- Will Harris, ESPN Contributor
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Thursday marks the follow-up for two 24-year-old starters who impressed in their 2008 debuts. Tampa Bay's Edwin Jackson and Oakland's Dana Eveland have both been plagued by poor control in their young careers, but both managed to limit free passes this spring and in their debuts last week. Improving control is the key to a breakout 2008 for these young hurlers, both of whom bear watching closely this April.
Matchups for Thursday, April 10
All times are ET. Statistics are from the 2007 regular season.
Tim Hudson, SP, Braves (flu)
Mike Fontenot, 2B, Cubs (back)
Javier Valentin, C, Reds (hamstring)
David DeJesus, OF, Royals (ankle)
Tony Gwynn, OF, Brewers (hamstring)
Jorge Posada, C, Yankees (arm)
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies (ankle)
Cliff Floyd, OF, Rays (knee)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Cliff Floyd has faced Miguel Batista more than any other Rays hitter, and with a career 1.029 OPS against the Mariners right-hander, Floyd will start if he's available. But the fragile 35-year-old is day-to-day with a knee injury and Jonny Gomes is helpless against right-handers. Watch the late news on Floyd's status and expect speedy left-hander Nathan Haynes to pick up a start if Floyd can't go. ... Placido Polanco is 0-for-10 versus Tim Wakefield. ... Luis Castillo is an elite contact hitter, but he's only 4-for-17 with four strikeouts against Phillies starter Adam Eaton. ... With the Tigers and Twins facing right-handers, expect Clete Thomas and Denard Span to get the nod over Brandon Inge and Craig Monroe as the respective fill-ins for the injured Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer. ... Corey Patterson will man center field for the Reds against Brewers right-hander Carlos Villanueva, but look for Cody Ross in center field for the Marlins against Nationals lefty Odalis Perez. ... Fred Lewis is the left-handed side of another center field platoon, this one with Rajai Davis in San Francisco. Lewis should get the start against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright.
Pitchers: Like most pitchers, Tim Hudson hasn't liked Coors Field much. In two starts there, Hudson has managed to throw just nine total innings, allowing 13 earned runs and 27 baserunners in the process. ... Andy Pettitte, by contrast, likes Thursday's opponent. He's 11-3 with a 3.15 ERA against the Royals in his career, including a well-pitched victory in his only Kaufmann Stadium start last year.
Hitters: Baltimore's Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott are both off to strong starts, and Thursday they play at Rangers Ballpark, a paradise for left-handed sluggers. ... Coors-bound hitters usually make good pickups, and Matt Diaz is Thursday's poster boy for that rule. The Braves outfielder is batting .348 so far this year and is 4-for-8 against Rockies lefty Jeff Francis. ... White Sox third baseman Joe Crede is off to a .393/.419/.679 start. Crede will finally get to face Twins inning-eater Livan Hernandez on Thursday, and he's hit the Minnesota bullpen well in the past.
Pitchers: The Brewers' Carlos Villanueva pitched well in his first start, and he's certainly enjoyed facing the Reds in his young career, posting a 2.31 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 23 career innings against the division rival. ... The potential for quality filler innings Thursday can be found with Pirates setup man Damaso Marte. He's held the current Cubs hitters to a .300 lifetime slugging percentage, and sports a career 2.28 ERA in 22 innings against the North Siders.
Severe storms threaten the action in Texas and Kansas City, while Chicago could also see rain. ... Denver could receive some snow and rain mix on Thursday.
Will Harris is a fantasy baseball and college football analyst for ESPN.com
1dKevin Van Valkenburg