Thursday offers a lighter schedule, but no respite for Cliff Lee, who, after having to go up against Roy Halladay in his last start, now gets to face former teammate CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium. In other action, Cole Hamels hopes to rebound from his brutal beginning to 2009 against the lowly Nationals, and Russ Ortiz of the Astros makes his first start since August 2007. Let's take a look at where they all rank:
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, April 16 (* 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: Roy Halladay has never lost to the Twins, with a lifetime record of 7-0. Minnesota hitters have hit only .217 against the Blue Jays' ace over the years. … Although Adam Wainwright is 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA against the Cubs, he is 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his past three outings versus Chicago. Wainwright also has a 9.0 K/9 rate at Wrigley Field. … Sean Marshall has never lost in the month of April, with a career WHIP of 0.98, making him an intriguing pick against a Cardinals team batting only .248 against lefties. … John Danks has never lost to the Rays, who will be without Evan Longoria. Danks is 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA for his career against Tampa Bay. … Russ Ortiz is 8-1 in his career against the Pirates, including 3-0 at PNC Park. Meanwhile, his opposition, Jeff Karstens, has never won there (0-5 with a 5.60 ERA in Pittsburgh). … Yes, Barry Zito is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA at Dodger Stadium, but he's Barry Zito and rocking a 9.00 ERA for 2009. … John Lannan should struggle against the Phillies, as the quartet of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard is a collective .400 against him.
• Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels: Forget the slow start for Vlad. He's sure to perk up against Ryan Rowland-Smith, against whom he's 4-for-7 with a home run for his career.
• Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Kemp is off to a hot start for the Dodgers, and still could get hotter against Barry Zito. Kemp is 13-for-25 lifetime against him.
• Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers: "Manny being Manny" against Barry Zito has accounted for three home runs and a .968 OPS.
• Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees: Cliff Lee may be intentionally walking Mark Teixeira with nobody on base if he wants to avoid having history repeat itself. Tex has hit .444 with five RBIs against Lee over the years.
• Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: Jeter is a career .345 hitter against the Tribe, and even better (8-for-20, .400) against Cliff Lee.
• Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies: Even as a part-time player in the past, he's done well against John Lannan, with two home runs in eight career at-bats.
• Brian McCann, C, Braves: McCann has hit 11 percent of his career home runs versus the Marlins, including one off of Anibal Sanchez, against whom he has a .364 career batting average.
• Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: Forget Cliff Lee's slow start in this case. Damon has never had a hit against him in 14 career at-bats.
• Joe Crede, 3B, Twins: Everyone gets lucky once. That explains the home run Crede hit off Roy Halladay in 2004. Other than that? The .143 batting average speaks for itself.
• Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: Kouz remembers John Maine, and not fondly, as he's hitting only .167 against him for his career.
• David Wright, 3B, Mets: He's got only one hit and four career strikeouts against Jake Peavy in 12 at-bats, a far cry from his .333 average versus the Padres over the past three years.
• Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets: Add one strikeout to Wright's totals versus Peavy and you'll see why Delgado isn't expected to have a great Thursday at Citi Field either.
• Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: Ichiro should be back in the starting lineup for Seattle on Thursday, but his career .217 OBP against Joe Saunders makes us hesitant to return him to ours just yet.
• Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: Pena strikes out once every 2.7 at-bats against the White Sox, and against John Danks, he's whiffed four of 10 times.
• Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: Lee generally hits well against the Cardinals (.323) but not facing Adam Wainwright, against whom Lee is hitting only .214 for his career.
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•Mike Fontenot, 2B, Cubs: He's owned in only 16.1 percent of leagues, but is playing everyday for the Cubs and is 3-for-5 in his career against Adam Wainwright.
• Fred Lewis, OF, Giants: If his .417 average so far in 2009 doesn't grab you, then how about his lifetime .833 against Eric Stults of the Dodgers?
• Willy Aybar, 3B, Rays: With Evan Longoria taking care of personal matters, Aybar should start at third for the Rays. He has two doubles in five at-bats against John Danks.
• Brendan Ryan, 2B/SS, Cardinals: Ryan is a spot-starter who might get the call Thursday against Sean Marshall, especially if Tony La Russa notices Ryan's career 1.167 OPS against the left-hander.
• Ramon Vazquez, 3B, Pirates: Vazquez is getting some playing time in Pittsburgh primarily because of his glove, but with a career .313 average against Russ Ortiz, he may well show you some stick Thursday.
• Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates: Wilson is batting .320 so far in 2009 (through Tuesday) and should perform even better than that against Russ Ortiz, who has offered up to Wilson a lifetime OBP of .524.
• Ryan Church, OF, Mets: Surprisingly, Church is still owned in only 14.8 percent of leagues, and there is some concern that Gary Sheffield will eat into his playing time, but he is slugging .455 for his career against Jake Peavy.
Injury list: Out
• Jed Lowrie, SS, Red Sox (15-day DL, wrist)
• DeWayne Wise, OF, White Sox (15-day DL, shoulder)
• Shawn Riggans, C, Rays (15-day DL, shoulder)
• Jesse Litsch, P, Blue Jays (15-day DL, right forearm)
• Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles (15-day DL, hamstring)
• Xavier Nady, OF, Yankees (elbow): An MRI on Thursday will determine the extent of the injury.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (personal): Longoria is expected back Friday.
• Daisuke Matsuzaka, P, Red Sox (arm fatigue): Dice-K was able to make it through only one inning Wednesday and may well end up on the disabled list.
• Chris Carpenter, P, Cardinals (rib): Looks like he may miss a significant amount of time after leaving after three innings Wednesday.
• Nomar Garciaparra, 1B, A's (calf).
• Eric Chavez, 3B, OAK (shoulder).
• Thursday's weatherproof games: White Sox-Rays, Angels-Mariners and Blue Jays-Twins.
• The rest of the slate should also be free and clear of any weather concerns, with temperatures ranging in the mid-50s to the low 60s for most of the East Coast.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.