Halladay makes his return
Starting pitcher rankings for Monday, June 29
Selected notes: The last time Zach Duke faced the Cubs was on May 27, when he limited them to two runs in seven innings. But he has a porous nine-to-eight strikeout-to-walk rate in the five starts since, with six home runs allowed, so he's been lucky to come away with a 3.82 ERA in June. His results this season may convince owners to throw him out there, but pitchers don't get away with striking out fewer than three batters per nine innings for long, so you're playing with fire until his peripherals rise to a respectable level. Carl Pavano had his start skipped on June 20 against the Cubs due to shoulder soreness, but the rest didn't do him any good when he took the mound against Pittsburgh last Wednesday. He was touched up for eight runs -- three earned -- in 3 2/3 innings. Pavano had tossed a complete game shutout to lower his ERA to 4.62 back on June 5, so the 12.36 ERA he has in his past three starts implies he may be pitching at less than 100 percent. He needs to stay far away from fantasy rosters until he proves his health with an effective start. Rich Harden has allowed a home run in six consecutive starts, including two dingers in each of his past two. It's rare to see Harden so hittable, since he usually alternates between untouchable or injured. Harden rarely allows so many home runs -- three more would match his career high -- so owners should be optimistic he can turn it around, although if he gets touched up by the Pirates, it might be time to worry a little. Gavin Floyd has been nearly untouchable recently, with a 1.61 ERA in his past seven starts, allowing just two home runs while striking out 41 batters in 50 2/3 innings. It's been quite a turnaround since he had a 7.71 ERA through eight starts, and those early season struggles are why owners have been slow to forgive, as he's owned in less than half of ESPN leagues. While his 5-to-5 strikeout-to-walk rate in his past two starts is something of a red flag, you tend to ride hot pitchers as long as the matchup isn't unreasonable, so keep him active against the Indians. Make sure to stay away from Randy Wolf when he faces the Rockies, who have been one of the hottest teams all month (.853 OPS, second) and have been particularly adept against southpaws all season. Wolf has also struggled this month, striking out only 13 batters in 26 2/3 innings and allowing six homers in 26 2/3 innings. It was only a matter of time before Ricky Nolasco's results fell in line with his promising peripherals, as bad luck can haunt a pitcher only so long. He's struck out 21 batters in his past 18 innings, sporting a 1.50 ERA, and the fact a lot of owners didn't give up on him despite an ERA worse than nine before he was briefly sent down to the minors is a testament to how much smarter fantasy owners are than even a few years ago. You'll want him active versus the Nationals, whose offense has struggled in June since getting of to a good start the first couple of months.
• Jhonny Peralta, SS, Indians: He's hitting .429 (6-for-14) with two home runs and two doubles versus Gavin Floyd, and went 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs in six previous plate appearances this season.
• A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: Pierzynski is a robust 7-for-10 off Carl Pavano, with three extra-base hits, and Pavano has been hit hard in recent outings.
• Alfonso Soriano, 2B, Cubs: All right, we'll try this again. Soriano is hitting a ridiculous .517 (15-for-29) versus Zach Duke, compiling six extra-base hits, including two homers. Overall, Soriano's slugging .862 off Duke.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: After starting the month with consecutive homers, it looked like Gonzalez was going to keep right on cruising, but June has actually been his worst month, with a .235 average and only two additional home runs since that initial mini-streak. He does, however, crush Roy Oswalt, going 6-for-13 (.462) with two homers in his career, including one launched earlier this season, against the Astros' ace.
• Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: He's batting .500 versus Ubaldo Jimenez in 16 at-bats, with half of his hits of the extra-base variety, including a home run.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: The streaking Ross is hitting .326 in June and has 11 extra-base hits in his past 16 games, including five homers. He does most of his damage against lefties, and he gets to face Scott Olsen, who has allowed a .616 slugging percentage to right-handed hitters, in his first start off the disabled list.
• Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Kubel went 2-for-4 with a double, his 12th extra-base hit of the month, and is at risk of permanent residence in this section. He faces Luke Hochevar on Monday in what should be another favorable matchup as Hochevar's allowed a .485 slugging percentage against left-handed batters in his brief career, 136 points higher than what he allows to right-handers.
