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The news that the No. 3 name on the ESPN Player Rater list hit the DL on Thursday probably hit some fantasy owners hard, but don't sweat it. It reminds me of the Brad Lidge situation a week earlier: You want these guys healthy for the final three months, not playing hurt and exacerbating injury in mid-June. A two-week break is good news for a player, his team and, of course, fantasy owners.
This could be a relatively quick return for Raul Ibanez. A groin injury can linger, and has been lingering in Ibanez's case for, what he says, months. Ibanez has hit three home runs in the week, but his batting average and defense were starting to suffer. Caution is almost always a wise idea for the long term. Ibanez won't hit the rest of June, but hopefully the next few weeks off will make his final three months productive.
There are plenty of available outfielders on the waiver wire in 10-team leagues, from Michael Cuddyer to Cody Ross and Aaron Rowand, and your season won't be lost in two weeks. The Phillies called up John Mayberry Jr. from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and he made an immediate impact with a home run, but I don't think he's going to be able to produce consistently. The last time he was promoted, it was so he could face lefties in interleague play. He smacked a home run off Andy Pettitte in his second big-league at-bat, but reached base only one other time before being demoted. Mayberry should play occasionally for the next few weeks, notably when lefty Rich Hill faces the Phillies on Friday and next week when David Price is lined up to face the world champs.
Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs are a pair of veterans more than capable of producing as pinch hitters, but one of them is likely to see the majority of the corner outfield at-bats against right-handed pitching, over Mayberry. I'd guess Dobbs gets the call. It's true that all of Mayberry's minor-league homers this season came off right-handers, but don't read too much into that. He was also hitting .254 against right-handers, with plenty of strikeouts. Dobbs and Stairs have a better track record against righties, and manager Charlie Manuel wants to get them at-bats.
Dobbs came off the bench to homer in the eighth inning Thursday, and I'd expect he'll get the nod over Stairs, who is more limited defensively. Dobbs is not having a good season at the plate, but the Phillies believe it's because he hasn't received the playing time he needs to get in a groove. In 2008, Dobbs was used more frequently at third base because Pedro Feliz was neither productive nor healthy. Dobbs has some power, and fantasy owners can take advantage when they know he'll be in the lineup. Dobbs hit .309 off right-handed pitching in 2008, with nine home runs in only 217 at-bats.
It's a shame Ibanez won't be helping fantasy owners the rest of the month, but it's a long season.If you knew he would have 22 home runs and 59 RBIs by the All-Star break, I think you would have taken those numbers. Now it's time for the Phillies to take some numbers from his replacement.
• While David Ortiz is getting attention for his disappointing season, Big Papi has twice as many home runs and a higher slugging percentage than Magglio Ordonez, whom the Tigers finally benched Thursday. Manager Jim Leyland said the move was indefinite, but that hardly tells us if the right fielder will miss one game or 10. I'm guessing he plays this weekend. Ordonez is hitting .273, which is probably why he remains owned in 96.8 percent of ESPN leagues, but has only two home runs. Don't look for him to be benched for long.
• Baby steps, Chris Young owners. The Diamondbacks center fielder is having a decent June, at least in comparison to his other months. Young is hitting .276 for June after his four-hit game Thursday, which included his seventh stolen base of the month. Alas, on the same day, San Diego's Chris Young hit the DL with a shoulder injury. Arizona's Young left in the eighth inning with an apparent leg injury, that doesn't seem severe, while his team was winning handily at the time. The D-backs' Young remains available in a third of ESPN leagues, and he'll likely improve quite a bit from here on out.
• Future Braves ace Tommy Hanson won his second career start last week, but didn't pitch well, allowing nine hits and five walks over 5 2/3 innings. On Thursday, Hanson did pitch well, tossing six scoreless frames at Cincinnati. Hanson continues to walk hitters, allowing four free passes to the Reds, but not a single hitter put a first pitch of an at-bat into play. Get Hanson now before it's too late.
• The Nationals picked up another win at Yankee Stadium, after the strong rain delayed the start of the game for five and a half hours. Craig Stammen picked up his first career win, and Mike MacDougal earned his second consecutive save. Could this be the start of a hot streak for the beleaguered franchise? There are a lot more Yankees owned in fantasy leagues, and those owners can't be pleased the team scored two runs in the final two games of the series. Look for more Yankee offense this weekend in Florida.
• A few of fantasy's most disappointing hitters from the Chicago teams hit home runs Thursday, which is hopefully a sign of better things to come. Alexei Ramirez hit his seventh home run of the season, a two-run shot off Carlos Zambrano. It's worth noting Ramirez is hitting .203 against right-handed pitching this season but .390 against lefties. Still, he bats second in the order against everyone. Derrek Lee hit his eighth home run, putting him on pace for more than 20, which would probably appease fantasy owners. Finally, Cubs catcher Geovany Soto hit his third home run in 10 games. Soto still isn't looking like his 2008 top rookie self, but at least he's hitting around his weight (.220) and the power is coming.
• Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston threw fantasy owners a curveball, as the first save since Scott Downs went on the DL went to ... Jeremy Accardo! Hey, Accardo did register 30 saves with a 2.14 ERA in 2007, as the B.J. Ryan injury replacement. On Thursday, he replaced Ryan, who continued to miss the strike zone. Accardo was closing in the minors this season, so it wouldn't be surprising if this continues, but look for Jason Frasor and Ryan to also get save chances.
