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Fantasy owners love the young pitchers, the lure of the untested and unknown. They will always be trying to guess who the next superstar hurler will be, but even they have their limits when it comes to taking chances on awful teams. Such was the plight Monday with 22-year-old Jordan Zimmermann making his major league debut for the Washington Nationals. If he was on the Braves, for example, he would have been a lot more popular. (See Tommy Hanson, later this season.)
We'll see what happens to Zimmermann's ownership this week after he stymied those Braves for six strong innings, allowing a two-run home run to Matt Diaz and little else in a 3-2 victory. Zimmermann was summoned from Triple-A Syracuse in a roster bloodletting the day before, and the team's future ace didn't disappoint, punctuating his performance by permitting only one walk and needing only 72 pitches. In his first inning, he tossed a mere seven pitches, all of them for strikes. In fact, Zimmermann might already be Washington's ace!
Of course, it doesn't take much for me to make that statement, as the Nationals are off to a 2-10 start and Zimmermann delivered the team's best start of the young season. Sadly, poor weather contributed to the lowest paid attendance since the team started playing in Washington -- at least we hope rain was the culprit for a mere 12,473 paid attendance, and maybe a thousand by game's end -- and fans missed out on a signature day in team history. Not only did Zimmermann become only the second Nationals hurler out of 13 this decade to win his major league debut, joining Collin Balester last season, but the game was interesting because the beleaguered Nationals bullpen finally did the job. It entered the game with four blown saves and a 6.48 ERA, but tossed three hitless, scoreless innings, with two new pitchers (Kip Wells, Garrett Mock) helping set up Joel Hanrahan, who registered his first save.
Certainly it was a newsworthy day for the franchise, as earlier the team announced third baseman Ryan Zimmerman -- no relation, note one fewer "N" in his last name -- had signed a five-year, $45 million contract extension. The Nationals will be building around their Zims, but the veteran one joked earlier in the day about possibly being upstaged by the rookie: "The kid starting today, the Zimmermann. I guess I'm the 'other guy' now."
That might be true, but in this case, it's going to take a few Zims to turn the franchise around. For one rainy Monday night, in which the rain delays took longer than the actual game, all was well in D.C.
• In more Red Sox news, Rocco Baldelli hit an RBI groundout in two plate appearances, then left the game in the fourth inning with a mild left hamstring strain. The team called up Jeff Bailey from Triple-A Pawtucket, signaling that a DL stint for the oft-injured Baldelli is imminent. It's a shame, too, as Baldelli just can't stay on the field. He was hitting .231, with no home runs or steals, and is owned in 2.4 percent of ESPN standard mixed leagues.
• The Marlins have received terrific starting pitching in their 11-2 start, but Andrew Miller hasn't helped much. Miller has made two starts, and has not finished the fifth inning either time. Only 49 of his 100 pitches Monday went for strikes, and for the season he has eight walks and three strikeouts. An oblique injury Miller suffered a few outings ago has likely contributed to his struggles. The Marlins placed the lefty on the DL after the game, and Burke Badenhop will be summoned to replace him in the rotation.
• Remember the carpal tunnel syndrome that contributed to a poor Bronson Arroyo spring and scared fantasy owners away? Arroyo has won his first three starts, culminating in a 4-3 win in Houston. Arroyo isn't Cy Young material, but three runs in seven innings isn't bad. His ERA is 4.19. The Astros received back-to-back home runs from Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, but little else.
• Arizona entered play Monday with a .215 team batting average and more strikeouts than hits. Enter Mark Reynolds, who is no stranger to a low batting average and many strikeouts. He homered and doubled off Jason Marquis in the Diamondbacks' 6-3 win against Colorado. Reynolds is hitting .275 so far, quite a bit above his career mark of .256. It's too early to predict he's a new player, but he probably won't be on ESPN's most-dropped list for long.
• Braves outfielder Matt Diaz, who provided the only runs against Zimmermann, continues to hit right-handed pitching just fine. He got the start as Garret Anderson is bothered by a quad injury, and continues to prove he might not need a platoon partner. Diaz has both of his home runs this season against right-handed pitching, and in 2007, the last time he played most of a season, Diaz hit .318 against right-handed pitching. If Anderson continues to miss time, Diaz might be worthy of regular at-bats -- should manager Bobby Cox concur -- and more attention in fantasy.
