Rich Harden, Cole Hamels make their season debuts
The pitching matchups look a lot less enticing as most teams' fourth starters take the mound on Friday. There are a couple of exceptions, though, as Derek Lowe takes the mound versus the Nationals to try to match his impressive season debut. Two other aces will make their season debut for their clubs after both had their starts pushed back due to injury concerns in spring training: Rich Harden against the Brewers and Cole Hamels in Coors Field. This will be Hamels' first career start in Coors, a stiff test as he attempts to bounce back from elbow woes.
Starting pitcher rankings for Wednesday, April 8 (* all stats listed are from 2008)
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Record: pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Selected notes: Cole Hamels started against the Rockies back in the 2007 playoffs, allowing three hits and striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings, but giving up three earned runs and four walks. The Rockies were one of six teams with an OPS better than .800 against left-handed pitchers. Anibal Sanchez didn't have a great spring, but showed strikeout potential as he returned from shoulder surgery last summer, with 50 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings, and has an ERA more than a run lower and a WHIP 40 points lower when pitching at home. Rich Harden will be another classic test of just how much spring training matters as he had a 10.38 ERA in four spring starts. He allowed three home runs in two straight spring training starts, and the Brewers were fifth in home runs last season, making Harden a risky proposition.
• Jose Guillen, OF, KC: 8-for-27 (.296) with two homers and a .630 slugging percentage versus Andy Pettitte.
• Johnny Damon, OF, NYY: A career .346 hitter versus Sidney Ponson; also has eight walks and four steals in 52 at-bats.
• Jason Kubel, OF, MIN: Could get a start against Jose Contreras considering he's 5-for-11 against him, with four of those hits of the extra-base kind (three doubles, one home run).
• Bobby Abreu, OF, LAA: 9-for-28 (.321) versus Tim Wakefield, but with little power (.393 SLG); instead, he trades that for steals (three steals).
• Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK: Has only seven at-bats versus Ryan Rowland-Smith, but five hits -- including two doubles -- indicate he's pretty comfortable facing him.
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, CHC: Slugging .280 with zero extra-base hits in 25 at-bats versus Braden Looper.
• Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI: Has just three hits in 31 at-bats versus Jason Marquis.
• Carl Crawford, OF, TB: In 16 career at-bats versus lefty Mark Hendrickson, Crawford is hitting .250 with no extra base-hits. His only steal attempt resulted in a caught stealing.
•Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA: Has more strikeouts (four) than hits (three) when facing John Maine, with only one extra-base hit (a home run) in 16 at-bats.
• Dan Uggla, 2B, FLA: Has struck out in nearly half of his at-bats versus Maine, with seven K's in 15 chances. He's reached base five times, but has been thrown out stealing in both of his attempts.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN: Jose Contreras has his number: Morneau has just three hits in 26 at-bats (.115), with a double as his lone extra-base hit.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, MIN: Cuddyer isn't much better, going 5-for-23 (.217).
• Torii Hunter, OF, LAA: Has three home runs and four steals in 37 at-bats versus Tim Wakefield; only one walk, but with a .378 average and a .649 slugging percentage against him, there must not be many balls to take.
• Nick Punto, SS/2B, MIN: Has 11 hits in 29 at-bats, and more importantly, he's 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts, and A.J. Pierzynski isn't keeping anyone off the basepaths anytime soon.
• Aaron Hill, 2B, TOR: Bashes lefties as he hits 26 points higher against southpaws and also hits a home run once every 41 at-bats, versus once every 71 at-bats versus righties.
• Cody Ransom, 3B, NYY: Hits lefties well, but more importantly, he's facing Sidney Ponson.
• Gabe Kapler, OF, TB: Provides cheap average (.295) and pop (.485 SLG) against lefties in his career.
• David Freese, 3B, STL: Patchwork pitchers can pull it together for Atlanta, but pitching in Houston could be disastrous for Mike Hampton. Freese has some minor league success and is more comfortable hitting lefties.
• Franklin Gutierrez, OF, SEA: A career .280 hitter against lefties, with 11 home runs and nine steals in 271 at-bats.
Injury list: Out
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Garret Anderson, OF, ATL (calf)
• Jorge Cantu, 1B/3B, FLA (hand)
• Jerry Hairston Jr., SS/OF, CIN (leg)
• Chipper Jones, 3B, ATL (thumb)
• Chad Qualls, RP, ARI (personal)
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, TEX (ear)
• Geovany Soto, C, CHC (shoulder)
• Showers in the East could affect games in Cincinnati, Baltimore and Atlanta. The Pirates-Reds should see some delays, if not an outright rainout. Baltimore is expected to see evening showers, but they should begin to clear up around game time. Atlanta, meanwhile, is expected to experience strong storms all evening long.
• In the Midwest, Cleveland has a 30 percent chance at rain, while in Chicago, wind of up to 19 mph is expected.
• Even Southern California will have to deal with the elements: Chances for rain are high in Anaheim (40 to 60 percent) and San Diego (60 percent), with the precipitation expected to persist well into the night.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.