Ervin Santana set to make '09 debut
Thursday marks the return of the first of the Angels' injured trio of pitchers to make it back this season: Ervin Santana. It'll be a tough test for Santana out of the gate, as he'll face the Red Sox, who are hitting .281 as a team. Santana didn't face Boston last season when he went 16-7, so there's not a lot of recent history to go on, but we assume he'll hit the mound raring to go, and we hope to get 5-6 strong innings out of him in his 2009 debut. As such, we'll rank him No. 5 for the day. As for the rest of the slate? Read on ...
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, May 14
Selected notes: We'll ride the lightning with Justin Verlander, who has been nothing short of amazing in his past three starts with a 0.39 ERA and 22 strikeouts. CC Sabathia is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in Toronto, earning him No. 2 honors for the day. John Maine may be a surprising No. 4 pick, but he's never lost to the Giants, who have hit only .226 against him throughout the years. James Shields' 2009 numbers are skewed a bit by three starts against Boston. We expect better things against the Indians, who rank ninth in the American League in hitting. Wandy Rodriguez may be good for a win in Colorado, but his career ERA at Coors Field is 3.93. That ERA isn't bad, but it is a tad higher than the 1.80 ERA he has recorded so far this season. Felix Hernandez's career numbers in Arlington are a bit shaky. He's 2-5 with a 5.60 ERA. The reason I've ranked Mitchell Boggs so high is not as much about whether I like him as it is about how his opponent, Jeff Karstens, is 1-6 with a 5.31 ERA at PNC Park. Gil Meche is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in his past three starts against the Orioles. Dave Bush has never blossomed against the Marlins, with a lifetime 6.88 ERA. Meanwhile, Fausto Carmona has allowed 10 of the 24 batters he's faced at Tropicana Field to reach base safely, with a 9.00 ERA in two appearances in Tampa Bay.
• Joe Mauer, C, Twins: Against Justin Verlander, Mauer is a career .400 hitter with a home run and five RBIs.
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: When Scott Baker is on the mound, the power comes out for Granderson. He has hit four home runs against the Minnesota pitcher in his career.
• Mike Napoli, C, Angels: He faced Brad Penny earlier this year and had two home runs against him, which is the reason for Napoli's gaudy 2.250 slugging percentage against him.
• Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles: Mora is a solid .367 lifetime against Gil Meche and has hit a couple of dingers against him to pad that résumé.
• Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: Don't be surprised to see Feliz hitting Chad Billingsley. He's .333 against the Dodgers' ace for his career.
• Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners: Matt Harrison will be on the mound for the Rangers, and Beltre seems to respond against him, with a .500 average and three RBIs.
• Coco Crisp, OF, Royals: At home, drawing pictures of mountaintops with Coco on top. He's 6-for-18 against Jeremy Guthrie, who will pitch Thursday.
• Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: Helton has hits in 13 of 14 games through Tuesday and is .438 for his career against Wandy Rodriguez.
• Miguel Cabrera, OF, Tigers: Miggy is a stud, no doubt, but so far Scott Baker has his number. Cabrera is only 1-for-7 against him with two strikeouts.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Expecting a hit or two from Gonzalez against Ryan Dempster? They would be his first against the Cubs' starter.
• Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: A-Rod is bound to hit another home run eventually, but will it come against Brian Tallet? He's only 1-for-9 in his career against Tallet, though that lone hit was a round-tripper.
• Hank Blalock, DH, Rangers: Expect Felix Hernandez to pad his strikeout totals if Blalock is in the lineup. In 32 career at-bats, Hank has been yanked on strike three 11 times.
• Ronny Paulino, C, Marlins: He certainly doesn't play much, but make sure he's not in your lineup against Dave Bush. Paulino is a sad 1-for-11 against him.
• Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: Sizemore usually sizes up well to be in your lineup, but not so against James Shields, who has retired the Indians' slugger in 11 of 12 at-bats.
• Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays: He's batting .390 in May but has never solved the mystery that is Fausto Carmona -- 0-for-13 isn't getting it done.
• Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants: Despite the recent hot streak, Rowand is not a good play against John Maine, as he's a Jason Bartlett-esque .000 for his career against him.
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• Aaron Miles, 2B, Cubs: Owned in less than 1 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues, Miles is not lost against Chad Gaudin, with a .600 career batting average.
• Julio Lugo, SS, Red Sox: The 2 percent of you who own him should get him in your lineups against a rusty Ervin Santana. Lugo is .357 for his career against the Angels pitcher.
• Rod Barajas, C, Blue Jays: He CCs the ball well against Mr. Sabathia, with three home runs and a .412 average to his name.
• Bill Hall, 3B, Brewers: Hall has an .833 OBP against Josh Johnson to go along with a home run and two RBIs.
• David Murphy, OF, Rangers: He's slumping, to be sure, but as a career .368 hitter against King Felix, he's a good option for Thursday.
• Matt Murton, OF, Rockies: A spot start might be in order for Murton, based on his career .375 average and two dingers against Wandy Rodriguez.
Injury list: Out
• Conor Jackson, 1B, Diamondbacks (15-day DL, illness)
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox (15-day DL, oblique)
• B.J. Ryan, P, Blue Jays (15-day DL, shoulder): Due to come off the disabled list soon but probably will not reclaim closer job from Scott Downs right out of the gate.
• Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals (hamstring): Ludwick was hurt chasing after a Nyjer Morgan triple on Tuesday and may well join teammate Rick Ankiel on the disabled list.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (heel): Quentin may be able to pinch hit but probably won't start until at least Friday.
• Pat Burrell, DH, Rays (neck): The problem has lingered for more than two weeks and is still causing him to miss time.
• Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (oblique): The Yankees don't think he'll need to go on the disabled list, but the sore muscle has bothered Jeter for more than a week now.
• Hideki Matsui, DH, Yankees (hamstring): Matsui had to leave Tuesday's game with a tight right hamstring.
• Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets (hip): Expect Daniel Murphy to get some first-base action if Delgado continues to miss time.
• Luke Scott, DH, Orioles (shoulder): MRI results revealed a sprain and not a tear in Scott's rotator cuff, so he should avoid a trip to the disabled list.
• Felix Pie, OF, Orioles (illness): Pie was hospitalized Tuesday with stomach pain, and it's unclear exactly how long he'll be out.
• Thursday's weatherproof games: Marlins-Brewers, Tigers-Twins, Yankees-Blue Jays and Indians-Rays.
• Strong winds and rain may put a damper on things on both sides of the Keystone State. That's Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, for those not well versed in state nicknames.
• Isolated thunderstorms once again threaten play in Texas, but all the rest of the scheduled games should be good to go.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.