Greg Fiume/Getty Images
His name is Koji Uehara and he is a "rookie" Japanese pitcher for the Orioles. The name may not yet be familiar to baseball fans, but Uehara, who just turned 34, is as far from inexperienced as he is from his homeland. In 1999, he won Rookie of the Year honors and the Sawamura Award (the loose equivalent of the Cy Young), going 20-4 with a 2.09 ERA. He won his second Sawamura Award in 2002, and from 2002-2004, he went 46-15 with 21 complete games. In 2006, the Yomiuri Giants switched him to the closer role and he didn't miss a beat, saving 32 games with a career-best 1.74 ERA.
But enough about the past ... Uehara's future is in a Baltimore uniform, and so far, so good. The Lieutenant -- doesn't that seem the appropriate nickname? Just thought I'd throw it out there -- beat the Yankees in his major league debut, allowing just one run over five innings. While he didn't strike any Yankees out, Uehara threw first-pitch strikes to nine of the first 13 batters he faced and only fell into four three-ball counts, showing early signs of the kind of control that the Orioles were hoping for when they signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract.
Uehara's victory was far easier with the Orioles' lineup continuing its hot start. Nick Markakis went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs. He, Brian Roberts and Adam Jones are hitting a combined .619 to start the season. Uehara left the game with a 7-1 lead and though the Yankees rallied late Baltimore managed to hold them off, winning 7-5.
Perhaps the Lieutenant won't be around long enough to become a 300-game winner, but with one win down and 299 to go, he certainly should be just as valuable to your fantasy staff in 2009 as say, Randy Johnson, who sits just five games away from that coveted milestone himself.
• Speaking of Johnson, the Big Unit failed to earn victory No. 296 against the Brewers on Wednesday, thanks to both the arm and the bat of Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo hit a three-run homer off Johnson to lead the Brewers to a 4-2 victory, but more importantly, he won his first game in nearly 19 months in a strong return to the mound after a knee injury sidelined him for most of last season.
• We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the huge comeback of the Phillies, who trailed the Braves 10-3 entering the bottom of the seventh, but rallied for eight runs, without the benefit of an extra-base hit (five walks, four singles and a hit-by-pitch.) The comeback stole an apparent victory from Javier Vazquez's clutches, and gave Phillies closer Brad Lidge a chance to convert his 45th consecutive save opportunity.
• Brian Fuentes won't be matching Lidge's streak anytime soon. The new Angels closer gave up three runs in the ninth inning against Oakland on Wednesday, blowing the save and taking the loss in the A's 6-4 victory. In the game, Matt Holliday did see action as a pinch-hitter after missing the first two games of the season with the flu.
• According to the Arizona Republic, the Diamondbacks have decided to pull Brandon Webb from his scheduled Saturday versus the Dodgers. Webb had felt some shoulder soreness while pitching Monday. "I'm going to make sure I take care of this early on," manager Bob Melvin told the paper. "The training staff will work diligently on him the next few days, and hopefully that's all it is."
• David Freese finally got a start at third base for the Cardinals on Wednesday. Freese, who saw Brian Barden and Joe Thurston get the call to replace the injured Troy Glaus in the first two games of the year, may have earned himself more playing time after going 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored in a 7-4 loss to the Pirates.
• Elijah Dukes also got his first start of the year, as the Nationals finally had enough of Lastings Milledge's 0-for-2009. Dukes, playing center, went 1-for-3 with two walks against the Marlins. Milledge did get a pinch-hitting appearance in, but that just led to his fifth strikeout in nine at-bats this season. Perhaps we'll see Dukes patrolling the outfield a little bit longer. We'll certainly leave the door open for him.
• Jorge Cantu left the Marlins' 6-4 victory after getting hit in the hand by a Daniel Cabrera pitch in the fifth inning. The team's official Web site reports that X-rays came back negative. With the Marlins having Thursday off, Cantu says he expects to be able to play this weekend against the Mets without any lingering effects.
