The much-anticipated return of David Ortiz from a wrist injury headlines Friday's opener of a three-game Yankees-Red Sox battle in Boston, although the pitching matchup is a standout, too: Joba Chamberlain versus Josh Beckett. Meanwhile, Rockies-Reds features a matchup of National League All-Stars, Aaron Cook versus Edinson Volquez.
Matchups for Friday, July 25
All times are ET.
Jeff Clement, C, Mariners (fingernail)
Joe Crede, 3B, White Sox (back)
Mark Ellis, 2B, A's (shoulder)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (hamstring)
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (wrist)
Pedro Martinez, SP, Mets (shoulder, personal)
Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox (knee)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Howie Kendrick is a .418 hitter (28-for-67) with three home runs, 17 RBIs and 16 runs scored in 18 games in July. Robinson Cano is one of the hottest hitters in baseball, with six consecutive multi-hit efforts since the All-Star break. In that span, he has batted .519 (14-for-27) with two home runs and seven RBIs. He's a .333 hitter (39-for-117) with an .882 OPS and 20 RBIs in 28 career games at Boston's Fenway Park, so don't fret that he'll be battling Red Sox ace Josh Beckett. There aren't many Twins hitters worthy of your attention against the Indians' Cliff Lee. Even Justin Morneau is batting .190 (4-for-21) with three doubles, no homers and five strikeouts against the left-hander. Do your best to steer clear of their side. Load up on White Sox hitters against the Tigers' Nate Robertson, seeing that as a team, they have batted .304 with 16 homers and a .933 OPS lifetime against the left-hander. Even lefty-hitting Jim Thome has gotten into the act, batting .471 (8-for-17) with two doubles and two homers against Robertson. Jermaine Dye is a .371 career hitter (13-for-35) with five homers against the southpaw. It's a shame Chipper Jones is a bit nicked up once again, because, of the Braves, he has the best track record against the Phillies' Kyle Kendrick. He's batting .500 (6-for-12) with two doubles and two homers lifetime against the right-hander, so if there's any chance he'll be able to play Friday, he's a must-start. Adam LaRoche is hitting .424 (28-for-66) with five homers and 17 RBIs in his past 19 games. He tends to heat up around this time of year, so his hot streak isn't too surprising. Keep him in there against right-handers, especially at home. In three games since his return from the DL, Troy Tulowitzki has batted .538 (7-for-13) with a double. Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park isn't much less a hitters' park than Coors Field, so Friday's qualifies as a good matchup for the shortstop. Rick Ankiel has hit safely in 25 of his past 29 contests, batting .325 (38-for-117) with 12 homers, 27 RBIs and a 1.049 OPS during that span. Brewers hitters tend to tear up left-handed pitching, and sure enough, as a team, they have a .287 batting average and a .861 OPS lifetime against the Astros' Wandy Rodriguez. J.J. Hardy is batting .364 (4-for-11) with two doubles and two home runs in his career against the left-hander, while Corey Hart is batting .471 (8-for-17) versus Rodriguez. Conor Jackson is 3-for-4 with a home run, a walk and a hit-by-pitch in two games against the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez this season, and he's 7-for-9 (.778) against the left-hander for his career. He's not the only one to have gotten to Sanchez over the years; Mark Reynolds is 3-for-7 (.429) with a homer against him.
