Commentary

Pavano looks to keep up hot streak

Updated: June 4, 2009, 5:11 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes
Friday is loaded with pitching, from the studs -- baseball's best in Zack Greinke -- to the veterans enjoying career seasons (Javier Vazquez) and, of course, baseball's next big thing in David Price. Even a number of less-heralded hurlers have favorable matchups on the slate and may be flying under the radar in your league, as the likes of Carl Pavano and Doug Davis are eschewing their veteran retread labels and pitching quite well in recent weeks.

Of course, on the hitting side, with Andrew McCutchen and Gordon Beckham called up Thursday, the league is infused with some new blood. Beckham, the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft, could see playing time at third base and shortstop regularly, and unlike more-hyped rookies like Matt Wieters, he's owned in just 1.4 percent of ESPN leagues.

For starters

Selected notes: Inconsistency has plagued John Danks for the past month, as he's averaging more than 3.9 earned runs in his past seven starts, but just a hair more than five innings per outing. With a tough matchup against the Indians (.833 OPS against left-handers, fourth-best in the AL), you can be forgiven for playing it safe. … With five quality starts in his past six tries, Dallas Braden has quietly become a solid option. It's impressive that despite facing four of the top six offenses in baseball seven times, Braden has allowed more than three earned runs in a start only once. He had better than a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in May, and with a favorable matchup versus the Orioles, he's an option even in mixed leagues. … Carl Pavano has an impressive 27-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past five starts, and a 50-13 ratio on the season, so it's time to take him seriously. An ERA north of 5.00 has left him overlooked in many leagues, but he's suffered some bad luck, as his .342 BABIP suggests. Pavano allowed 10 hits in an earlier start versus the White Sox, but don't count on the 29th-ranked offense against right-handers repeating that feat. … Now that the Pirates' only above-average hitter has been shipped out of town, the team becomes a perfect candidate to target spot starters. Mike Hampton limited the team to one run in seven innings five days ago, and while it may be too much to ask for another repeat performance, a quality start with a good opportunity for a win would make owners happy. … Jorge De La Rosa is as up-and-down as they come, but left-handers who can strike out more than a batter per inning are rare. Spot-start him wisely and you can sidestep most of his blowups. It's worth having him around for his favorable matchups, such as a contest against the Cardinals, who hit just .237 against left-handed pitching. … Despite facing a brutal schedule, Brad Penny has been gradually lowering his ERA. Another tough matchup versus the Rangers is probably too risky for most people, but most of the time, all he has to do is pitch six solid innings to be in good position for a win. That makes him worthy of a roster spot in most leagues.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels: With four hits and two walks in nine at-bats against Justin Verlander, Abreu has had no problem reaching base against the Tigers' ace. He's even slugged a home run and was successful in his lone stolen-base attempt.
Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: Left-handed batters have teed off on Micah Owings this season, hitting .364 and slugging .511 against him. That is a career-long trend for Owings, as lefties slug .476 against him for his career.
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox: He is 15-for-41 (.365) in his past nine games, and he should sustain his hot hitting against Kevin Millwood, a pitcher he is hitting .315 against in 54 career at-bats, with seven extra-base hits (including two home runs).
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: Only twice has Pierzynski not gathered a hit off Carl Pavano, going 5-for-7 with a double and a triple against him for his career.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: Although Ludwick has only faced Jorge De La Rosa four times, both of his hits off him have gone yard, which is pretty convincing despite the small sample size.
Joe Mauer, C, Twins: Not that Mauer needs much help nowadays, but he's conquered King Felix in his career, going 10-for-16 (.625), including five extra-base hits -- three doubles and two home runs.

Pitchers' count:

Brandon Inge, 3B/C, Tigers: He's just 3-for-19 (.158) against Ervin Santana, striking out a whopping eight times.
Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels: Justin Verlander has dominated Figgins, striking him out seven times out of 11 at-bats, and otherwise allowing just a single and two walks.
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: The past three seasons, Damon has been quite ordinary against left-handers, hitting .267 with just five home runs in 366 at-bats. You shouldn't like his chances against David Price, whose strikeout rate rose to more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings against left-handers in the minors.
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: Crawford has not worked a walk against CC Sabathia in 25 at-bats, instead striking out five times, and he hasn't garnered many hits (6-for-25, a .240 average) or displayed much power (.320 slugging percentage). Since he's stood on first base only four times, he's managed to steal only one base.
Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: With a .438 OPS and .188 batting average in 16 at-bats against Zack Greinke, you can't go wrong in sitting Wells. Teammates Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill don't fare much better, as both are 3-for-13 (.231), which is probably all the evidence you need to bench a hitter against the pitcher with the majors' best ERA.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: He has just two singles in 12 at-bats versus Ryan Dempster, hitting .167 with three strikeouts.
Nate McLouth, OF, Braves: Don't expect much out of new arrival McLouth, as he faces Yovani Gallardo, who has struck him out five times in 14 at-bats without allowing an extra-base hit or a walk. Although McLouth has worked in four singles against him, it's a very empty .286 batting average.
Justin Morneau, 1B, and Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: They have combined for one extra-base hit in 37 at-bats, a home run by Morneau. Otherwise they are 5-for-36, with seven strikeouts by Cuddyer and four from Morneau.