• In other closer news: The first blown save for Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez wasn't his fault, as Luis Castillo botched a pop up to allow two runs against the Yankees. K-Rod can blame himself for Thursday's loss, as he threw nine of 20 pitches for strikes and gave up two earned runs in a third of an inning. It was an off night. ... Jose Valverde was throwing strike, as none of his 10 pitches were balls. It was his first save since April. ... Fernando Rodney walked the bases loaded against the Cardinals, but lured Rick Ankiel into a double play to end the game without allowing a run. ... Huston Street made things interesting, allowing two runs after his team built up a three-run lead, but fanned Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena for the save.
Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners
Seattle's center fielder hit a pair of solo home runs off Josh Geer, which is certainly nice, but it raised his season total to a mere six. Gutierrez hasn't grown into much of a fantasy option with his regular playing time, but maybe a power surge is coming.
Nick Blackburn, Twins
Overlooked on draft day and not much more popular now, as he's available in 85 percent of ESPN leagues, Blackburn spun his first career complete game, allowing six hits and one run against the Pirates. He's not a strikeout pitcher, but a 3.09 ERA and 1.25 WHIP is pretty good.
Jayson Werth enjoys hitting against the team that he first came up with. Last season, Werth delivered a three-homer game against the Blue Jays, and this week he homered in all three games of the Toronto series, though it didn't gain the Phillies any wins. Werth has only six hits in 25 at-bats against Toronto and all have been home runs. These teams meet again in Canada next weekend.
• The Padres placed pitcher Chris Young on the disabled list with a shoulder problem. It's not a great time for the latest key member of the rotation -- for innings and potential trade value -- to get injured. The team insists he won't be out for long, but Young made only 18 starts last season. The interesting thing is the scheduled starters for Friday and Saturday haven't been called up yet. The team isn't hiding the information, but the official moves haven't been made. Wade LeBlanc should get the call Friday, and then it's Walter Silva. Fantasy owners everywhere must be very excited.
• The Cardinals shipped outfielder Nick Stavinoha and pitcher P.J. Walters to Triple-A Memphis, with Khalil Greene coming off the DL and Josh Kinney recalled from Memphis to help the bullpen. Greene is expected to play third base for the Cardinals, and yes, he did hit 27 home runs two seasons ago, so it wouldn't be a reach if he hits for power this season. Just don't expect it.
• Dontrelle Willis is back on the DL with an anxiety disorder, which is not something to joke about. The once-promising Willis ended up walking 28 hitters in 33 2/3 innings this season, and the numbers were even worse in 2008. The Tigers intend to call up Alfredo Figaro from Double-A Erie to start Saturday, which is risky for them, and even more so for fantasy owners.
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AJ Mass: He's perfect for interleague road play with the Mets, but once the pitcher has to hit again, I'm not as happy with Sheff. He's one misplayed fly ball away from injury disaster.
-- Full chat transcript
Jason Grey: I think the fact that Justin Smoak is still out another week or two with an oblique injury helps his case. He's not quite as good as we saw last year, but he's not this bad either. His biggest issue right now is getting beaten on inside fastballs. He gets jammed and can't catch up. That worries me more than if he was just chasing sliders in the dirt. He's been having trouble making the adjustment to free his hands. I think he eventually can, but he's running out of leeway.
-- Full chat transcript
Thursday's fantasy chat schedule:
Stephania Bell, 11 a.m. ET
Pierre Becquey, 3 p.m. ET
• White Sox farmhand Carlos Torres threw the first perfect game in Charlotte Knights history, retiring all 15 hitters he faced in a 5-0 win at Pawtucket. Wait, 15 hitters? Rain shortened this game to five innings, but it still counts! Torres is having a strong season, with a 2.38 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 72 innings, and he's allowed one home run in 13 starts. He could get a chance for the White Sox later this season. By the way, the last pitcher to throw a five-inning no-hitter in the International League was some dude named Mariano Rivera (yeah, that one!) in 1995.
• Matt Murton probably doesn't need any more minor league seasoning, but the Rockies don't have room in the outfield. Trade the guy. Murton singled for Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday against Fresno, giving him a 26-game hitting streak. His season batting average for the Sky Sox is .400, he's slugging .617 and he's struck out nine times in 120 at-bats. Of course, Murton didn't do this with the Rockies, Athletics or Cubs in past major league stints.
• While Andrew McCutchen is hitting .333 for the Pirates, the top prospect in the Pirates-Braves deal is struggling for the Double-A Altoona Curve. Gorkys Hernandez picked up three hits in a doubleheader Thursday, but he's hitting .196 with a .484 OPS and no stolen bases. Don't expect the Pirates to promote him to the majors this season.
• Japan will be watching as Atlanta's Kenshin Kawakami and Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka meet for the first time in a regular-season game (they met in spring training). For those wondering, they never faced each other in Japan. Anyway, Kawakami has a more secure grip on his current rotation spot, wouldn't you say?
• You might not have noticed, since he remains available in more than 95 percent of ESPN leagues, but Jose Contreras hasn't allowed a run in two starts, eight innings each, since coming back from the minors. Only three hits in 16 innings is a nice treat, too. He faces Bronson Arroyo, who also has an ERA in the 5s.
• Two more pitchers with ERAs in the 5s are Rich Hill of the Orioles and Philly's Antonio Bastardo. It's pretty risky to use either one of them. The Phillies are patient, and Hill still loses command occasionally. Bastardo went one ugly inning in his last outing, and could be pitching for his rotation spot.
• For more on Friday's games, check out the Daily Notes.