Davis makes his return to the mound

Updated: May 22, 2008

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Arizona lefty Doug Davis' return from thyroid cancer highlights the weekend action.

WEEKEND PREVIEW

The two best pitching staffs in the National League face off this weekend as the Diamondbacks complete their road trip in Atlanta. The Braves' staff, with a mix of young and old, are back where they are used to be with the best ERA in the NL at 3.42, while the Diamondbacks' veteran staff is right behind at 3.56.

SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL

Angels at White Sox, 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN

Even though 9-1 Brandon Webb is not scheduled to pitch this weekend, don't expect a lot of scoring with names such as Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson and Micah Owings heading to the hill. Atlanta has won five straight and, like the Phillies and Mets, are within striking distance of division-leading Florida. The weekend series will also feature the return of Doug Davis, who missed a month while being treated for thyroid cancer.

Other matchups this Memorial Day Weekend include the Red Sox at Oakland and a first-place showdown between the White Sox and Angels, with the finale on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

Friday

Doug DavisDiamondbacks (Doug Davis) at Braves (Jo-Jo Reyes), 7:35 p.m. ET
Doug Davis makes his first start since the season's first week after surgery to remove a cancerous thyroid. He has had three no-decisions in three starts against the Braves in his career, but has a 2.25 ERA in two starts at Turner Field. Can Davis slow down red-hot Chipper Jones? Jones is 0-for-3 with two walks against Davis. Rookie Jo-Jo Reyes has won two of his four starts this season, holding opponents to two earned runs or less in three of them.

Edinson VolquezReds (Edinson Volquez) at Padres (Shawn Estes), 10:05 p.m. ET
Edinson Volquez has been the lone bright spot in Cincinnati, and if it wasn't for a guy named Brandon Webb, Volquez would be the leader for the NL Cy Young award. Volquez, who had three career wins entering the season, has seven wins in 10 starts, with an MLB-best 1.33 ERA. He outdueled Cliff Lee last week, and has not allowed more than two runs in any start this season. Shawn Estes has made three starts for the Padres this season, allowing no more than two earned runs in any of them. He is 7-2 lifetime against the Reds, including a 4-0 mark since 2003.

Zack GreinkeRoyals (Zack Greinke) at Blue Jays (Roy Halladay), 7:05 p.m. ET
One starter is 5-1 with the third-best ERA in the AL. The other is 4-5, having allowed at least four earned runs five times this season. History would suggest Zack Greinke wouldn't be the 5-1 starter, but he is. Greinke, who entered the season with a 21-36 career record, has won five of his nine starts, allowing no more than three earned runs in any of them. Roy Halladay is not having the best of seasons, but he is 7-3 with a 3.11 ERA against the Royals in his career.

Complete list of pitching probables for Friday's games

Saturday

Randy JohnsonDiamondbacks (Randy Johnson) at Braves (Jorge Campillo), 3:55 p.m. ET
Randy Johnson takes the mound for his 564th career start. He'll face Braves rookie Jorge Campillo, who will be making just his third. In his last start, Campillo pitched six shutout innings against the Mets for his first major league win. Johnson, meanwhile, is 12 shy of 300 for his career. The last time Johnson faced the Braves was May 18, 2004, when he pitched the last perfect game in the majors. That game was also in Atlanta.

Chien-Ming WangMariners (Felix Hernandez) at Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang), 1:05 p.m. ET
Chien-Ming Wang started the season 6-0, which included a win over the Mariners on May 2. But he gave up seven earned runs in his last outing for his second consecutive loss. Wang, though, is 7-0 with a 2.39 ERA in seven career starts vs. Seattle. Wang has been especially effective during the day in his career, going 18-8 with a 3.38 ERA. Felix Hernandez, on the other hand, has a 5.92 in four career starts vs. the Yankees.

Cliff LeeRangers (Scott Feldman) at Indians (Ciff Lee), 7:05 p.m. ET
Cliff Lee tries to rebound from his only bad start of the season. After allowing four earned runs in his first seven starts of the year, Lee allowed five against the Reds last time out. Scott Feldman starts against the Indians for the first time in his career. He has allowed one run in five relief appearances against Cleveland.