Nate McLouth, OF, Pirates
The center fielder hit a three-run homer, knocked in four runs and stole his second base of the season in the 8-0 win. McLouth has four multi-hit games out of six, is one home run off the NL lead and has stolen his two bases in the past three days. Might he go for 30/30?
Ross Ohlendorf, SP, Pirates
It was a Pittsburgh daily double, as Ohlendorf scattered a pair of singles in seven shutout innings, taming the 11-1 Marlins. Ohlendorf isn't much of a strikeout pitcher, but he's off to a good start and is owned in 0.5 percent of ESPN leagues. Somehow, the Pirates have four shutouts so far. No other team has more than two.
102: That's how many batting-average points Dustin Pedroia gained in the four-game series sweep against the Orioles. Pedroia entered Friday hitting .179, and nine hits in 18 at-bats later he's at .281. He also knocked in four runs and scored five. Look, we all know Pedroia is good, and he'd hit just fine, but this is another reminder to fantasy owners: It's early, things change fast, don't panic.
• Padres middle infielder Everth Cabrera hadn't stolen a base yet, so the fact that he broke his hamate bone on his left hand Sunday and will miss at least two months doesn't affect fantasy a great deal, but this guy did swipe 73 bases in the minors a year ago. Don't forget the name when he returns to the Padres; as a Rule 5 pick from Colorado he must remain on the roster if/when he comes off the DL, and he can steal in bunches.
• Trade! The Braves dealt Blaine Boyer to the Cardinals for outfielder Brian Barton. It's unlikely Boyer fits into the closer picture for unpredictable Tony La Russa, but then again, who expected Ryan Franklin to save games when he was acquired? Barton is not Brian Barden, the surprise third baseman who has made David Freese irrelevant. Barton will likely head to Triple-A Gwinnett, adding depth.
Christopher Harris: Hi, Ben. Honestly, yes, I like your strategy. I don't think you need to deal for a "stud," especially a stud like Lidge, who is looking a little shaky here early in the season. Is he hurt? Was he just overworked last year? Not sure. But if I were a Lidge owner, I'd be happy to invest a bit in Ryan Madson, too. As it is, I think your strategy of going with the flotsam and jetsam of closers is a fine way to go.
-- Full chat transcript
Matthew Berry: I know what you mean. Frankly, I think he's done. It depends on your league size, who you'd be losing and what you need, but I don't think it's a no-brainer. He'll be a .250/20-25 homer guy and there are a lot of those. His days of being Big Papi are over -- everyone got a hit (Monday) for Boston, so don't get all excited about (Monday).
-- Full chat transcript
Tuesday's fantasy chat schedule:
AJ Mass, 11 a.m.
Stephania Bell, 3 p.m.
• The Red Sox could reach to Pawtucket at some point this season for all three of Monday's hurlers. Starting prospect Michael Bowden won with 5 1/3 scoreless innings against Lehigh Valley, lowering his ERA to 0.64. Former Indian/Oriole Fernando Cabrera threw 2 2/3 hitless, scoreless frames, and future closer Daniel Bard saved his third game. In eight innings, Bard has allowed one hit and fanned 13.
• Salt Lake Bees third baseman Brandon Wood continues to hit, as a pair of singles in Reno on Monday upped his batting average to .346. No, we're aware Wood probably won't hit for average in the majors, but doesn't he deserve a chance? The Angels have been trotting out Maicer Izturis to hit third. Wood has four home runs and eight RBIs in seven games, with a 1.356 OPS. What's left to prove in Salt Lake?
• Rich Harden takes to the mound against arguably the top hitting pitcher in the game, Micah Owings. Harden has a crazy 18 strikeouts in nine innings so far, but no wins to show for it. Owings did not pitch well in his lone outing.
• Aaron Laffey makes his second start of the season for the Indians, and he has done well in five career starts against the Royals, with a 2.73 ERA. Plus his team gets to face Sidney Ponson. No, I'm not a Ponson fan.