to dominate the Devil Rays. Rocco Baldelli (4-for-7, 2 HR), Carlos Pena (3-for-6, 2 HR) and B.J. Upton (4-for-9, 1 HR) hit him well enough to use.
Tomo Ohka, RHP (2-2) versus Brandon McCarthy, RHP (1-4)
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: Ohka's last start against the Rangers demonstrates how much the team has been struggling; he allowed one run in seven innings to win this past Sunday. Things should tilt a little more towards Texas' favor this time around, so keep Ian Kinsler, Kenny Lofton and Sammy Sosa in your lineup and expect better thing. Ohka warrants AL-only attention, nevertheless, but the same can't be said for McCarthy. He's pitching to keep his rotation spot, and keep in mind the Blue Jays pounded him in Toronto on Sunday. The Blue Jays' right-handed lumber (Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, Vernon Wells) should give him headaches, and among the less-notable names, Adam Lind is a quality option.
Justin Verlander, RHP (1-1) versus Brian Bannister, RHP (0-1)
Game Story: The Royals have never beaten Verlander; he's 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in five career starts against them. Current Royals have batted .186 (16-for-86) without a home run against him, so limit your Royals to David DeJesus (5-for-11 career vs. Verlander) and Mark Teahen. There will be better days to use phenoms Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. As for the Tigers, they have the offense to get to an inexperienced pitcher like Bannister. Red-hot hitters like Craig Monroe, Placido Polanco and Gary Sheffield should extend their streaks, and Curtis Granderson also matches up well.
Tim Wakefield, RHP (2-3) versus Carlos Silva, RHP (2-1)
Game Story: For as good as Silva has been this year, he has still allowed a .308 BAA, so an offense like Boston's should give him fits. About the only Red Sox hitters who make risky fantasy starts are the struggling Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek; even Coco Crisp should be in your lineup. Wakefield, a knuckleballer, is pitching extremely well to begin the year. Ride that streak in AL-only leagues, but among Twins who can hit him, Jason Bartlett (3-for-7), Luis Castillo (9-for-17) and Torii Hunter (11-for-29, 2 HR) stand out.
Jose Contreras, RHP (2-2) versus Kelvim Escobar, RHP (2-1)
Game Story: With Izturis on the DL, the Angels could be tempted to shift Chone Figgins to second base and play top prospect Brandon Wood at third, something AL-only owners should monitor. Escobar is the standout on L.A.'s side, as he'll be facing a White Sox offense that is struggling right now. Darin Erstad (7-for-17, 2 HR) is one Chicago hitter who historically has hit him. Of course, the Angels' offense hasn't exactly been thriving of late, and if Anderson's out, the team loses one player with a strong track record against Contreras. Play Casey Kotchman, but expect a low-scoring game.
Jason Bergmann, RHP (0-2) versus Carlos Zambrano, RHP (2-2)
Notable Injuries: Cliff Floyd, OF (leg, day-to-day)
Game Story: The weather conditions could make this a messy game, especially taking the wind into account. In other words, Zambrano might have been an automatic to dominate the Nationals' hitters, but in this case, anything's possible. Play him, but use your Nationals with power, like Ryan Church, Austin Kearns and Ryan Zimmerman. Keeping the weather in mind, Bergmann is a much worse play than his ERA (2.79) and WHIP (1.10) have shown. Again, go for the power bats, and the Cubs have plenty, even including Michael Barrett, Mark DeRosa and Cliff Floyd.
Greg Maddux, RHP (2-2) versus Dontrelle Willis, LHP (5-1)
Game Story: Incredibly, the Marlins are the National League's most potent offense (5.59 runs per game), though a crafty veteran like Maddux should be able to at least offer his owners a quality start here. Keep your typical Marlins active, and Josh Willingham as well, but don't be afraid of Maddux except in shallow mixed formats. Willis, meanwhile, has long been a strong start in home games, thanks to the pitching-friendly confines of Dolphin Stadium. He's better than his current 5.35 ERA, so keep him in there. Two Padres do stand out for this game, though: Jose Cruz Jr., a .385 hitter with a 1.198 OPS against left-handers this year, and Khalil Greene, .360/1.113 against lefties.