Complete list of pitching probables for Saturday's games

Sunday

Tom GlavineDiamondbacks (Micah Owings) at Braves (Tom Glavine), 1:35 p.m. ET
Micah Owings is coming off back-to-back good starts. He recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts last time out against Florida. Before that, he blanked the Rockies over six innings. The Tom Glavine of old seems to be back in Atlanta. After going winless in his first six starts of the season, Glavine picked up career wins 304 and 305 in his last two starts. His 2.49 career ERA against Arizona is the lowest vs. any team he has faced at least five times.

Jon LesterRed Sox (Jon Lester) at A's (Joe Blanton), 4:05 p.m. ET
Jon Lester makes his first appearance since tossing a no-hitter Monday against Kansas City. Lester will be facing the A's for the third time this season -- he lost to them in Japan, but beat them a week later in Oakland. Joe Blanton is winless over his last four starts. He has faced the Red Sox three times this season.

John LackeyAngels (John Lackey) at White Sox (Jose Contreras), 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN
John Lackey will be making his third start of the season. He has allowed one earned run in each of his first two starts, but has not defeated the White Sox since 2005. Jose Contreras is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA over his past three starts. One of those wins was last week against the Angels.

Complete list of pitching probables for Sunday's games

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: May 21 | May 20 | May 19 | May 18 | May 15 | May 14

SLOW GOING

There are a ton of different reasons why some hitters start off slow at the beginning of the season.

One reason why is because some hitters are still in the spring training mentality, a time when the games don't mean anything and you can play around a little bit. You'll see that with younger players who don't know how to handle the transition from spring training to the start of the regular season. You'll see veteran players start to get serious later in spring training to get their swings ready.

A big reason why players start off so slow is because of the cold weather that is endemic to certain cities like Chicago, Detroit and Boston. It is tough to get loose in cold weather and to stay loose once you get comfortable. That type of tightness can serve to seriously impact a player whose swing is based on rhythm.


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BBTN ON THE AIR: SUNDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips, Eric Young

BASEBALL TONIGHT MINUTE: DAVIS RETURNS

THURSDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Mike LowellMike Lowell, who went 3-for-4 and scored three runs, hit one of the two grand slams belted by the Red Sox on Thursday. J.D. Drew hit the other.
BAD
Miguel BatistaMiguel Batista lasted just three innings against the Tigers, giving up seven hits and five runs in a 9-2 loss. Batista has now lost four of his last five starts.
UGLY
Stephen DrewStephen Drew had a tough day at the plate, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in a 4-0 loss. He also stranded three runners.

CABRERA GOING BACK IN TIME

Going back to the mechanics from his rookie days, along with some help from Baltimore pitching coach Rick Kranitz, is paying off for Daniel Cabrera.

Despite a 5.00 ERA in his rookie year, Cabrera went 12-8 for the Orioles in 2004. The following three seasons his record dropped to a combined 28-41 with a 4.99 ERA.

"The first thing we did was that when the new pitching coach got here, he asked me what things I wanted to work on. I told him I wanted to pitch the way I pitched before, when I got here to the major leagues," Cabrera, who pitches Sunday at Tampa Bay, told ESPNdeportes.com. "He told me: 'OK, let's work on that.' He got a lot of video from the time I first got here in 2004 and 2005."

The 26-year-old pitcher thinks highly of Kranitz, whom Cabrera partly credited for this season's 5-1 record and 3.48 ERA. In his last start, Tuesday against the New York Yankees, Cabrera allowed two runs over seven innings for his eighth quality start in a row.

"He's really good," Cabrera said of Kranitz. "We've been working really hard and I think that's why I can have that success."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley sees a more mature Cabrera these days.

"The guy, from Day One in spring training, has come into his own. He has a purpose to what he does. He doesn't get easily rattled," Trembley said. "It's called growing up, it's called experience, it's called maturity, it's called having confidence."

"Yes, I think I have matured a lot because, when you get here really young, you tend to lose focus," Cabrera said. "Now, I am very focused in my job. I know what it is I have to do to improve and adjust."

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES

Tristan Cockcroft examines the pitching matchups in store for the 15 games on Friday's schedule.

Tristan also looks at current injuries and details player reports that could help shape the way you put together your roster for Friday's games. Daily Notes

FANTASY FIRST TAKE: COLON'S RETURN

NEWS AND NOTES

Victor Martinez •  Indians catcher Victor Martinez left Thursday's game against the White Sox in the fourth inning with an injured left index finger.

Clay Buchholz •  Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, out with a broken fingernail, is expected to make a rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Pawtucket … The Red Sox won their 10th straight game at Fenway Park, their longest streak since 2005.