A-Rod should be in Yanks lineup Friday
As one star, three-time MVP Alex Rodriguez, returns to the lineup from a hip injury, another one leaves, as news hit that the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez will be suspended 50 games, effective immediately, for violating MLB's drug policy. But momentum, as they say, is tomorrow's starting pitcher, and Chad Billingsley will do his best to help ease the pain against the rival Giants. So far, Billingsley is pacing the NL with five wins, and with the Dodgers still undefeated at home heading into Thursday's games, he has a good shot to join Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke as the majors' only six-game winners.
Over in the American League, Jose Contreras makes what might be his last start in the rotation for a while. If he doesn't perform up to snuff -- a tough task against the Rangers, who are slugging a league-leading .501 -- Ozzie Guillen will pull him from the rotation. Elsewhere in the AL Central, Justin Verlander and Cliff Lee pick up where they left off on Sunday in a rematch of division foes. And in Boston, the Rays get another shot against Brad Penny, who had a season-high eight strikeouts versus Tampa Bay five days ago.
Starting pitcher rankings for Friday, May 8
Selected notes: Justin Verlander is coming off an 11-strikeout performance against the Indians, his fourth double-digit strikeout game in his career, but the rematch will be more difficult since he has to head to Cleveland this time around. Successes for him have been few and far between at Progressive Park, with a career 9.00 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in eight starts. The Tigers' .293 average against left-handers ranks fifth in the majors, and they knocked Cliff Lee around for 12 hits in seven innings on Sunday. Since the Indians and Tigers are in the same division, you can get a much bigger sample size of their history, and in 18 starts, the Tigers hit .295 against Lee, with a whopping 17 home runs in 100 1/3 innings. Pass. Jeremy Guthrie has faced the four top offenses in the majors by OPS, which helps explain the seven home runs in 35 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, the Yankees are one of those teams, so stay away. Don't get too excited when you see Johnny Cueto's microscopic ERA; the 17th-ranked offense of the Cubs is the best lineup he's faced all season. That will change in a hurry when he faces the Cardinals, whose .860 OPS against right-handers is 24 points better than the second-place Red Sox. It will be a strong test to see how legitimate Cueto's breakout season really is. James Shields has been bombed in three of his four starts at Fenway Park, including five runs allowed on nine runs and three walks in 5 1/3 innings earlier this season. Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox are one of three teams with an OPS north of .900 at home this season. Since 2007, Wandy Rodriguez sports an impressive 2.76 ERA over 31 starts at Minute Maid Park, including just two earned runs in three home starts this season. It would be surprising if the Padres were the team to rough him up. It's tough to recommend Scott Baker after he's allowed at least four runs in every start, but the Mariners' .693 OPS is 85 points worse than the previous weakest offense he's faced, the Rays. He has 11 strikeouts to two walks in his past two starts, and seven of his eight home runs allowed have occurred versus the Red Sox and Blue Jays, two of the top offenses in the league. At home, a quality start against the Mariners seems feasible. Ricky Nolasco shut out the Rockies for eight innings, striking out seven, in his only start in Colorado back in 2006, but would you have faith in an encore performance when his ERA is over seven? Me neither. The explosive Blue Jays offense has netted Scott Richmond wins in each of his past four starts, and considering who they face Friday -- the left-handed Josh Outman; the Jays are hitting .323 against lefties -- chances are good Richmond will benefit again. There's little chance Richmond keeps up his solid stats, but against the worst offense in the majors (dead last in OPS by 30 points), he just has to be average to get the job done.
• Brian McCann, C, Braves: Hopes to play Friday, and his new prescription glasses will be put to the test immediately versus Cole Hamels. Fortunately, in 21 lifetime at-bats, he has eight hits -- including five doubles -- and four walks against the southpaw.
• Brandon Inge, 3B, Tigers: As expected, Inge has cooled down a lot -- his average has dropped 41 points in his past seven games -- but his career average is 49 points higher against left-handers. Versus Cliff Lee in particular, he's a sick 13-for-33 (.394) with three home runs and a double.
• Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Indians: The streaky hitter has five doubles and three home runs in his past eight games, with hits in eight of his past nine games.
• Victor Martinez, C/1B, Indians: He has only one walk and a .294 on-base percentage against Justin Verlander, but that's because he's too busy knocking everything out of the park, with four of his nine hits going yard in 33 at-bats against the big righty.
• Ramon Hernandez, C, Reds: While he has six strikeouts in 24 at-bats versus Joel Pineiro, his success overrules the K's, with eight hits, including two home runs and a double.
• J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: Has eight hits in 20 career at-bats (.400) versus James Shields, including five extra-base hits (one home run).
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: Has put the hurt on Dave Bush, swatting three home runs to go along with his three doubles. Overall, Ramirez is slugging .714 in 28 at-bats against Bush.
• Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners: Still struggling, but three of his six doubles have come in his past seven games. Baker has allowed righties to hit .372 with eight home runs in 43 at-bats this season, and Beltre has had success against Baker, with six hits in 19 at-bats (.316); three were doubles and one was a homer.
• Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Kemp's a career .349 hitter against lefties, so it shouldn't be too surprising that he's gone for a hit in nearly half of his at-bats against Barry Zito, with 14 hits in 29 chances.
• Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: In 13 career at-bats against Jo-Jo Reyes, he's hitless.
• Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves: Has more strikeouts (nine) against Cole Hamels than hits (six) in 31 at-bats.
• Jhonny Peralta, SS, Indians: He's been struck out by Justin Verlander in 14 of his 43 at-bats. Overall, he's hitting just .256 versus Verlander with a paltry .349 slugging percentage.
• Aubrey Huff, 1B/3B, Orioles: Weakness versus strength: Huff is hitting .167 versus lefties this season, while CC Sabathia mows them down to the tune of a .591 OPS against.
• Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees: About as ugly a line against one pitcher as you'll see, Cano is just 1-for-19 (a single) with seven strikeouts against Jeremy Guthrie of all pitchers.
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox: He's been out since Monday and is expected to miss Thursday as well, so this may be null, but he won't exactly be chomping at the bit to enter the batter's box against James Shields. He's hitting .130 (3-for-23) against the righty, striking out seven times.
• Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox: He's 3-for-17 (.176) with three strikeouts versus Shields, with one unsuccessful steal attempt.
• Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: In 27 at-bats, his average is a lowly .148 against Dave Bush, with as many strikeouts (four) as hits.
• Michael Young, 3B/SS, Rangers: You may be wary of benching Young against a pitcher as bad as Jose Contreras, but the stats don't lie. With just two singles (and four strikeouts) in 14 at-bats against Contreras, Young's OPS against him stands at .286.
• Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers: He's faced Barry Zito often from his days in Arizona, but he hasn't done particularly well, with a .229 average in 35 at-bats. His hits have been productive -- five of his eight hits have gone for extra bases -- but he's struck out seven times against Zito, too.
• Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: He's solved his problems against lefties so far this season, with four of his six home runs coming off southpaws, so it will be interesting to see how he does against Zito, who has limited him to two hits in 15 at-bats lifetime.
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If you're hardcore
• Ryan Garko, 1B, Indians: Garko will probably get the start at first base Friday because of his career success against Justin Verlander: only five hits in 23 at-bats (.217), but four walks give him a .419 OBP, and three extra-base hits -- two of which were home runs -- push his slugging percentage to better than .500.
• Ty Wigginton, 3B/OF, Orioles: He's done almost nothing this season, hitting an empty .207, but that's why he's owned in only 3 percent of leagues. He's long been a lefty masher, however, and his one home run this season came against a southpaw. That success even extends to a pitcher of CC Sabathia's caliber, as he's 4-for-14 with a home run and a double.
• Scott Hairston, OF, Padres: The lefty killer. After going 3-for-4 with a home run against Jorge De La Rosa and Alan Embree on Monday, he's now up to three home runs and a .389 average in 36 at-bats versus left-handers this season. In just six career at-bats against Wandy Rodriguez, two of his three hits have gone over the fence.
• Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: He has six multihit games in his past nine games, a rare hot streak for the career .253 hitter. A matchup against Jo-Jo Reyes is a great opportunity to keep it up, as Reyes allows right-handers a whopping .917 OPS.
• Daniel Murphy, OF, Mets: With his hitting streak up to eight games, fantasy owners are taking note slowly but surely. With a 7-10 strikeout-to-walk rate, he's had no problems getting on base, and batting second in the Mets' lineup gives him a good chance to score 100 runs by season's end.
• Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers: He's receiving regular playing time against right-handers with Josh Hamilton out, and he's making the best of it, hitting .345 against them. And what's a better matchup than facing the struggling Jose Contreras?
Injury list: Out
• Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (15-day DL, neck)
• Carlos Guillen, 1B/3B/OF, Tigers (15-day DL, Achilles and shoulder)
• Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers (50-game suspension for violation of league's drug policy)
• Carlos Zambrano, SP, Cubs (15-day DL, hamstring)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (illness)
• Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (hamstring): Ellsbury could return to the lineup on Thursday; he was held out on Wednesday as a precaution.
• Alex Gonzalez, SS, Reds (oblique): He is going to have his sore oblique examined on Thursday and is considered doubtful.
• Bill Hall, 3B, Brewers (hamstring)
• Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies (ankle; probable)
• Chase Headley, OF, Padres (shoulder)
• Brian McCann, C, Braves (eye): Has been cleared for a rehab assignment with the Triple-A club, and hopes to return Friday after just one minor league game.
• Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (hip): He's expected to be activated from the disabled list in time for Friday's game.
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox (back/side)
• Friday features four weatherproof contests: Cubs-Brewers, Padres-Astros, Mariners-Twins and Nationals-Diamondbacks.
• A bit of rain is expected in the Northeast, with Boston (40 percent chance of showers) getting the worst of it. Flushing (30 percent) and Philadelphia (20 to 30 percent) may also experience light showers. Baltimore is expected to see some thunderstorms in the afternoon that will extend to the evening, with the weather clearing up around game time. Later into the night, however, the showers should return.
• In the Midwest, rain is expected in Cincinnati for much of the day, although showers will clear up around 10 p.m. In Chicago, thunderstorms (30 percent chance) may pop up a couple of hours into the game.
• The only chance for rain in the West lies in Denver, where the forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms throughout the night.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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