- AJ Mass, Rumor Central
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On Thursday, every team except the Mets and Dodgers are getting their last action in before the kickoff of interleague games this weekend. The schedule certainly has several solid starters on tap, including 10 with K/9 rates better than seven, but the biggest interest will likely be a pitcher making his big league debut. Atlanta's Kris Medlen, otherwise known as "the guy who isn't top prospect Tommy Hanson," will finally get to take the mound for the first time, at home against Colorado. It will be interesting to see how patient the crowd will be with their catcalls should he get off to a "Rockie" start. And with that horrible pun out of the way, let's take a look at all the rankings for Thursday:
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, May 21
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus
Selected notes: No big surprises at the top of the chart, with Zack Greinke's career mark of 5-8 with a 3.79 ERA against the Indians the only real reason we've opted not to put him at No. 1 ahead of Tim Lincecum. The showdown between Joe Saunders and Erik Bedard should be a fun one. Saunders beat the Mariners 5-1 earlier this season and Bedard beat the Angels 8-3. Bedard's career 5.97 ERA against the Halos is the reason we lean slightly towards Los Angeles in this one. Joba Chamberlain is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA against the Orioles for his career, which puts him ahead of Matt Garza, who had a rough outing in Oakland (four runs in 5 2/3 innings) in April. We do expect a bounceback from Garza, and he'll need to be sharp, as the Rays struggled against Dallas Braden in that same game. Adam Wainwright is 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in his past three outings against the Cubs, which is why he ends up ranked in our top 10. Jon Lester is always a good bet at Fenway Park, even against the hot-hitting Blue Jays. Lester is 17-4 with a 3.59 ERA when the Green Monster stands tall behind him. Joe Blanton does have a history of success versus the Reds, with a 1.13 ERA, and opposing pitcher Micah Owings is possibly the best bet the Reds have for hitting a home run off of him. Some rankings were influenced by previous meetings this season: Bartolo Colon held the Twins scoreless for six innings in April, while Edwin Jackson allowed four runs in six innings against Texas in their first encounter. And then there's our bottom-feeder, Adam Eaton, who got lit up in a 12-5 loss to the Yankees just a few weeks ago. We expect no better this time around. Nick Blackburn is never good at U.S. Cellular, as his 0-4 lifetime record with a 5.27 ERA indicates. Jeff Suppan probably doesn't have the Astros on his speed dial, as Houston has defeated Suppan in seven of his nine career decisions against the club.
• Victor Martinez, C, Indians: V-Mart won't be fearful of Zack Greinke, as Martinez is a .344 career hitter against the current Cy Young favorite.
• Placido Polanco, OF, Tigers: Sure, he's only a .266 hitter this season, but expect a boost in production thanks to a .550 average versus Kevin Millwood.
• Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Kinsler has two homers and a lifetime 1.417 OPS against Tigers starter Edwin Jackson.
• Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: The Kouz has had much more success facing Tim Lincecum than most, with a .385 batting average in 26 at-bats.
• Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees: Adam Eaton is pitching for the Orioles, which should put a nice big grin on Tex's face. In 10 career at-bats, he has six hits off Eaton, including a double, triple and two round-trippers.
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Markakis has 32 career RBIs against the Yankees, and a .429 batting average against scheduled Thursday starter Joba Chamberlain.
• Jim Thome, DH, White Sox: Blackburn pitching in the dead of night, Thome takes a swing and balls do fly. Thome's a .353 hitter off the Twins pitcher, with two home runs and five RBIs.
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves: A .350 lifetime mark against Aaron Cook bodes well for Larry on Thursday.
• Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: Feliz has one career home run against Micah Owings with a very respectable .778 slugging percentage.
• Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: J-Roll is not on a roll against Reds starter Micah Owings. He's only 1-for-7 against Owings, so don't expect too much clout.
• Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals: Even the best player in the game has his arch-nemesis; his own Perry the Platypus, if you will. Sean Marshall might be the guy, as Pujols has only a .222 slugging percentage against him in 18 at-bats.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: A big fat zero for Morneau against the not-so-svelte one. Bartolo Colon has retired Justin all 11 times they've squared off, with four strikeouts.
• Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: When Nick Blackburn is standing high atop the mighty mound, he dwarfs Konerko, who can only say, "This batting average goes to .111."
• Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Prince doesn't find Roy Oswalt so charming, as evidenced by the seven whiffs in 28 at-bats and a batting average of only .143.
• Adam Dunn, OF, Nationals: Is 9-for-23 good? If we were talking batting average, then yes. Since we're talking the K-rate of Adam Dunn against Ian Snell, then no.
• Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: Jon Lester has had much success making Vernon Wells look a tad foolish over his career. Wells is only a .182 hitter when Lester pitches.
• Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: Lee always seems to end up on these lists of mine, on both extremes. This week, it's another negative stat: a .211 mark versus Adam Wainwright.
• Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels: Kenji Johjima, get ready to catch the ball. Abreu is a meager .192 when Erik Bedard throws the ball his way.
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• Alex Gonzalez, SS, Reds: He's battled injuries all season, and is hitting only .174, but is 3-for-6 with a home run against Joe Blanton in his career.
• Travis Buck, OF, Athletics: He's had a sore shoulder lately, but did homer off Matt Garza the most recent time they met. Perhaps lightning will indeed strike twice.
• Geoff Blum, 3B, Astros: Blum is owned in less than one percent of leagues, but is a whopping .538 against Jeff Suppan with two home runs. Get thee to thy waiver wire!
• Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: Another member of the Tribe who could be named "He Who Hits Greinke." Choo is 4-for-10 against the right-hander, with a .900 slugging percentage.
• Brian Barden, 3B, Cardinals: Barden's a perfect 4-for-4 facing Sean Marshall, with two RBIs. Could be worth a flier.
• Robb Quinlan, 3B, Angels: Starts are few and far between for Quinlan, but his .538 career average off Erik Bedard might get Quinlan penciled in the lineup Thursday.
• Bobby Scales, 2B, Cubs: Nobody has jumped on the Scales bandwagon yet, but especially for you Rickie Weeks owners, why not take a shot on the guy hitting .333 for his first eight games?
Injury list: Out
• Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets (15-day DL, hip): Hip surgery has sidelined Delgado for about 10 weeks.
• Alex Cora, SS, Mets (15-day DL, thumb): The New York Daily News reports that his torn ligament has Cora out for 6-8 weeks, whether he opts for surgery or not.
• Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers (15-day DL, wrist): Out for the season.
• Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals (15-day DL, hamstring)
• Glen Perkins, P, Twins (15-day DL, elbow)
• Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers (personal): He left to be with his wife, who is undergoing surgery, and hopefully he will be able to return by the weekend.
• Delmon Young, OF, Twins (personal): Our condolences to Young, whose mother passed away from cancer Monday.
• Nick Masset, P, Reds (15-day DL, oblique)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Eric Stults, P, Dodgers (thumb): Stults will be skipped Wednesday as a precaution, but he will likely be back in the rotation by Monday.
• Cesar Izturis, SS, Orioles (groin): Izturis is still hurting from a minor collision Sunday, but his condition has reportedly improved.
• Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (shoulder): Ankiel will return to the lineup as soon as the team is satisfied he's ready. That could be as soon as Wednesday or Thursday, but after that, his soreness level will dictate whether he can go two in a row or not.
• Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (dizziness): The cause of his condition is still unknown. Until it is, he's not going to play.
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (groin): He sat out Tuesday but doesn't think he'll have to go on the disabled list again.
• Alfredo Amezaga, OF, Marlins (knee): An MRI showed a bone bruise, but nothing more serious.
• Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (heel): Lingering soreness has kept CQ out of the White Sox's lineup since the weekend.
• Thursday's weatherproof games: Brewers-Astros, Angels-Mariners and Athletics-Rays.
• Most of the schedule should be just fine and dandy Thursday, but the usual Florida thundershowers threaten to cause some delays for the Diamondbacks at Marlins, and nearby Atlanta might also experience some wet evening weather, causing some delays for the Rockies and Braves.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
AJ Mass previews Thursday's action in the majors and notes that Tim Lincecum is a better option than Zack Greinke.