- Sean Allen
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Two pitchers who started the year off in solid fashion before hitting the DL make their return Wednesday. Jake Westbrook logged four quality starts before suffering a left intercostal strain (rib muscle). He is owned in only 9 percent of ESPN leagues and makes a great addition to any fantasy roster looking for an arm. The win potential on Cleveland remains there, even though the team isn't hitting at a level expected of them.
Wandy Rodriguez had a so-so start in San Diego to begin the season, but then allowed just two earned runs in three starts at home before straining his groin. His high-strikeout potential and the fact he plays for a winning team are more than enough to make Way-Rod a solid acquisition in most formats. He is currently owned in just 11 percent of ESPN leagues. However, there is still no evidence that Rodriguez has shaken his road woes from a season ago. His home ERA last season was a sparkling 2.94, but away from Minute Maid Park, it was 6.37. Ervin Santana has shrugged off a similar home/away split from last season (to an extent), so it's worth taking a shot on Rodriguez to see if he has also matured.
Matchups for Wednesday, May 28
Marlon Anderson, OF, Mets (hamstring)
Clint Barmes, 2B/SS, Rockies (knee)
Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers (wrist)
Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels (hamstring)
Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies (hamstring)
Matt Holliday, OF, Rockies (hamstring)
Andruw Jones, OF, Dodgers (knee)
Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies (oblique)
Garrett Atkins, 3B, Rockies (neck)
Daric Barton, 1B, A's (illness)
Ryan Church, OF, Mets (concussion)
David Eckstein, SS, Blue Jays (ankle)
Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays (groin)
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox (hand)
Mark Kotsay, OF, Braves (back)
Gary Sheffield, DH, Tigers (oblique)
Reggie Willits, OF, Angels (finger)
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox (wrist)
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (shoulder)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Ryan Freel and Jerry Hairston Jr., should all be considered strong options with the Reds facing a lefty (especially one who has no control this season such as Tom Gorzelanny). Bruce was hitting .389 against lefties in the minors before his call-up. Look for a third basemen to sub in for Adrian Beltre. Tim Wakefield and his knuckleball have baffled him to the tune of 0-for-11. Count on Mike Napoli as a definite start as he has been Joe Saunders' personal catcher for most of the season. Check for signs of Garrett Atkins on Tuesday, but if he looks to miss more time, consider Ian Stewart as an option for your lineup. Ryan Church is still only available to pinch-hit, and should be left on your bench until he returns for consecutive starts. Paul Konerko should be watched closely, as he might return Tuesday and has a solid history against Jake Westbrook. Ryan Zimmerman appears unlikely to start and should be benched in favor of another third baseman if you can find one.
Pitchers: Erik Bedard might have had a real stinker last time out, but he has a dominant (and significant) history against the Red Sox. It's a strong sample size with six of Boston's hitters having 14 or more at-bats against Bedard from his days in Baltimore. The Red Sox hitters are a combined 23-for-141 versus Bedard, a .163 average with an OPS of just .497. Kevin Youkilis is 1-for-18, Mike Lowell is 1-for-14, and David Ortiz has the lone home run by a Boston player against Bedard. The Tigers hit left-handers very well, with an .830 OPS, sixth in the league. However, the Dodgers have an .833 OPS and are fifth in the league against lefties. My point being that my only argument for not starting Joe Saunders (because of the Tigers' strong record against southpaws) carries no weight when you consider what Saunders did to the Dodgers just two starts ago. Saunders remains a must-start as he keeps finding ways to get batters out (without using the strikeout). You shouldn't be the least bit worried about Zack Greinke. His six-run outing against Toronto was because of exceptional hitting, and not Greinke missing his spots. The Blue Jays were getting bloop-single after bloop-single while barely getting wood on the ball. Chalk it up to an unlucky day for Greinke and don't hesitate to continue rolling out your draft-day steal. You might want to consider giving your Dodgers a night off if you have other options. Of the healthy L.A. players who have logged 20 or more at-bats against Carlos Zambrano (Jeff Kent, Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal), only Kent is hitting above the Mendoza Line; and not by much (.207). Consider all current Dodgers, and the average drops to a combined .181. Without the injured Vernon Wells, the Blue Jays lineup is 13-for-75 (.173) combined against Rich Harden. Harden also has managed a 1.59 ERA in his three home starts this season. There's no reason to hold him back. Gavin Floyd is coming off two great starts and faces a Cleveland team with a sputtering OPS of .610 over the last week. Floyd should be owned in more than the 60 percent of leagues he currently is. I'm leaning toward benching Scott Olson in this one. Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran all have an OPS better than 1.000 against Olson (in 17 at-bats or more). Florida isn't that scary an offense versus lefties. Oliver Perez should have one of his solid outings with above-average strikeouts. History is on Andy Pettitte's side for him getting you a win. He is 23-6 in his career against Baltimore and 14-4 at Camden Yards. He has more wins there than in any other visiting ballpark.
