There were several great outings by starting pitchers Wednesday. Yankees phenom Joba Chamberlain got his first win as a starter. Boston's Tim Wakefield worked knuckler in blanking the Diamondbacks. Even beleaguered Giants left-hander Barry Zito turned in his best start of the season.
Two unlikely performances really stood out, however. Unheralded Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick shut out the A's for eight innings, while recently-recalled Dodgers lefty Eric Stults tossed his second straight gem, a complete game shutout against the White Sox. Both Kendrick and Stults are lightly owned in ESPN leagues. Are their stellar outings signs that either is about to become worthy of a spot in mixed leagues?
The 23-year old Kendrick is now in his second big-league season. He has just cracked the 200-inning mark for his career, and he's striking out fewer than four batters per nine innings. With his inability to miss bats, Kendrick has little margin for error. Like many control-oriented contact pitchers, he does get plenty of grounders, but he simply doesn't have the stuff to be more than a fourth or fifth starter. Kendrick's 4.59 ERA this year is more representative of what he can provide than last season's 3.87. He's capable of an occasional outing like Wednesday's but has no place in mixed leagues.
Stults, like Kendrick, is a contact pitcher without great stuff. Recalled to replace the injured Brad Penny in the Dodgers rotation, Stults has been outstanding in two starts, allowing just one earned run in 15 innings. However, any success the 28-year-old finds will be fleeting. In seven minor league seasons, Stults has compiled a career 4.74 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. His deceptive delivery yielded some short-term results last season in a swingman role, but he came crashing to earth with a 9.82 ERA during September. Filling Penny's rotation slot makes it more difficult for Stults to remain unfamiliar to National League hitters, and he'll start getting shelled even earlier this time. Pitchers who scuffle for years in Triple-A seldom experience success in the majors. Let a less fortunate leaguemate pluck this one off the wire just in time for the fireworks.
Rick Ankiel, Cardinals
A two-homer night gives Ankiel four in his past six games in his first extended look at American League pitching . Ankiel, a second-half callup last season, had only appeared in one interleague game prior to the current slate of contests.
Jason Isringhausen, Cardinals
Izzy was brought in to preserve a seventh-inning lead but was unable to hold it, allowing a run on two hits and a walk. It was Izzy's seventh blown save of the season. He had two in 62 appearences last season.
"There was a reason Seattle emerged as a fashionable AL West pick late in spring training. With John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar out for an extended period with injuries, the Angels' big advantage -- depth in the rotation -- was all but nullified.
Then [Joe] Saunders and [Ervin] Santana stepped in and put an end to that nonsense. With the help of pitching coach Mike Butcher, they've tightened their mechanics and posted a combined 20-6 record with 21 quality starts. Most impressive, in a brutal year for road teams, they're 11-2 with a combined 2.57 ERA away from Anaheim."
-- Jerry Crasnick Full Story
"The bottom line here is there are buy-low options galore on the Tigers, and though I'm in the minority on this, I think one of them is Gary Sheffield, who is owned in just 23.8 percent of ESPN.com standard leagues. There's no way Sheffield, who still is in great shape, drops from 25 homers and 107 runs in 2007 to a powerless, .213-average 2008, not when he now hits in a superior lineup."
-- Brendan Roberts Full Story
• Tigers catcher Brandon Inge hit the disabled list Wednesday with an oblique strain. Inge had been splitting time behind the plate with Ivan Rodriguez. The club recalled Dane Sardinha from Triple-A to serve as I-Rod's backup.
• Twins starter Francisco Liriano allowed five earned runs for a second straight start at Triple-A. The former phenom was sent to the minors to iron out his control after an ineffective start to the season, but of greater concern is the fact that he has still not regained his velocity following Tommy John surgery. The majority of Tommy John victims eventually return to full strength, but Liriano is looking more and more like he will be one of the exceptions. • Braves prospect Tommy Hanson threw Double-A Mississippi's first ever no-hitter Wednesday versus Birmingham, striking out 14 Barons in the process. Hanson dominated the Carolina League to begin the season, but had been inconsistent since a promotion to Double-A. The 6-6 right-hander has become one of the National League's best pitching prospects.
• Pirates prospect Steven Pearce hit two more home runs Wednesday and continues to rake in June after a slow start to 2008. Pearce can play first base or an outfield corner and will get a chance at an everyday job when the Pirates trade Adam LaRoche, Jason Bay or Xavier Nady.