Lincecum returns to Giants' rotation


Monday should see the return of Tim Lincecum, who was scratched from his start last Tuesday because of back discomfort. He has healed quickly, however, and hasn't reported any discomfort since he resumed throwing Friday. With the roll Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have been on, Lincecum might have some ground to make up in the NL Cy Young race. The extra rest will serve him well, though, and he should be just fine versus the Rockies.

John Smoltz will miss his scheduled start Monday because of shoulder tendinitis, and be replaced by Todd Wellemeyer. Smoltz said he would go if it were a playoff game, and his owners might not mind too much considering Smoltz was to face the Marlins and their .920 September OPS. With the news of the day covered, let's get to the rankings:

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for September 14, 2009

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 hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).

Selected notes: Scott Feldman is the hottest pitcher in the league right now, with just one earned run allowed in his past 26 1/3 innings. All four starts came on the road, where he now has a 2.58 ERA. It might be better to pitch on the road than at home in Arlington, although you can't expect the weak A's offense, which has the lowest OPS in the AL this month with a .725 mark, to represent a threat. The wins (7-0 in his past eight starts) are piling up too, so Feldman makes it easy to just ride the hot hand. … Bronson Arroyo is one of the few pitchers who might be able to claim a more impressive streak than Feldman; he has allowed two runs or fewer while tossing at least seven innings in six straight starts. Although Arroyo sports a 1.40 ERA during that span, with only 23 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings, he hasn't exactly been dominant. Few pitch deeper into games than Arroyo, though, as he has averaged seven innings per start since the All-Star break. Fortunately for him, the Astros don't hit right-handers very well, so Arroyo shouldn't have a problem going seven strong innings again. Coming off back-to-back starts against the top two offenses in baseball (in terms of OPS), David Price is assuredly happy to face the Orioles, who as a team have the second-worst OPS in the league against left-handers. Considering the competition, Price did well to walk away with a 4.86 ERA in those four starts. With only 15 walks in 58 2/3 innings since the All-Star break, Price is improving slowly but surely, and circumstances seem ripe for a strong start against the Orioles. Getting out of Arizona has helped Jon Garland tremendously, as joining the Dodgers has given him the two-fold advantage of getting out of a hitters' park and also getting better run support in the process. He now has spun three consecutive quality starts, and should be good for a fourth against the lowly Pirates. Despite allowing 21 baserunners and only fanning five batters in 17 innings, Jason Hammel has still limited the Giants to a 2.65 ERA in three starts this season, which speaks to how poor an offense the Giants have. With Hammel currently pitching well -- he hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start since July -- and backed by a strong offense and a good defense, he's a great option to spot-start against the Giants. Although the Yankees are hitting only .227 against Jered Weaver, they've still scored eight runs (seven earned) in 12 innings off him this season. Weaver has pitched well for the most part, but when he has been hit, he has been hit hard, with four of the eight hits he has allowed going for extra bases, including three home runs. That's the byproduct of facing the best offense in the majors, and it's what makes Weaver a risky, although not unreasonable, play Monday. Ryan Dempster has piled up the strikeouts versus the Brewers this season, with 24 K's in 19 innings, but has been left with a 5.21 ERA and 1.53 WHIP thanks to eight walks and five home runs allowed. Dempster has been pretty hittable recently, with 53 hits in his past 40 1/3 innings, and the Brewers have one of the better offenses in the league, so he's a risky option.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Mike Napoli, C, Angels: Napoli has already swatted three home runs versus Chad Gaudin in 14 at-bats, chipping in another double for good measure. Overall, despite five strikeouts, he's hitting .357 with a slugging percentage north of 1.000 versus Gaudin.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: Berkman has only a .505 slugging percentage, which would be the lowest mark of his career, but he's 6-for-12 with two home runs and two doubles in his past four games. The schedule also helps Berkman out, as he's expected to face Bronson Arroyo, whom he has taken deep five times in 44 at-bats.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: Having reached base every game this month, 11 games overall (10 via hit), Lee is definitely streaking, with nearly as many home runs already in September (five) as he had in all of August (six). Expect him to add to those gaudy numbers against Jeff Suppan, against whom he has already hit four home runs in 49 career at-bats, batting a ridiculous .429 in the process.
Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals: Batting .390 this month, Holliday is still on fire, and happens to be 6-for-8 against Monday's starter, Ricky Nolasco. Among those six hits, two have been homers and another a triple, so expect another nice game.
Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: It's never too late to contribute, and with five home runs in his past six games, Young has taken that mantra to heart. Even better is the fact that he crushes Kevin Correia, with four extra-base hits -- three home runs included -- in 20 career at-bats, leaving Young with a robust .750 slugging percentage.