Pitchers: Ryan Dempster is one cool customer at home, with a 10-1 record, 2.81 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 12 starts at Wrigley Field this season. Expect another fine outing against one of his former teams, the Marlins, a squad that can be strikeout-prone. Although the Orioles have hit Joe Saunders well over the years -- current O's have batted .373 with a 1.017 OPS lifetime against him -- it's hard to ignore that he's a perfect 3-0 in three career starts against them. This is another favorable matchup for him, battling Brian Burres, so while Saunders' ERA (3.05) and WHIP (1.14) numbers might be a tad shaky, he's a worthy bet for a win, if you're looking for one. Think something not far off his five-inning, 12-hit, four-run effort against Baltimore on May 4. Josh Beckett is a must-start even against the Yankees, as he has won all three of his appearances against them this season, each of them a quality start. The challenge, then, is whether his opponent, Joba Chamberlain, is a worthwhile option for fantasy. I say yes, noting that he went six strong innings and allowed three runs against these Red Sox on July 6. Still, Chamberlain's win potential is a bit less, so keep it in mind. Twins hitters have batted a combined .181 with three homers and a .529 OPS in 155 at-bats lifetime against the Indians' Cliff Lee. He should continue his phenomenal season against one of the league's worst offenses versus left-handers (.705 team OPS). I'd sit Gavin Floyd in Detroit, seeing as he's 3-4 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in eight road starts. Not to mention that in his past seven starts, he has a 4.35 ERA and has allowed nine home runs. These Tigers can hit, so steer clear. In the battle of NL All-Stars, Aaron Cook versus Edinson Volquez, I'll take the Rockie. Cook has been the more consistent of the two, even if his per-start ceiling is a little lower than that of Volquez. He also is the one facing the colder offense and the weaker one against right-handers. Still, while Volquez has a 5.20 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in his past five starts, it's important to keep in mind that he's 6-0 with a 2.82 ERA in 10 starts at home this season. He should warrant fantasy consideration, too; I merely call him the slightly lesser of the two choices. Traditionally speaking, Wandy Rodriguez struggles on the road, and that he has to tangle with the Brewers, a team with an .813 team OPS against left-handers, makes him someone to avoid. He's 1-4 with a 7.11 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in six career starts in Milwaukee's Miller Park. The Giants might have defeated the Diamondbacks and Dan Haren on May 27, but since that turn, the right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.29 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in nine starts. He's among the hottest pitchers in baseball, so count on another masterpiece. It's a shame for Jonathan Sanchez that he has to face Haren; he has a slim chance at a win as a result. Diamondbacks hitters have batted .363 with a .960 OPS in 80 career at-bats combined against Sanchez, although, to be fair, he has held his own against them in two meetings this season, with a 1-0 record, 4.09 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Chad Billingsley is 7-4 with a 2.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and better than a strikeout per inning in his past 13 starts. In a home game against the light-hitting Nationals, he qualifies for must-start status.
Hitters: If you see Luis Gonzalez in the Marlins' early lineup (he should be there, based on an extremely favorable career history against the Cubs' Ryan Dempster), get him in your lineup as well. He's 10-for-18 (.556) with two home runs against the right-hander. Expect Matt Joyce to get another start, either in left field or right field or at DH, seeing as he has started all five of the Tigers' games against right-handers since Magglio Ordonez's return from the DL (a move that seemed like it might have threatened his playing time). He's a .323 hitter with a 1.080 OPS against righties this season. Scott Hairston has started each of the Padres' past six games against left-handers, and he's batting .308 with nine home runs and a .981 OPS in 107 plate appearances against that side this season. He's well worth a pickup against the Pirates' Zach Duke. Adam Lind is batting .346 (27-for-78) with five homers, 22 RBIs and a 1.002 OPS in 22 games since being promoted June 22, and he has started all but three of the Blue Jays' games during that span. Expect another good game against the Mariners' Miguel Batista, whose WHIP (1.96) is worst among Friday's scheduled starters. Bill Hall has started every one of the Brewers' games against a left-handed starter this season, and he's batting .359 with a 1.075 OPS against that side. He also has a .291 batting average and a .947 OPS at home. Jose Castillo was 2-for-3 with a double and a home run against the Diamondbacks' Dan Haren in their May 27 meeting, and he's 4-for-6 with two homers lifetime against the right-hander. Castillo has 82 starts in the Giants' 100 games this season, so count on him being in there for this contest.
Pitchers: I'd be willing to take a chance on Zach Duke based on the matchup; he's battling the light-hitting Padres at home, where he has a 3.77 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 10 starts this season. For his career, he's 18-13 with a 3.87 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 43 starts at PNC Park. The Astros got to Manny Parra twice in three starts this season, but both of those came in Houston. In their May 30 meeting in Milwaukee, Parra allowed one run on four hits in six innings. I'd expect an outing more like that from the left-hander this time, as he's 5-0 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 11 games (10 starts) at home this season. Vicente Padilla won in Oakland's McAfee Coliseum on May 2, tossing 5 2/3 innings and allowing one earned run on five hits while striking out six A's. That seems a reasonable expectation from him in the rematch, especially considering he's 8-2 with a 4.67 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in 12 road starts this season. If you're in a league in which Joel Hanrahan remains available, what are you waiting for? He's the Nationals' new closer following the trade of Jon Rauch, and while he's no guarantee to be in the mix against the Dodgers and Chad Billingsley, he's certainly worth a look in the event the Nationals can pull off the upset.
Only two games are weatherproof: Mariners-Blue Jays and Astros-Brewers. Weather is of greatest concern in Chicago, Cincinnati and Detroit. White Sox-Tigers faces a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms, with winds up to 18 mph. Both Marlins-Cubs and Rockies-Reds have a 30 percent chance of rain, although neither seems a great threat for a rainout. There's also a slim chance -- 20 percent -- of rain in Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, although none should be in jeopardy of a washout.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.