Updated: June 22, 2009, 6:22 PM ET

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AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

Wandy Rodriguez has allowed exactly one earned run in two of his past three starts.

Rodriguez on the right track
Take your pick: Was Wandy Rodriguez's stellar performance Sunday a sign he's turning the corner, or another tease like his June 10 gem versus the Cubs?

"Way-Rod" sure hit some hard times since Memorial Day. In a five-start span from May 25-June 16, he was 0-4 with a 6.93 ERA, 2.19 WHIP and .360 batting average allowed. Faulty command and gopheritis were particular concerns. During that five-start span, he walked 14 hitters and served up eight home runs in 24 2/3 innings, averages of 5.1 walks and 2.9 homers per nine frames. That is significantly worse than the 3.4 and 1.1 numbers he had in those categories entering his start Sunday.

With command numbers like that, it would only be natural that a fantasy owner might question his health. Count me as one columnist who had those worries, especially in light of the history pitchers, with previous performance problems, have had this season leading to DL stints, injury-related or not: Chien-Ming Wang, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Oliver Perez.

Sunday was sure a step in the right direction. Rodriguez went seven strong innings, limiting the Twins to one run on two hits while striking out eight. As much as the Twins might be known most for their top two lefty sluggers, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (and one could throw in Jason Kubel, too), they actually do handle left-handers well as a team, with a .749 team OPS against that side, ranking them 17th in baseball. Of course, Rodriguez did serve up another home run, bringing his total to nine in his past four starts, so let's not say he's completely cured of what ails him.

What might help: His upcoming schedule. As things stand, Rodriguez should draw the Tigers, Padres, Pirates and Nationals in his final four starts leading into the All-Star break, three of those starts (all but the Padres one) coming at home.

Previous editions: June 21: Beckett dominant | June 19: Ibanez lands on DL

News, Notes and Box Score Bits
• Rodriguez wasn't the only Astro to seemingly turn the corner Sunday. Jose Valverde, the team's Opening Day closer, pitched the ninth of a 4-1 game to notch his fifth save of the season. That represented his third save in as many appearances and his first on back-to-back days, seemingly cementing his status as the team's finisher. When the Astros activated Valverde, they said they would ease the right-hander back into the role, but with six consecutive scoreless appearances and seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings since his return from a calf injury, he's looking like a safe guy to count on for regular saves once more.

CC Sabathia's owners are holding their breath after the ace left-hander left his scheduled start after 1 1/3 innings and 28 pitches with tightness in his left biceps. That showing snapped a string of eight consecutive starts of seven-plus innings, the first by a Yankee since David Cone in 1998, but all indications are that the injury isn't severe. The New York Daily News reported late Sunday that the Yankees have no tests (such as an MRI) planned on Sabathia's arm and that he's day-to-day, and the pitcher himself said on the postgame show that he should be fine for his next scheduled start. And what of that next start? With the news Sunday that A.J. Burnett's six-game suspension was shortened by a game and that he's now serving it, Sabathia, if healthy, will have his next turn moved up by a day to Friday, with Burnett pitching Saturday. Both pitchers will face the Mets at CitiField.

• If Kevin Correia is really the Padres' de facto ace now that Jake Peavy and Chris Young are on the DL, he's actually not all that bad of one. Sunday represented his fourth consecutive quality start, a hot streak during which he's 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA and 0.56 WHIP. Sure, he has faced the Diamondbacks, (offensively slumping) Dodgers, Mariners and Athletics during that span, but that just serves to show his fantasy matchups appeal. Really, you can't ask for much better than the matchups player who is money facing his good matchups. Correia has had impeccable command lately -- six walks in his past seven starts -- and he calls spacious Petco Park his home, so there should be more to come in future weeks.

• Anyone need more evidence that Kevin Millwood's performance this season is for real? He struck out 10 Giants while allowing three runs (two earned) in seven innings, maintaining his 2.62 ERA. Since he calls a bandbox with sweltering summer heat his home, I'll predict a sure three-plus ERA for him come season's end, but this is not a pitcher you should discard. I admit I've got a lot of faith in the Rangers' new pitching coach, Mike Maddux, who deserves much of the credit.

Randy Wells recorded his sixth quality start in his past seven turns, limiting the Indians to two runs on five hits. Though few expected much from him, the right-hander has a 2.57 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and .238 BAA in his eight starts, but sadly, he has a 1-3 record thanks to the Cubs' offensive struggles. Wells draws the White Sox, Pirates, Braves and Cardinals in his final four starts before the All-Star break, a favorable enough schedule. Plus, he was a ground ball pitcher in his minor league days, helping make him an underrated hot-streak player the next few weeks.

• Two dreadful early-season fantasy options each went deep again on Sunday, David Ortiz and Geovany Soto. Ortiz went 2-for-4 with one home run and two RBIs, and in the month of June, is batting .308 (16-for-52) with five homers and 12 RBIs in 17 games. Soto went 1-for-2 with one homer, two RBIs and two walks, bringing his June numbers to a .250 batting average (11-for-44), four homers and eight walks in 14 games. If you had any hope of acquiring either on the cheap, this might be your final chance this season.

• More evidence J.P. Howell is the Rays' top closer choice: He pitched the ninth inning Sunday after saving Saturday's game, and held the Mets scoreless, giving him 11 consecutive scoreless appearances. Howell has 13 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings, and has held opponents to a .147 batting average during that span.


