- AJ Mass, Rumor Central
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Thursday's schedule was already a welcome thirteen games deep, after last week's very minimal slate, but a rainout in Washington on Wednesday gives us a doubleheader and 14 games on today's slate. Randy Johnson will take the mound in Game 1 for his date with Jordan Zimmermann and, perhaps, baseball history. Meanwhile, rain in Pittsburgh has moved Wednesday's starters to today, so it will be Mike Pelfrey versus Ross Ohlendorf in lieu of Tim Redding versus Jeff Karstens. One more change; CC Sabathia will now pitch on Friday, with Chien-Ming Wang getting the call today.
As for our regularly-scheduled starters, Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to return from his suspension on Thursday, but after inexplicably missing the Cubs' charter flight to Atlanta, perhaps he's not quite ready to "ease on down the road" just yet. Maybe these rankings will put a bit of color in your fantasy lineups for Thursday, or perhaps when Friday rolls around, it will all be a dream ... a horrible, horrible dream. Only time will tell, my dear pretties. Here's our rankings for Thursday ... and your little dog, too!
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, June 4
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: Matt Cain gets to face the Nationals in the nightcap after Randy Johnson goes for No. 300 in the afternoon matchup, so if they had any fight in them for the Big Unit, perhaps it will all be gone by the time Cain throws his first pitch. James Shields is a perfect 4-0 in his career against the Royals, while Gil Meche has struggled against the Rays, with a 4.72 ERA. CC Sabathia is 7-3 against the Rangers, and with Josh Hamilton out of the lineup, Texas may struggle to score a bit more than usual. Mark Buehrle has been outstanding this season, but something about the Athletics brings out his worst. Buehrle is only 3-11 lifetime against Oakland, and while we expect the White Sox to be more than capable of handling Brett Anderson, we're not expecting a totally lopsided affair. Cole Hamels is 1-0 with a 2.14 ERA against the Dodgers, and he's facing Clayton Kershaw who is 0-2 with a 7.80 ERA versus the Phillies. That's a recipe for a one-sided affair, no matter how well the Dodgers play at home. Wandy Rodriguez is 4-1 against the Rockies with a 3.35 ERA, but don't completely count Jason Hammel out. He only allowed one run to the Astros in 5 1/3 innings earlier this year. Dave Bush did pitch well against the Marlins earlier this season, but they should have Hanley Ramirez in the lineup, and Josh Johnson is a formidable foe. Dontrelle Willis isn't horrendous against the Red Sox, with a 1-0 record and a 2.57 ERA, however, that doesn't mean we're champing at the bit to throw him in our lineup. Scott Baker is a slightly better version of Scott Baker against the Indians, with a career 4.00 ERA, which gives him the edge in this matchup of undesirables against Fausto Carmona, who gave up four earned runs in six innings the last time he faced Minnesota.
• Jason Bay, OF, Red Sox: Bay has a lifetime .918 OPS against Dontrelle Willis, and a lot of that came back when Willis was actually a feared pitcher.
• Jhonny Peralta, SS, Indians: Peralta has two home runs and five RBIs against Scott Baker in 30 at-bats, and could drive home a few more on Thursday...
• Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: but Carlos Pena should have even more success against his opponent, Gil Meche, with a career .320 average and three round-trippers in 25 at-bats.
• Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals: Guzman should continue to remain high on the list of National League hitters, thanks to his .357 batting average when facing Matt Cain.
• Todd Helton, 1B. Rockies: Have no fear, Helton owners, Wandy Rodriguez is here. And when he is, there's magic in Todd's bat. How does a .474 batting average grab you?
• Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: One hundred home runs and counting Uggla may add to his total against Dave Bush, with a .909 slugging percentage against the Brewers starter.
• Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers: Polanco has trouble knuckling down against Tim Wakefield, and is only a .067 hitter against him lifetime.
• David DeJesus, OF, Royals: Shield your eyes while watching DeJesus attempt to hit James Shields. It's not a pretty sight, that 1-for-13 mark.
• Adam Dunn, OF, Nationals: Dunn's power seems to vanish when Matt Cain is on the hill, as evidenced by the .286 career slugging percentage.
• Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: Clayton Kershaw has retired Victorino in all but one at-bat in their brief history, and that lone hit was a single.
• Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: Overbay's disappointing 2009 season won't get any better against John Lackey, against whom the Blue Jays' infielder is hitting only .182.
• Willy Taveras, OF, Reds: With a healthy hamstring, Taveras only has a .280 OBP facing Chris Carpenter, and he's looked a little gimpy as of late.
• Chris Duncan, OF, Cardinals: In 18 at-bats against Aaron Harang, Duncan has struck out nine times. That's a 50-50 proposition we'll steer clear of, thank you very much.
• Emmanuel Burriss, 2B, Giants: Would you have guessed Burriss is a .160 career hitters against the lowly Nationals? Well, now you know.
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• Brian Schneider, C, Mets: Fresh off the disabled list, Schneider has a home run off Jeff Karstens in his three career at-bats.
• Brian Buscher, 3B, Twins: Joe Crede has been hurting, and Buscher has a .571 career batting average against Fausto Carmona, including five RBIs in seven at-bats.
• Casey Blake, 3B, Dodgers: Blake is a .364 hitter against Cole Hamels, so perhaps he'll end Thursday with a batting average over .300 for 2009.
• Melky Cabrera, OF, Yankees: Against Brandon McCarthy, Cabrera is a perfect 3-for-3 with two home runs. That's worth a place in your starting lineup, isn't it?
• Kurt Suzuki, C, Athletics: What's not to like with a .556 career average and three RBIs against Mark Buehrle?
• Bill Hall, 3B, Brewers: In six career at-bats against Josh Johnson, Hall has as many home runs (two) as he is owned in fantasy leagues. (2 percent).
• Paul Phillips, C, Rockies: With both Chris Iannetta and Yorvit Torrealba unavailable, Phillips is going to get a lot of at-bats behind the plate for the Rockies.
Injury list: Out
• Edinson Volquez, P, Reds (15-day DL, elbow tendinitis): No structural damage was found, and he should be back on the mound in two weeks.
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (15-day DL, sports hernia): Hamilton might be out for as long as two months, if the injury is a "worst-case scenario." Stay tuned.
• Sidney Ponson, P, Royals (15-day DL, right elbow)
• Kip Wells, P, Nationals (15-day DL, abductor strain)
• Jesus Flores, C, Nationals (fractured shoulder): Flores will miss a minimum of three months, so for all intents and purposes, he's worthless in fantasy for the rest of 2009.
• John Buck, C, Royals (15-day DL, herniated disk)
• Yorvit Torrealba, C, Rockies (bereavement list): Torrealba flew home to Venezuela to attend to personal matters and it is unknown how long he will be there.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Jake Peavy, P, San Diego (flu): He lasted just one inning on Tuesday, due to a viral infection, but hopefully will be healthy in time for his next start.
• Chris Getz, 2B, White Sox (foot): He may be back on Thursday after hurting his ankle scoring a run on Monday.
• Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (hamstring): Already playing DH, due to a sore throwing arm, Longoria left Tuesday's game with tightness in his hamstring. An MRI on Wednesday will spell out the details.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians (shoulder): As soon as he's ready to go, the Tribe will be thrilled to have him, but if they don't activate him on Wednesday, it could be another week.
• Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B, Indians (shoulder): X-rays were negative, but a follow-up MRI was scheduled for Wednesday.
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (calf): Bradley got hurt running out a ground ball on Tuesday, and may limp all the way to the disabled list.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (finger): Cuddyer injured the same finger last season and ended up on the disabled list. If the pain doesn't go away you know the rest.
• Thursday's weatherproof games: Angels-Blue Jays, Royals-Rays, Rockies-Astros and Indians-Twins.
• Showers could cause (more) delays in Washington as well as in New York, but the Mets-Pirates game in Pittsburgh should get played before the expected late-afternoon rains come along. .
• The Southeast will see typical spring thunderstorms scattered throughout the day, which may cause the grounds crews in Miami and Atlanta to get some practice pulling that tarp on and off the field.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
AJ Mass thinks Matt Cain can build off what is sure to be an emotionally-charged outing by Randy Johnson on Wednesday to be the dominant pitcher of Thursday.