Pitchers' count:

Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: Damon is looking for his first extra-base hit against Jered Weaver, with three singles in 15 at-bats. While he also has earned three walks, he has gone down on strikes five times, a red flag implying Weaver's effectiveness is no fluke.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: While Phillips has finally collected his first extra-base hit against Wandy Rodriguez this season, a double, he's otherwise 1-for-5 against him. For his career he's just 5-for-21 (.238), and despite the double, Phillips' slugging percentage is still below .300.
Corey Hart, OF, Brewers: Hart has had trouble making contact against Ryan Dempster, with four times as many strikeouts (eight) as hits (two). Although one of those hits did leave the park, that still leaves Hart with an intolerable .087 average in 23 career at-bats.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: For the most part, Jeremy Sowers has had his way with Morneau, with the slugger still looking for his first extra-base hit. He's just 2-for-17 (.118) with two strikeouts, and has never hit lefties as well as he hits righties.
Ian Stewart, 2B/3B, Rockies: Tim Lincecum has struck out Stewart a whopping 10 times in 18 at-bats, not too surprising considering Lincecum's talent and Stewart's problems with making contact. Stewart has been able to muster only three hits against Lincecum, so his .167 average should ensure he's on your bench when they square off Monday.

If you're hardcore

Maicer Izturis, 2B/SS, Angels: After going 2-for-2 with a double against Chad Gaudin when they met earlier this season, Izturis is now 8-for-18 (.444) against Gaudin with three extra-base hits. He also has picked up a stolen base for good measure, so what's not to like?
Nolan Reimold, OF, Orioles: Reimold already has four multihit games in September, as many as he has had in his previous 31 games. He's hitting .364 with three home runs, and draws a decent matchup against David Price, who has allowed 14 home runs to right-handed hitters in 314 at-bats.
Marcus Thames, OF, Tigers: David Purcey hasn't had much success as a starter, and he'll probably be just another victim to Thames, who loves stepping into the batter's box against left-handed pitching. He's hitting .282 with four home runs in 85 at-bats against lefties this season, and although his playing time has been limited recently, he has gone 4-for-6 with a double in his past two starts against a left-hander.
Julio Borbon, OF, Rangers: Three of his past four hits have left the park, and he hit .388 in part-time play in August, too. It's worth gambling to see if Borbon can keep it going against Brett Tomko, one of the more hittable pitchers in the league.
Nick Johnson, 1B, Marlins: Lefties are hitting a ridiculous .339 off Todd Wellemeyer, not to mention an equally absurd .601 slugging percentage allowed. With just seven home runs in 419 at-bats on the season, Johnson isn't likely to go deep, but he certainly seems in line for a typically productive multi-hit performance.


Injury list: Out

Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (back): Hamilton is expected to be out for the week, with the possibility of returning by the weekend.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres (calf): Kouzmanoff isn't expected to be available until Friday at the earliest.
• John Smoltz, SP, Cardinals (shoulder): Smoltz will have his start skipped due to shoulder tendinitis, although he is expected to be available for his next start.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs (knee; might be out for the season)
Michael Young, 3B/SS, Rangers (hamstring): Like Hamilton, while Young is progressing, he's also not expected to return until the weekend.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins (oblique)
Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays (shin)
Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles (elbow)
Felix Pie, OF, Orioles (back)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (shoulder)
Huston Street, RP, Rockies (biceps): According to manager Jim Tracy, Street is expected to return Monday.
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays (ankle): Upton's ankle has improved and he is set to return Sunday.

Weather concerns

• The matchup between the Indians and Tigers is the only weatherproof game of the day.

• Only a couple of cities -- Arlington (Texas) and St. Louis -- have any threat of rain. A few showers (30 percent chance) are expected in the former, while a little rain is expected in St. Louis (also 30 percent), although it is expected to clear up shortly after game time.

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