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Player Spotlight
Hitter of the night
Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Not like you don't already appreciate his greatness, but Pujols is on a massive tear, his 4-for-5, two-homer performance Sunday bringing his numbers to a .394 batting average (13-for-33), eight home runs and 17 RBIs in his past 10 games. He's now on pace for an incredible 61 homers, 159 RBIs, 21 stolen bases and a 1.169 OPS, and every one of those would represent a new personal best for him.
Pitcher of the night
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
The sophomore left-hander certainly seems to enjoy interleague play, or at least this season he does. Sunday represented his second straight scoreless outing, and while this one was a bit eventful, he completed seven shutout innings allowing four hits, at one point getting a critical double-play grounder with the bases loaded and nobody out. Kershaw now has a 0.51 ERA in his three interleague starts this season.
Stat of the night: 9-1
With his victory against Milwaukee on Sunday, a 7 2/3-inning, two-run, five-hit, eight-strikeout effort, Justin Verlander moved to 9-1 in his interleague career, the best record of any pitcher with at least 10 decisions in those games. He has a 2.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 12 career interleague starts, and interestingly enough, recently suffered his only loss, this past Tuesday at St. Louis.
Notable Transactions
• We already knew he had been yanked from the Boston rotation because of his recent ineffectiveness, but now Daisuke Matsuzaka has found a way off the Red Sox's active roster, after being placed on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season with a mild right shoulder strain. Though the team's official Web site reports that an MRI revealed no structural damage to the joint, manager Terry Francona said the right-hander is experiencing "weakness" in his throwing arm, attributing the condition to it not being properly strengthened in the spring because of his participation in the World Baseball Classic. Catcher Dusty Brown was promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Matsuzaka on the roster, but John Smoltz was already picked to replace him in the rotation. If this news is good for anyone, it's especially so for Brad Penny, who will likely stay in Boston and in that rotation for a while.

• The Marlins placed one of their most effective relievers, Kiko Calero, on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. The right-hander was a key setup man for the team all year, registering a 2.08 ERA in a team-high 36 appearances. He'll sit until at least July 3 but might return then, according to the team's official Web site, but with his injury history, that might be optimistic.

• Sunday wasn't a good day for setup men. The Cubs placed their most effective reliever, Angel Guzman, on the 15-day DL with a right triceps strain. He paced the team in relief ERA (2.53) and WHIP (1.00), and was replaced on the roster by Kevin Hart. With Carlos Marmol struggling with his control, walking 15 batters in his past 11 2/3 innings and Guzman now on the shelf, the Cubs might find it a bit more challenging to get leads for their closer, Kevin Gregg, in the short term.

Click here for all of the latest MLB transactions.

They Said It
Ben (Austin, Texas): Tell us about Brandon Webb's setback. He is on my DL sitting next to Jake Peavy. Both are killing my staff.

Stephania Bell: I'm telling you the Peavy thing is serious. If you can sell him as a prospect to someone else I would, before they find out that he'll need surgery and be out the rest of the season (not saying that will happen, but it could and I would cut bait).Webb is a huge mystery to me. There is absolutely no definitive reason for him to be having this trouble, and with him not getting the contract extension he wanted before the season you have to think he'd be motivated. It's a puzzle apparently for the D'backs too. No one can explain it and they're prepared to send him for further testing, reevaluation to decide whether to try to return him at all this season. I was so confident that I was keeping him on my bench, but now it's time to let go.
-- Full chat transcript


Tommy (Toronto, Ont.): Why do all ESPN writers never bench their best players? Alfonso Soriano is dogging it and should be benched for now.

Pierre Becquey: Because you can't undo the damage he's already done, and when he goes off for a two-HR, one-SB, 4-for-5 game and then goes bananas for two weeks, aren't you going to feel stupid for having benched him?
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
Christopher Harris, 11 a.m. ET
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
On The Farm
• Justin Smoak, on a rehabilitation assignment with the rookie-league Arizona Rangers as he works his way back from a strained quadriceps, went 3-for-3 with two home runs and a triple. He'll be back with Double-A Frisco, for whom he was batting .325 with a .947 OPS in 41 games, soon, but the injury does delay any possible hope he could be called sometime in the next several weeks. We might see Smoak in the majors later this year, especially if Chris Davis' batting average continues to hover around .200, and he'll surely get a long look next spring.

• If the Tigers elect not to retain Placido Polanco, a free agent after the season, they might have an adequate replacement for 2010 in Scott Sizemore, off to a hot start after being recently promoted to Triple-A Toledo. Sizemore went 3-for-6 with a triple, a home run and two RBIs, He is now batting .368 with a 1.113 OPS in his first five games for the team, after managing .307/.937 numbers in 59 games for Double-A Erie. It's unlikely the Tigers, currently in the lead in the American League Central, would move Polanco and open up the position this year, but if they for some reason chose to, they would have a similar stand-in in Sizemore. Scouts have likened him to Polanco, a contact-hitting, batting-average specialist.

Looking Ahead
• It's another light Monday, with only four games scheduled: Two interleague games (Rockies-Angels and Giants-Athletics) and two intraleague affairs (Cardinals-Mets and a rescheduled Cubs-Braves game). The Cubs-Braves game offers your marquee pitching matchup, as it's Ryan Dempster versus Javier Vazquez. Dempster has a 2.86 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his past seven starts; Vazquez has a 2.85 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in his past eight. Use 'em both!

• Not that you should sit Derrek Lee just because Vazquez is his pitching opponent. Lee has extensive experience, and success, against the Braves right-hander, batting .400 (20-for-50) with seven doubles and three home runs.

Trevor Cahill looks to extend his hot streak with a favorable home matchup versus the Giants, who rank 28th in the majors in both runs per game (4.0) and team OPS (.695). In his past 10 starts, Cahill has a 3.38 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and .257 batting average allowed, seven of those being quality starts.

• For more on Monday's games, check out the Daily Notes.