AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
So if a black cat served to jinx the Cubs 40 years ago, what does a calico mean today?
If you ask Rich Harden, it's a good omen. For the first time all season (including spring training), the right-hander turned in a solid, and most importantly healthy, outing. Not to suggest Harden's previous two regular-season turns or four spring-training starts were hampered by visible injury, but for the first time in 2009, he finished an outing unscathed and put forth a fantasy-worthy stat line.
And with that, so returns the familiar Rich Harden pattern: He dominates when healthy, but don't expect "healthy" all that often. Since 2005, his first year battling significant injury issues, he has made only 60 starts, but in those he's 26-10 with a 2.69 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 9.9 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio. In other words, he has pitched at a Cy Young-caliber level when healthy, but to put his missed time into perspective, major league leader Derek Lowe has made 139 starts during that span, or 232 percent more.
Harden's command was much sharper in this outing than his previous one, in which he walked four batters in three innings and threw only 53 of 92 pitches for strikes. This time out, he walked only two in six frames and threw 60 of 92 pitches for strikes, much more Harden-like. To further illustrate his dominance, he generated five ground-ball outs and had only four balls escape the infield of the 23 hitters he faced.
Not that Harden can count on good health for an entire 30-plus-start season, as he has managed only one in his six-plus seasons in the majors. A thought: Maybe he needs to adopt himself a new pet for a good-luck charm?
• Joel Hanrahan picked up his second save in as many nights Tuesday, pitching another scoreless inning to lower his ERA to 6.43 but allowing a hit and a walk to boost his WHIP to 1.57. With all the problems in the Nationals' bullpen, it's not as though Hanrahan's job was in any jeopardy, but it's nice to see him beginning to turn his season around.
• The update on Xavier Nady: The New York Daily News reports he does not need Tommy John surgery on his injured right elbow after all and might be able to return in four to six weeks. After a visit with Dr. Lewis Yocum, who performed Nady's previous Tommy John surgery in September 2001, it was determined the outfielder has a partial ligament tear that should heal with rest and rehabilitation. If he was let go in your AL-only or deep mixed league, scoop him back up.
• Rick Ankiel needed the kind of game he had Tuesday, going 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI to raise his batting average to .227. At-bats are at a premium in the Cardinals' outfield, what with him (10 starts), Chris Duncan (13), Ryan Ludwick (11) and Colby Rasmus (eight) rotating turns in the starting lineup thus far. Duncan and Ludwick are off to hot starts, so Ankiel might need to hold off Rasmus in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, two concerns: He has yet to hit a home run and has 11 strikeouts in 44 at-bats.
• That's back-to-back quality starts for the Rangers' Brandon McCarthy, and in three starts this season he's 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA after defeating the Blue Jays. Of course, his chances at continuing his hot streak are slim. He's a noted health risk after making only five starts in 2008 and having made three trips to the disabled list since 2007. He's also an extreme fly-ball pitcher, with a 0.34:1 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio this year and 0.57:1 for his career, and he calls a bandbox ballpark his home. Not a good combination.
• Dropped to the No. 8 hole in the lineup six days ago, Giants shortstop Edgar Renteria managed a career game Tuesday, going 3-for-5 with a grand slam against Jake Peavy and the hot-starting Padres. Renteria has hit safely in each of his five games hitting eighth and is batting .467 (7-for-15) with three walks from that spot. With Emmanuel Burriss batting .250 (5-for-20) without a walk from the No. 2 spot, it might not be long before the two swap spots in the order again as Bruce Bochy continues to tinker with his lineup.
• Stephen Drew's fantasy owners shouldn't fret that a disabled-list stint is coming, as he was used as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning on Tuesday before staying in the game as a defensive replacement. That eliminates any prospect of the Diamondbacks' doing a retroactive DL move, meaning he'll probably return to the lineup Wednesday as projected.• Jarrod Washburn turned in a third consecutive quality-start effort and victory to begin his season, holding the Rays to two runs on five hits in seven innings. He has a 1.71 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and .184 batting average allowed in his first three starts, but what's even more astonishing is that his strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio is 7.3 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.3:1. For his career, those numbers are 5.4 and 1.9:1, meaning he's sure doing something right thus far and this could be a hot streak that will extend for a while.
• Brandon Wood is finally getting a chance with the Angels, having been promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake after Kevin Jepsen landed on the 15-day disabled list. Wood had a standout spring training, batting .322 with four home runs, and was hitting .346 with four more homers in his first seven games for Salt Lake. He's still 24 years old, young enough to put it all together, so add him in AL-only and deep mixed leagues. Two concerns: One, he didn't even play Tuesday in his first game on the roster, and two, he might need to be demoted to clear a roster spot for a spot starter later this week.
Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
A rib-cage injury plagued Braun for much of spring training and led some fantasy owners to question his first-round status, but Tuesday's performance helps allay some of those fears. With his 5-for-5 effort, Braun raised his batting average 78 points to .300, and with two home runs he now has three in his past four games.
Aaron Laffey, SP, Indians
The Indians could have gone with Cliff Lee on regular rest Tuesday, but knowing they had Laffey, who's been so good in home games throughout his career, they trusted their new fifth starter to remain on turn. He rewarded them for their faith, going seven innings and allowing one run on seven hits, and warrants AL-only and mixed-league matchups consideration.
57: The number of times Mariano Rivera has saved an Andy Pettitte win after Tuesday's performance. It ties a record set by Dennis Eckersley and Bob Welch more than a decade ago. Although Pettitte is no longer the pitcher he was in his prime, it's nice to know he has such a reliable closer in Rivera, who has helped the veteran left-hander register 30 wins despite a 4.21 ERA since the beginning of the 2005 season.
• A day after he allowed four runs, five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings of a start in Pittsburgh on Monday, Andrew Miller was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Marlins. Burke Badenhop was promoted from Triple-A New Orleans to take Miller's roster spot, but he'll probably be around only for bullpen depth, not to replace Miller in the rotation. As to who might start Sunday, the Palm Beach Post speculates left-hander Sean West might be a candidate. "We have somebody in mind, but in fairness to the kid and the process, we'll keep it TBA for now, and I anticipate it would stay TBA for a while," Marlins baseball operations president Larry Beinfest said.
• In addition to demoting Radhames Liz to Triple-A Norfolk to clear a roster spot for Tuesday starter Brad Bergesen, the Orioles placed outfielder Ryan Freel on the 15-day disabled list with a head injury and promoted Lou Montanez from Norfolk. Freel didn't seem to feel his DL status was necessary, telling the Baltimore Sun, "I feel great I've never felt better." Expect him back after the minimum stay.
• Hours before deciding to postpone their Tuesday game, the Red Sox placed Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Boston recalled Jeff Bailey from Triple-A Pawtucket to take the roster spot of Baldelli, a constant injury risk. Bailey, who batted .301 with 25 home runs and a .967 OPS for Pawtucket last season, will probably start about twice a week only against left-handers, as Baldelli did.
Click here for all the latest MLB transactions.
AJ Mass: I think Davis was hyped way too much pre-season. That being said, all the Rangers left-handed hitters are struggling and the righties are flourishing. So,it's not just him -- I'd take a chance and buy low.
-- Full chat transcript
Stephania Bell: If it's really fully healed, then the hope is that it doesn't recur. You certainly worry about that with these type of injuries -- which is why they've brought him back slowly. Remember, initially they thought he'd start Week 1. They slowed down the pace as part of an effort to try to be cautious. If he does well in a Triple-A start this week, then I think he'll be good going forward (of course his age adds a little risk, but he's still overall a very durable guy).
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m.
Eric Karabell, 3 p.m.
• David Price turned in a second straight strong effort for Triple-A Durham after a mediocre 2009 debut, tossing five innings of two-hit, two-run baseball for his first win of the season. His ERA through three starts is 2.63 and his WHIP is 1.02, and he has more strikeouts (15) than innings (13 2/3), but low pitch counts continue to be a troubling sign. Check out Price's pitch counts his first three turns: 74, 65 and 71. That suggests the Rays are taking it much slower with him than his innings total suggests, and until he's allowed to stretch that past 90, he's unlikely to be promoted to the big club.
Get more updates from the minor leagues with our daily prospect update.
•Ted Lilly was 0-4 with an 8.15 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in four starts against the Reds in 2008, and Wrigley Field is a hitter-friendly venue, so owners in shallow mixed leagues should take a moment to explore stronger options before using him.
• John Buck, C, Royals: Kansas City manager Trey Hillman essentially has to start him versus Cliff Lee, seeing as Buck is 12-for-34 (.353 BA) with three doubles, three home runs and five walks lifetime versus the left-hander, while Miguel Olivo is 2-for-19 (.105 BA) with seven strikeouts.
• Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates: He's 3-for-17 (.176 BA) without an extra-base hit in his career against Ricky Nolasco, and his career OPS in the month of April is more than 100 points lower than it is in any other month.
• Check out Daily Notes for more on Wednesday's games.