Garcia returns to start for White Sox
We'll see the return of Freddy Garcia in his first start since Sept. 29, 2008, in what looks like an audition for a permanent spot in the rotation between him and Jose Contreras. It will be Garcia's fourth start since 2008, and his 15th total since 2007, so he has a lot to prove. It's easy to forget that Garcia was once a horse, making at least 30 starts for six straight seasons, and seven of eight seasons. If Garcia does have something to contribute, he will almost assuredly be a shell of his former self; he's had trouble getting his fastball over 90 mph, and now in his mid-30s, he'll have to get by on guile. For all of the baseball purists who scoff at how babied pitchers are nowadays, if preventing promising pitchers like Rick Porcello or David Price from logging 200-plus innings as a 22-year-old rookie prevents midcareer breakdowns like Garcia's, then isn't it all worth it?
Starting pitcher rankings for August 18, 2009
Selected notes: For a whopping 21 consecutive starts, Ubaldo Jimenez has pitched at least six innings; he has a 2.91 ERA in that time. It's shocking he's still available in a third of ESPN leagues, even as he becomes an elite pitcher before our very eyes. Toss in a top-10 ground ball rate and there's no team in the league Jimenez can't conquer, so you should stop sleeping on him. Since the beginning of June, Ricky Nolasco has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 13 starts, so even after allowing 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Astros in his last start, he still has a 3.56 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in that span. Toss in 89 strikeouts in 83 2/3 innings and he's still been one of the most valuable pitchers over the past two and a half months. Nolasco should get back on track in the rematch. Over his past six starts, David Price is walking a microscopic 1.32 batters per nine innings. As Quagmire from "Family Guy" would say, "Jackpot!" His results have lagged behind, though. We already know Price can pile up strikeouts; if he stays stingy with the walks and home runs here, then there isn't such a concern. We like him a lot versus the Orioles, and who knows, he's still available in nearly 20 percent of leagues. Pedro Martinez's first start was essentially a microcosm of what to expect. He went five innings, allowing three runs against the Cubs while striking out five and walking only one. At this point, he's a five- or six-inning pitcher who can get a decent number of strikeouts, but is nonetheless fairly hittable and has to be avoided in his tougher matchups. Fortunately, while the D-backs are hitting well this month, they're also quite dependent on their home park, as their .711 road OPS ranks 21st in the majors. Pedro should hold his own. Well, on the bright side, Rick Porcello will keep his innings down. Porcello will return from his five-game suspension with one inning pitched in the past 12 days, so he should experience at least a temporary reprieve from any possible fatigue. A matchup versus the Mariners -- an impatient team with little power -- seems perfect for Porcello. Seattle will grant Porcello, holder of the majors' fourth-best ground ball rate, a ton of grounders, resulting in efficient innings. He may not rack up a ton of strikeouts, but he should make it past the sixth inning for just the second time in his past 10 starts. Gil Meche was working on a pitch count in his first start back from the disabled list, and all things considered, he was effective against a good offense. He can thank Joe Mauer for ruining his evening, as Mauer was responsible for all four runs Meche allowed in his five innings. One thing Meche must immediately stop is the copious amount of home runs he's allowed, with 10 long balls allowed in his past six starts. That's worrisome when you're facing the White Sox in U.S. Cellular Field, so you may want to give Meche a couple of more starts to right himself. Poor Ricky Romero has a 5.06 ERA in eight starts against the AL East; he'll face the Red Sox on Tuesday, his third straight division opponent, and a team that has touched him up for a 9.72 ERA. Until the schedule eases up, Romero can't be used.
• Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: Few hitters have been as hot for as long as Morales has been, as he's hitting .347 since July. Fausto Carmona is awful against lefties (.314 AVG/.437 OBP/.520 SLG against), so another couple of hits and maybe a few extra-base hits seem probable for the first baseman.
• Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates: McCutchen's strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved every month, and he's up to nine walks and five strikeouts, along with four home runs and three steals, in August. As far as steals are concerned, McCutchen could test the arm of Jason Kendall, who has thrown out only 21.4 percent of would-be thieves in 61 attempts. And hitting-wise, right-handed batters hit .311 off Manny Parra, while McCutchen is hitting .317 against southpaws.
• Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: With a ridiculous five home runs in 28 at-bats against Josh Beckett, Wells is a must-start on Tuesday, if for nothing else than as a lottery ticket. Overall, Wells is a lifetime .321 hitter against Beckett in 28 at-bats.
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox: He will return from a five-game suspension Tuesday, and as a welcome-back present gets to face Romero, a lefty he's already taken out of the park twice earlier this year.
• Hunter Pence, OF, Astros: Pence is not impressed with Youkilis, as it only took him seven at-bats to jack three homers against Ricky Nolasco. Teammate Lance Berkman is also 4-for-8 with three doubles and a homer against Nolasco.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: All three of Cuddyer's hits against Scott Feldman have gone for extra bases, including two home runs and a double in only eight at-bats.
• Alex Rios, OF, White Sox: Although he has yet to take Gil Meche out of the park, Rios is still a robust 11-for-18 (.611) against him, with two doubles, two triples and a stolen base.
• Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers: Maggs is hitting .356 in August, but he's just 4-for-17 (.235) versus Felix Hernandez, with zero walks or extra-base hits. In fact, he's struck out seven times already, and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout earlier in the season.
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Even assuming he plays, a bruised hand isn't likely to do him any favors against the likes of Tim Lincecum, who is limiting batters to a .211 average. Phillips also hits 46 points worse against right-handers, turning into a .251 hitter.
• A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: Pierzynski is only hitting .185 against Gil Meche in 25 at-bats; he has just one extra-base hit (a double), while striking out three times.
• Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: Dye hasn't struggled quite as badly, but it's close since he's accumulated more at-bats -- he's a .238 hitter in 42 career at-bats versus Meche. Like Pierzynski, he lacks a home run, and he's also struck out more often, with eight K's.
• Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Cardinals: Chad Billingsley has mowed down righties, with a .216 average allowed, while DeRosa's average drops 50 points against right-handers anyway. DeRosa, who has been slumping lately, won't find his mojo against Billingsley.
If you're hard-core
• Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: In 33 at-bats this month, Overbay is hitting .364 with three homers, threatening his previous best power output: four home runs in June. Overbay is 9-for-27 against Josh Beckett in his career, albeit with only two extra-base hits, giving him a .333 average but a .407 slugging percentage.
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets: Sheffy's gone 9-for-19 (.474) versus Derek Lowe, swatting two doubles and home runs apiece, giving him an impressive .895 slugging percentage against the ground-ball pitcher.
• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: Diaz is hitting a weak .182 in 22 at-bats against Oliver Perez, but when Diaz has hit Perez, he's hit him hard -- three of his four hits have gone for extra bases, including two home runs. And considering this is the Mr. Hyde version of Perez -- right-handers are slugging .516 against him -- chances are Diaz won't be so fooled this time around.
• Scott Hairston, OF, Athletics: After starting the month 1-for-16, Hairston is 14-for-43 (.325) with three homers. Facing another lefty, even one as good as CC Sabathia, should only extend his hot hitting, as he currently has an OPS north of 1.000 versus southpaws.
• Rajai Davis, OF, Athletics: Davis has refused to stop running, with six more stolen bases in his past seven games. He's now nabbed 24 bases out of 30 attempts, an 80 percent success rate, and on a team that has trouble scoring runs, if he can keep his success rate that high, he can run until his heart's content. In just 74 games at catcher, Jorge Posada has allowed 62 stolen bases out of 86 attempts, so Davis should continue to run wild.
Injury list: Out
Injury list: Day-to-day• J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (groin)
• Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels (leg)
• Nick Johnson, 1B, Marlins (hamstring)
• Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees (knee): Matsui is suffering swelling in his surgically repaired left knee; he had his knee drained and is questionable for the remainder of the series against the A's.
• Nate McLouth, OF, Braves (hamstring)
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds (hand)
• Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves (fatigue)
• Ryan Theriot, SS, Cubs (flu)
• Only the Red Sox-Blue Jays, Orioles-Rays and Marlins-Astros will have the benefit of being weatherproof.
• In the Northeast, thunderstorms will persist in Pittsburgh (40 percent chance of rain) well into the night, while late storms may pop up in Washington (30 percent).
• Thunderstorms in Cleveland (40 percent), Cincinnati (40 percent) and Detroit (30 percent) could disrupt in the Midwest. With possible storms forecasted throughout the entire day, expect the conditions to be wet, with possible delays or postponements.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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