- Sean Allen
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A game in the Bronx will see two teams trying to patch up their rotations. The Yankees are trying to cope with the loss of perennial 19-game winner Chien-Ming Wang, who hit the DL with foot troubles. Dan Giese will get the first chance to plug that gaping hole in the rotation. If he doesn't work out, it's no secret that the Yankees would be looking for an arm through trade.
The Reds put themselves in a tight spot by demoting Homer Bailey back to Triple-A. He is not quite ready for the big leagues yet, and concentration issues dog him whenever anyone gets on base. Hopefully Bailey can work more on pitching from the stretch in this stint in the minors. In the meantime, the Reds haven't officially announced a replacement, but right-hander Daryl Thompson is reportedly going to get the call. Thompson was rated as the Reds' No. 18 prospect by Baseball America last season, but was pushed out of the top 30 this year by an influx of talent. He didn't have a bad year in Double-A by any means, and he is 3-0 with a 3.25 ERA in Triple-A after making the jump a month ago. Still, trying out a pitcher just four games out of Double-A in the House That Ruth Built can be risky business.
Matchups for Saturday, June 21
Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays (foot)
Joaquin Benoit, RP, Rangers (shoulder)
Lance Berkman, 1B/OF, Astros (shin)
Nick Blackburn, SP, Twins (elbow)
Milton Bradley, OF, Rangers (quadriceps)
Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets (wrist)
Coco Crisp, OF, Red Sox (hand)
Ryan Doumit, OF/C, Pirates (concussion)
Jim Edmonds, OF, Cubs (foot)
Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Reds (illness)
Brandon Inge, C/3B/OF, Tigers (oblique)
Reed Johnson, OF, Cubs (back)
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres (back)
Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees (knee)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Red Sox (shoulder)
Xavier Nady, OF, Pirates (shoulder)
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers (side spasms)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox (hamstring)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (quadriceps)
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox (back)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: The White Sox, Indians, Blue Jays, Angels, Orioles, Rangers, Mariners and Tigers lose the DH as they head into National League parks. It would be a pretty big surprise to see Jim Thome try to lumber around the field with a glove, so look for Nick Swisher at first. Shin-Soo Choo has been the DH for the Indians lately, and should still find his way into the lineup against a right-hander, taking at-bats away from Franklin Gutierrez. Matt Stairs will sit for the Blue Jays against a lefty. Expect to see Garret Anderson over Gary Matthews Jr. in most interleague matchups. Aubrey Huff may start over Melvin Mora against his former Tampa Bay teammate Seth McClung, as Mora is a lowly 1-for-11 against McClung and is coming off a sore knee. The loss of the DH may give the Rangers a chance to let Milton Bradley rest his quad. David Murphy, Josh Hamilton and Marlon Byrd likely make up the outfield against a righty. With word out that Richie Sexson may be playing his final games for Seattle, Jose Vidro might make the start at first. Meanwhile, Jeff Larish is the odd man out for the Tigers. Joe Crede is 3-for-6 with a pair of home runs against Jason Marquis. Of the day-to-day players I have listed, I fully expect Manny Ramirez, Luis Castillo, Hideki Matsui, Lance Berkman and Troy Tulowitzki to play Saturday. Just double check for their names in the box score on Friday, as they are dealing with minor ailments.
Pitchers: The Cubs may be the most potent offense in the bigs this season, but Jose Contreras has been holding his own (except for a recent hiccup against the Tigers). He allowed two runs in a game against the Cubs last season, and is 8-5 in his interleague career. I'd say Contreras looks like an average start at best. The Dodgers make their living off lefties, but C.C. Sabathia is not your average southpaw. Don't hesitate to use Carsten Charles. Daisuke Matsuzaka will be making his first start since a DL stint, but since his shoulder issues weren't considered all that bad by most in the first place, he gets an endorsement here. The Cardinals are tough, but Dice-K, with his 8-0 record, can handle them. Roy Oswalt turned in a rough outing against the Yankees after making his best start of the season in his previous against Milwaukee. Looking at Oswalt's 5.04 ERA on the year, he is not exactly worthy of the benefit of the doubt. Who knows which version you'll get against the surprisingly strong-hitting Rays? I wouldn't risk it in a tight game in a head-to-head league, or if I had innings limits. Jair Jurrjens looked positively brilliant, changeup and all, in his most recent start after missing one with a bum ankle. Not that Jurrjens would need to have his best stuff against Seattle, as the Mariners rank dead last in OPS against righties (.663). If there is one pitcher I just can't get on board with this season despite all evidence suggesting I should, it's Joe Saunders. With 10 wins to his credit already and a 1.77 road ERA, Saunders looks like a fine start in Philadelphia. I will make note of the band box that Citizens Bank Park can be and the fact that the Phillies have the third best OPS versus lefties (.807). Pedro Martinez had his best control of the season in his most recent outing, and against an impatient Rockies team, he should be just fine.
