Rich Kane/Icon SMI
Most observers have been trying to figure out how the Yankees remain playoff contenders despite having a rotation that has featured more than 30 starts from the likes of Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Dan Giese, Ian Kennedy and Kei Igawa. Well, look at the offense, which has managed to be quite competitive even though many key parts have struggled or been injured this season.
The news was mixed on Monday for the offense. Johnny Damon came off the DL to resume his regular leadoff role, but Jorge Posada went back on the shelf with more left shoulder problems. Hideki Matsui was expected to announce Monday he was headed for season-ending surgery, but he did an about-face and aims to try more rehab as a short-term solution. That news should appear good, but the outlook remains rather bleak for fantasy owners.
Assuming the infield is set for the Bronx Bombers, as well as two outfield spots, what are the Yankees likely to do at designated hitter, catcher and left field the rest of the way based on this news?
Catcher: Posada's announcement wasn't a huge surprise. He winces much of the time when attempting to throw out baserunners, who have been safe more than 80 percent of the time. Plus, his season-long shoulder woes also have affected his hitting. Posada will have an MRI on Tuesday but acknowledges that if he waits much longer to have surgery, he could miss part of 2009. Expect the Yankees to be proactive here. Jose Molina isn't much of a hitter, but he's one of the best throwers in the game. There's no fantasy value there, but he certainly doesn't hurt Yankees pitchers. Chad Moeller is the main backup, and a trade could come as well. Posada, the No. 5 catcher taken in ESPN.com's average live drafts, remains owned in 97 percent of leagues. With this news, it's safe to drop him in standard leagues, because catchers such as Chris Iannetta, Ramon Hernandez and Chris Snyder are readily available. Even if Posada were to play again this season, there is no guarantee he'd be able to hit effectively as the DH.
Left field: Though Matsui declined surgery on his ailing right knee Monday, it doesn't mean he'll be back on the field anytime soon. In fact, Yankees GM Brian Cashman admitted he wasn't optimistic about Matsui's pending return. The Yankees have been going with speedy Brett Gardner in left field, but the goal will be to return Damon to that position, thus freeing up the DH spot for others. The Yankees likely will make a trade for a hitter, unless it becomes clear that Matsui or Posada is destined to end up at DH, which is unlikely. The point is that Gardner is fast, but his .170 batting average and one extra-base hit in 53 at-bats don't help him, and he's not the long-term gainer here. Rumors of a Xavier Nady acquisition will soon run rampant.
Designated hitter: Expect Damon to leave his glove in the clubhouse for the next few days, if not more. Damon doesn't have much of a throwing arm, and his DL stint was for a sore left shoulder, suffered when he ran into a wall. Damon is the team's top leadoff hitter and a solid base stealer, however, and fantasy owners love him. When Damon is able to return to left field, don't be surprised if Richie Sexson gains more playing time at first base and Jason Giambi acts as the DH. Sexson hasn't hit right-handed pitching for a few years, but he does thrive against southpaws, and he's owned in 5.9 percent of leagues. Damon is at least back in the lineup, and unlike Posada and Matsui, his injury likely won't affect his play for much longer or keep him from the field.
Of course, if you want really good news, the Yankees still have plenty of it. Robinson Cano, always a better second-half hitter, is 10-for-19 since the All-Star break with a pair of home runs. Plus, the Yankees' second baseman, shortstop and third baseman all homered in the same game on Monday (for the first time since April 2004). Not everyone on this team is a journeyman starting pitcher or an injured catcher/outfielder. It just seems that way.
Jon Lester, Red Sox
Lester threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings at Seattle and hasn't allowed a run in his past two road starts. He struck out six, but more importantly, he did not issue a walk and brought his season rate to 2.99 walks per nine innings. That's by far his best rate at any level in his career.
Kip Wells, Rockies
Rare is the league in which he's owned, but some lines are just so terrible, you can't help but stare anyway. Wells, who was activated from the DL to start the game against the Dodgers, allowed eight runs, seven earned, on seven hits and a walk. He managed to record only one out -- a strikeout -- before getting the merciful hook.
-- Rob Neyer Full Story
-- Buster Olney Full Story
• The Rangers activated Scott Feldman from the DL, and because Eric Hurley was unable to start, Feldman took his spot. He delivered a strong outing, allowing one run in six innings. Of course, that's not the story here. Catcher of the future Taylor Teagarden was sent back to the minors, not because he isn't ready to contribute, but so that he would be eligible for the Olympics. Expect Teagarden back with the Rangers in September, and he could start behind the plate in 2009.
• The Braves activated Rafael Soriano from the DL and figure he'll be a fine set-up man in front of Mike Gonzalez, though these guys could share saves. Soriano has thrown nine innings all season because he has battled elbow woes. He's not worth much in fantasy at this point if he's a set-up guy, but that could change.
• Former big leaguer John Wasdin, nearly 36 years old and plying his trade in the Cardinals system with Triple-A Memphis, threw seven perfect innings Monday before Oklahoma's Chris Shelton -- remember him? -- homered. Wasdin fanned 11 through seven innings. Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan has many success stories. Wasdin, who has 328 major league appearances through 12 seasons in the bigs, could earn a call-up soon.
• Speaking of ahem, older major leaguers, Kris Benson finally won a game this season, as he scattered six hits through six innings for Philly's Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Benson lowered his ERA to 8.53. Don't laugh, it's not much worse than Adam Eaton's ERA in the past month. If Brett Myers struggles in his return to the big league club, Benson could find his way to the Phillies in August.
• Toledo outfielder Brent Clevlen hit a pair of home runs, the second time in a week he's done so, and he now has 19 home runs for the season for the Tigers' Triple-A team. Detroit's outfield doesn't have room for him right now, and Jeff Larish and Clete Thomas are probably next in line for recalls anyway, but Clevlen has the most power long-term.