Jason Hirsh, RHP (2-2) versus Matt Belisle, RHP (3-1)
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: Hirsh was shelled for 11 runs (10 earned) on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings in his only career start at Great American, last Aug. 22, but he's a better pitcher today then he was back then. Still, it's a tough matchup for him against a powerful left-handed lineup in a hitter-friendly ballpark, so I'd steer clear. Remember right-handed hitters get to Hirsh (.278/.978 this year), making Ryan Freel and Brandon Phillips worth keeping active. Belisle isn't a bad NL-only play based on the matchup; the Rockies' offense has yet to round into form on the road. Keep Brad Hawpe active, though.
Brett Tomko, RHP (0-2) versus John Smoltz, RHP (3-1)
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: It's Jeff Kent's day off, so keep that in mind if you own him. Marlon Anderson should get the start, and his lifetime .321 batting average (9-for-28) and two home runs against Smoltz make him worth NL-only consideration. Still, it's a good matchup for Smoltz, 19-9 with a 2.90 ERA at home since his return to the rotation in 2005. The Braves should note Craig Wilson's lifetime .385 average (5-for-13) and three homers against Tomko and give him a spot start, so check the early lineup and use Wilson if he's in there. Incredibly, though, Willie Harris has started each of Atlanta's last two games against right-handers, which is a shame for Matt Diaz owners. I'd avoid Tomko nevertheless.
Paul Maholm, LHP (1-3) versus Claudio Vargas, RHP (2-0)
Notable Injuries: Xavier Nady, OF (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: Nady was expected back on Thursday, and one can only wonder where red-hot Ryan Doumit will squeak his way into the lineup in this game. Catcher? First base? The Pirates need to ride his hot streak, and so do you. Still, Vargas is talented enough to hold the Pirates' bats at bay, and Doumit and Jason Bay shouldn't give him too much trouble. He's my spot start of the day. Meanwhile, the Brewers' right-handed lumber matches up well against Maholm, especially Bill Hall (.583 AVG, 2 HR, 12 AB), J.J. Hardy and Kevin Mench (3-for-3, 1 2B).
Chris Sampson, RHP (3-1) versus Adam Wainwright, RHP (1-2)
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: There are plenty of owners ready to give up on Wainwright, and with his 6.14 ERA and 1.88 WHIP, can they be blamed? His best outing to date, though, did come in Houston, so I'd give him one more shot, particularly in NL-only formats. Remember, the Astros are righty heavy, so it's not the best of matchups for Morgan Ensberg or Hunter Pence. Sampson, meanwhile, gets the advantage of facing the sluggish St. Louis offense, making him worth NL-only consideration as well. He's a command specialist, so while Chris Duncan and Jim Edmonds are solid starts, don't dig too deep.
John Maine, RHP (4-0) versus Randy Johnson, LHP (0-1)
Game Story: These Mets shelled Johnson in two starts in 2006 (11 IP, 14 ER, 3 HR), and based on their hitting depth, that seems unlikely to change this time around. Moises Alou (8-for-14, 1 HR) and David Wright (6-for-13, 2 2B) own him, though don't go crazy for Julio Franco if he gets the start ahead of Carlos Delgado. There are limits! Maine, meanwhile, matches up nicely against the Diamondbacks young, inexperienced lineup. He's undefeated in three road starts this year, and a fourth win could be on the way. Tracy isn't a bad start if he's healthy enough to play.
Jamie Moyer, LHP (3-1) versus Matt Morris, RHP (3-1)
Game Story: Both closers are battling their share of health issues, with Gordon's more troubling, so take a long look at Brett Myers and Brad Hennessey in this one if you're in the hunt for saves. Check the status of Gordon and Benitez first, of course. As for the starters, both are off to hot starts, and warrant NL-only attention. The offenses, though, should be able to get to them enough to be useful, as Barry Bonds has five career homers in 35 at-bats against Moyer, and Rich Aurilia and Bengie Molina are worth a look. As for the Phillies, beyond the usuals, go for Aaron Rowand and Shane Victorino.
Matt Belisle, SP, CIN versus Colorado Rockies
Jose Cruz Jr., OF, SD @ Florida Marlins
Brad Hennessey, RP, SF versus Philadelphia Phillies
Kei Igawa, SP, NYY versus Seattle Mariners
Adam Lind, OF, TOR @ Texas Rangers
Kevin Mench, OF, MIL versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Claudio Vargas, SP, MIL versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Please Note that the notable injuries are not meant to be a comprehensive report of each team's disabled list. For brevity, we include only day-to-day injuries or new DL additions for players you might otherwise consider using in these games. Long-term DL or day-to-day injuries to starting pitchers who were not scheduled to appear are omitted.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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