• Clint Barmes, 2B/SS, Rockies: Barmes is usually a mediocre hitter away from Coors Field, but you can always count on him to hit lefties well. He has a .362 average against them this year, a full 100 points higher than his average against righties. It also helps that Randy Wolf is quite susceptible to right-handers, with a .488 slugging percentage allowed and more than 40 percent of his hits allowed going for extra bases.
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Markakis is hitting an empty .272 with one home run in 114 at-bats against southpaws this year, and lifetime, he's just 6-for-25 (.240) against Jon Lester.
• Luke Scott, OF, Orioles: Not only does Scott have just one extra-base hit in his past 16 games, he's 0-for-8 with three strikeouts in his career versus Lester.
• Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: He's hitting .211 with six strikeouts to zero walks in 19 at-bats against Ricky Nolasco, and he's hitting only .238 in June.
• Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: It's not surprising Pena has a poor batting average against Roy Halladay, .256 in 43 at-bats, but his usual power has been lacking as well, hitting just one home run. He's also struck out 13 times compared to only one walk.
• Casey Blake, 1B/3B, Dodgers: Blake has finally cooled off in June, and a matchup with the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez promises to be a tough one. Jimenez is limiting righties to a .230 average and a sub-.600 OPS, and Blake is hitting only .267 versus right-handers anyway.
• Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: Although he's hitting .310 versus left-handers, it's an empty .310 as it comes attached with three extra-base hits (zero home runs) and a 14-to-3 strikeout-to-walk rate. Meanwhile, Randy Wolf has allowed just seven hits in 71 at-bats (.099 average) to lefties this season, compiling 35 strikeouts in the process.
If you're hardcore
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets: Sheffield returned to the lineup Friday with a bang, hitting a home run while batting cleanup behind David Wright. That's a prime spot for fantasy value, and it also helps that he's hit two homers off Braden Looper in 19 career at-bats against the righty.
• Ty Wigginton, 1B/3B/OF, Orioles: Hitting .412 with five multihit games and two home runs in June, Wigginton is becoming a nice option in AL-only leagues. He doesn't play every day, instead starting against most left-handers, but since his batting average dipped to a season-low .198 on May 10, he's hit .341. He plays multiple positions, and if he keeps it up, he could be in line to take more playing time from the disappointing Melvin Mora.
• Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants: Since May 10, Rowand is hitting .341 with six home runs, and in six at-bats against Brad Thompson, Rowand has five hits, blasting a home run and a double along the way.
• Marcus Thames, OF, Tigers: Thames already has three homers in just 33 at-bats against left-handers, and in his career -- 548 at-bats -- he's hit 39 homers off southpaws, and he's even hit cleanup for the past 10 games, making him a sneaky option against rookie Brett Anderson.
Injury list: Out
• Matt Lindstrom, RP, Marlins (elbow)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Rod Barajas, C, Blue Jays (hamstring): Initially, the Blue Jays were going to place Barajas on the disabled list, but he told the team on Saturday that his hamstring felt better. Hopefully that means he can return in the near future.
• Khalil Greene, SS, Cardinals (anxiety): Being held without a hit in 13 consecutive at-bats against the Mets last week triggered symptoms of his anxiety disorder, and while manager Tony La Russa is optimistic he can return Sunday, it's hard to tell with psychological disorders.
• Roy Halladay, SP, Blue Jays (15-day DL, groin): He threw a successful bullpen session on Friday and is ready to return to the rotation Monday.
• Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (hip): Lowell has played in just two games since June 19 with a bum hip, including missing the past three games, and is not expected to play Sunday, either. He is expected to receive an injection of Synvisc on Monday to help the pain; he remains questionable to play.
• The Mets-Brewers and Rays-Blue Jays are Monday's weatherproof contests.
• Besides the typically damp weather of Miami (50 percent chance of thunderstorms), Pittsburgh is the only other area where rain is a possible threat, with a 40 to 50 percent probability of storms.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.