If you're hardcore

Deep inside the matchups

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Jeff Larish, OF, Tigers: He faces Ervin Santana on Friday, who has allowed 19 hits and three home runs in his past two starts (6 1/3 innings). If that's not reason alone to gamble on him, Larish boasts a .250 average/.370 OBP/.517 slugging line against right-handers, and he slugged .581 in May.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: Hopefully Willingham will be recovered from his stomach virus in time to play, as he was on quite the tear before his injury, with three home runs in his past three games. He has crushed Tim Redding in his career, with two home runs in 13 at-bats, hitting .385 in the process.
Gabe Kapler, OF, Rays: Kapler plays against most lefties, and while his numbers don't look great (.234/.339/.383), seven of his 11 hits have been doubles -- plus, he has eight walks and two stolen bases, so the secondary numbers are there. Considering he hits .291 with an .822 OPS in 849 career at-bats against lefties, you can probably chalk up the low average to a small sample size. He has CC Sabathia's number, fortunately, with four hits, including a home run, and three walks in 11 at-bats, and he's also nabbed a steal against him.
Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: Butler has some use against lefties, hitting .292 with four home runs and five doubles in 65 at-bats.
Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: Another lefty masher who went deep against Manny Parra on Tuesday, Ross is now up to four home runs in 51 at-bats against southpaws; 10 of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases. Barry Zito hasn't been able to solve him either, as Ross is 3-for-6 with a double and a home run against him.
Andruw Jones, OF, Rangers: Unfortunately, so far Jones has started only against southpaws, which Brad Penny is not. But Jones' career numbers against Penny are astronomical, (.333 with an .800 slugging percentage in 45 at-bats thanks to six home runs and three doubles), so it's worth checking the lineups early to see if the likes of David Murphy or Marlon Byrd (1-for-7 against Penny lifetime) get a day off so Jones can get into the lineup.
Eric Hinske, OF, Pirates: Hinske is 5-for-9 in his past three starts, first going 2-for-4 with a home run and a triple, following that up with a 3-for-3 outing, and then working two walks and scoring a run Monday. He did hit 20 home runs last season, and he's 2-for-3 with a home run and a double against Mike Hampton. The trade of Nate McLouth should open some more playing time up for him.
Ryan Garko, 1B, Indians: Garko is hitting .368 versus John Danks, with seven hits in 19 at-bats. He's hit a whopping three home runs off the southpaw, also chipping in a double, en route to an .895 slugging percentage; he's hitting .344 in 32 at-bats against lefties for the season.
Jason Giambi, 1B, Athletics: Giambi has two home runs in his past four games and is 4-for-9 with two home runs against Jeremy Guthrie for his career. Guthrie has already allowed eight homers to left-handed batters this season, too.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS, Indians (15-day DL, shoulder): According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Cabrera is expected to be out 2 to 4 weeks with a sprained left shoulder. He injured his shoulder in a collision Tuesday.
Scott Hairston, OF, Padres (15-day DL, biceps): It's not yet known whether Hairston can return when his 15 days are up, although he said his biceps "felt like it wanted to tear," which doesn't sound promising.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (15-day DL, abdominal): Hamilton's injury has been compared to a sports hernia, and surgery that could sideline him for two months is still a possibility.
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (calf): Reyes was scheduled to return from the disabled list Friday, the first day he was eligible, but suffered a setback Wednesday. His timetable will become clearer after he visits Mets doctors Thursday.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (hamstring)
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (finger): His finger is improving, but Cuddyer still can't grip a baseball.
Travis Hafner, DH, Indians (15-day DL, shoulder): He will have his shoulder examined by the Indians on Thursday, and if the results come back positive, Hafner could be in the lineup Friday. Still, Hafner struggled to play every day during his rehab assignment, so he may be eased into full-time play.
Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers (soreness): Manager Joe Torre has pledged to give Hudson a couple of days off, as Hudson is beat up after starting in all of the Dodgers' first 54 games. He shouldn't be out for too long, though; look for his return Friday or sometime this weekend at the latest.
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Braves (shin): Kotchman has missed three straight games and remains questionable with a shin contusion.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (hamstring): The good news is that Longoria's hamstring isn't severe enough to land him on the disabled list, and the Rays are optimistic he could return soon.
Willy Taveras, OF, Reds (hamstring): Manager Dusty Baker said Taveras should return sometime this weekend.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees (ankle)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (hand)
Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies (hip)
• Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals (stomach)
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox (calf): Youkilis left Thursday's game with a tight calf.

Weather concerns

• There are three weatherproof games for Friday: Royals-Blue Jays, Pirates-Astros and Twins-Mariners.
• Rain is a big problem along the Atlantic coast, as Washington (70 percent), New York (70 percent) and Baltimore (60 percent) all have significant chances of precipitation. Boston also has a 40 percent chance of showers.
• Miami once again is at risk of thunderstorms, with a 50 to 60 percent chance that puts the Giants-Marlins affair up in the air. And there's a rare chance of rain on the West Coast, too, with showers a 40 percent probability in Oakland.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.

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