Hitters: I'm not one to usually go with emotional matchups, but I think the 25 percent-owned Frank Thomas might have a few things to say to the Toronto Blue Jays with his bat. Craig Monroe might be in line for a DH start for the Twins. He is 7-for-18 (.389) with two home runs versus Zack Greinke. The Cardinals outfield might not look like it usually does versus southpaws. Rick Ankiel is 0-for-6 versus Wandy Rodriguez and is no sure start against lefties anyway, while Chris Duncan, who normally sits versus southpaws, is 2-for-6 with a home run against Rodriguez. Randy Winn is 11-for-24 (.458) with two home runs against Doug Davis. Get him into your outfield if you have room. Consider using even fringe Diamondback hitters, like Orlando Hudson, Mark Reynolds and Chris Snyder. Arizona should just tee off on lefty Jonathan Sanchez, thanks to their .846 team OPS versus lefties. Seattle's Jose Lopez has a beat on the knuckleball, going 4-for-7 against Tim Wakefield, and should have a solid day if you need a middle infielder. Although David Eckstein is expected to be off the DL, the Blue Jays have said he might not play every day from the get go. So he doesn't look like an AL-only middle infielder just yet.
Pitchers: Jake Westbrook returns from the DL to face the team he has tossed more innings against than any other, and his numbers against the White Sox are average and nothing more. He is 4-7 with a 4.47 ERA in 13 starts over the past three years and is 8-11 with a 4.92 ERA lifetime. Individually, Westbrook handles Nick Swisher (2-for-23, .087) and Orlando Cabrera (5-for-23, .217) well, but has to watch out for the punishing Jim Thome (10-for-25, .400, with three home runs). Also returning from the DL, Wandy Rodriguez gets a road start versus the Cardinals. Now, Ervin Santana might have beaten the home-versus-away curse that he and Rodriguez appeared to have last season, but we don't have enough data on Rodriguez to make a call yet. His worst start of the four he made before hitting the DL was definitely the one on the road. Because of his history with poor road starts and because he is coming off the DL, it's best to hold back on Way-Rod. Doug Davis is a great story, but might not be a great start against the Giants. San Francisco has a very decent .791 OPS over the past week and a solid .782 OPS against lefties. They aren't the easy start for pitchers they appeared to be at the start of the season. Matt Garza is still owned in only 4 percent of ESPN leagues. That is borderline criminal. Four of his past five outings have been quality starts. Texas might not be the best matchup to try him out in, though, as it has a league-leading .827 OPS against righties, but think about picking him up soon. Similarly, Jeremy Guthrie (also with four of his past five outings as quality starts) seems underappreciated with ownership levels at 11 percent in ESPN leagues. But again, against the Yankees might not be the best time to try him out as a permanent member of your squad. As far as widely available pitchers worth a shot, try out Odalis Perez and Shawn Estes. Sure, only one could get a win as they face each other, but both the Padres' and Nationals' offenses rank near the very bottom of the league when it comes to facing lefties. Both guys should be good for a quality start and more strikeouts than you would typically expect from them. Three of Bronson Arroyo's past four starts have been quality starts, and his team should put him in a position to win as they matchup well against Pirates lefty Tom Gorzelanny. He should give you a cheap win. The Twins fared much better when they got a second look at Tigers rookie Armando Galarraga. This will be the Angels' second chance to hit him. There is not much upside to starting him here.
It's a precipitation-free forecast across the country for baseball. If you need that extra level of security though, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Arizona and Seattle are weather-proof.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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