• Speaking of the Mets, Carlos Delgado had a four-RBI night, including a two-run blast off Edinson Volquez, in a 9-7 win over the Reds. An interesting development that may affect fantasy players was manager Jerry Manuel's comments in the Daily News that Fernando Tatis may begin to see some time at second base. Luis Castillo is batting .167, and Tatis' outfield time will be severely cut once Gary Sheffield is ready to play.
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Miggy went 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs to singlehandedly lead Detroit to its first win of the season. As I wrote in Cabrera's preseason projection, "Let's call last season's move to the AL the reason for Miggy's first-half power slump (only 11 homers) shall we? The second half, in which he hit .304 with 26 home runs, was far more the Cabrera we remembered from the Marlins. At worst, he matches last season's fantasy value. At best? Say hello to your 2009 MVP." With three straight multihit games, it looks like he's well on his way to a trophy-filled campaign.
Zack Greinke, Royals
He had lost his first six decisions at U.S. Cellular Field, but Greinke didn't seem to care about that stat, as he pitched six scoreless innings of three-hit ball with seven strikeouts to lead Kansas City to a 2-0 victory over the White Sox. Greinke is now 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA in April over the past two seasons, and has won his past four starts dating back to last September. It's a good start for Greinke, whose 3.47 ERA in 2008 was the best by a Royals starter in 11 years.
5: For the third time in team history, the Astros hit five home runs in a game and lost. Lance Berkman, Ivan Rodriguez (right), Jeff Keppinger, Kazuo Matsui and Hunter Pence all went deep, all but Pence connecting off Cubs starter Ted Lilly, who got the win after being staked to an early 8-0 lead. Lilly is the first starter since Jeff Francis in 2005 to win a game despite allowing four home runs in only five innings pitched.
• If you own Alex Gordon, don't get all flustered by the Royals' claiming third baseman Travis Metcalf off waivers from the Texas Rangers. While Metcalf has some power (11 home runs in 217 career at-bats), he's a defensive liability. Even though he hails from Kansas and may have a fan base there, we don't expect to see Metcalf manning the hot corner at Kauffman Stadium unless Gordon gets hurt.
• Click here for all the latest MLB transactions.
Tristan H. Cockcroft: I want no part of Brandon Inge. Why is it that people seemed to want him so badly in most of my leagues this spring? His batting average is atrocious, and don't feed me the nonsense about "he's a catcher playing every day elsewhere." If you play every day and bat .240, you're really not helping. Chris Snyder has the higher upside, good ballpark, young lineup with upside, so he'd be my pick. Couldn't fault you going with Dioner Navarro's won't-hurt-you approach, even if it's somewhat bland to me.
-- Full chat transcript
Eric Karabell: Managers are people too and sometimes they judge players off short sample sizes. Lindstrom had a sore shoulder and missed much of the spring. If he's not right, and this outing could be a harbinger he's hurt, then he could be replaced. You're kidding yourself if you think all managers on contending teams are so patient they'd let someone who had a 1.45 WHIP a year ago keep the job. Lindstrom was sketchy as closer even before the WBC.
-- Full chat transcript
Thursday's fantasy chat schedule:
AJ Mass, 11 a.m.
• The Los Angeles Daily News reports that Jason Schmidt threw 89 pitches in an extended spring training intrasquad game Wednesday. This was the fourth straight time Schmidt has been able to take his turn on a normal four days' rest; however, the pitcher isn't happy with his progress. "Nothing is hurting, but he is just going through a little bit of a lull or a dead-arm period," Joe Torre told the paper after a phone conversation with Schmidt. "He sounded all right, but he made fun of himself. He said he thought he threw harder as a teenager."
• Ron Gardenhire told the Minnesota Star-Tribune that Delmon Young will be in the Twins' starting lineup Thursday after sitting on the bench for two of the first three games.
• Oliver Perez is a career 9-4 versus the Reds, but his 5.52 career April ERA scares us a bit, especially against Bronson Arroyo, who is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his past three starts against the Mets.
• Check out Daily Notes for more information on Thursday's games.