Hitters: The Reds, Cardinals, Astros, Giants, Diamondbacks and Marlins gain a DH spot. Cincinnati likely allows an outfielder to handle DH duties, making the speedy Norris Hopper a good play for stolen bases. Short on other options, St. Louis may hand the extra at-bats to Aaron Miles or Brendan Ryan. Lance Berkman and his injured shin will DH for Houston with Darin Erstad manning first against a righty. The Giants may use Rich Aurilia or Emmanuel Burriss, but both should make you yawn. Arizona gets to start Mark Reynolds, Chad Tracy and Conor Jackson. Wes Helms will pick up the at-bats for the Marlins with Mike Jacobs at DH and Jorge Cantu at first. Jeff Baker looks like a solid pickup based on his recent hot streak. His eligibility at second and first should give you some room to maneuver. He is hitting .353 during the past week with two home runs. Now at 60 percent ownership in ESPN leagues and climbing, it is definitely time to get on the Marcus Thames bandwagon (and stay on until the wheels fall off). Thames has six home runs in a week and gets a fastball pitcher on Saturday in Ricky Nolasco. Gabe Gross is a must-start for the Brewers based on his 6-for-11 (.545) career hitting with two doubles and a home run against Roy Oswalt, so he looks like a pretty good start for you, too. Matt Murton should be an option as long as the Cubs are playing a righty while Alfonso Soriano is on the DL.
Pitchers: Dan Giese has been solid in three long-relief appearances for New York this month and has a huge opportunity to step in and fill the void left by Chien-Ming Wang. However, you are going to want to see how he handles his first career big league start by watching from the sidelines. Don't be fooled by Jason Marquis' 3-0 run with a 1.96 ERA in his three recent starts; He's 1-1 with a 10.06 ERA versus the White Sox. He's been stringing together some decent games, but at the end of the day he is still Chan Ho Park. Don't look for any miracles as he fills in for the injured Hiroki Kuroda. Taking on the Red Sox in Fenway is not a nice assignment for your third major league start, so don't tinker with the idea of using Mitchell Boggs. Edwin Jackson's ERA has shot up a full run in his past four starts. The Astros may be below average against righties, but they can still hit a home run when needed. He won't help your WHIP and he probably won't kick a win your way, but Jarrod Washburn should give you a quality start against the Braves. Even though they are top-3 against righties, Atlanta struggles versus southpaws (.715 OPS). Paul Maholm gets a huge nod against the Blue Jays. Toronto's offense is the worst in OPS versus southpaws (.646) and he's easily been the best of the Pirates rotation so far. Keep an eye on Nick Blackburn's status as Saturday approaches. If his elbow problems flare up and the Twins are forced to turn to a sub, it will likely be former phenom Francisco Liriano. Liriano has been looking great in Triple-A lately. Grab Gil Meche for his start against San Francisco. Meche struck out 10 Diamondbacks in his latest outing, and the Giants -- like the D'Backs -- are weaker against righties than lefties. Dana Eveland's ownership has been plummeting since he allowed 13 walks in two early June starts, but his most recent start looked pretty solid. The Marlins are weaker against southpaws and the A's have been providing their pitchers with run support galore of late. Give Eveland another chance in deeper leagues.
There is a 40 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms in Kansas City and Boston. The Giants-Royals game could be in trouble, but the Cardinals-Red Sox might be spared as the precipitation isn't expected until later. There is also a 30 percent chance of rain in New York (Reds-Yankees) and Denver (Mets-Rockies). Weatherproof games include: Astros-Rays, Orioles-Brewers and Diamondbacks-Twins.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Sean Allen previews Saturday's major league action from a fantasy perspective.