Jerry Lai/US Presswire
It's about time we saw some life from this slow-starting White Sox offense.
After managing a sub-.700 team OPS as deep as 43 games into their season, the White Sox had been written off as a poor-hitting squad, one that presented an opposing pitcher with a favorable matchup. Beginning with a 17-run outburst at Los Angeles on May 25, though, Chicago seems to have warmed up. The team's hot streak was capped by a 10-run outburst against the Indians on Tuesday, with Paul Konerko's three home runs leading the charge.
Surprisingly, Konerko became only the fifth player in franchise history to hit three homers in a game; it's a career high for him. With the performance, which included seven RBIs, his batting average is up to .301, his OPS .881 and he's on pace for 32 home runs and 113 RBIs. Those are numbers we came to expect from the first baseman during his prime; they're a welcome sight to anyone who owned him during his terribly disappointing 2008.
Konerko is now batting .339 with eight homers and 16 RBIs in his past 16 games, helping provide some much-needed punch to the middle of a lineup that was lacking it in earlier games. Sure enough, his hot streak has seemingly helped those who bat around him: Jim Thome has batted .278 with four homers and 11 RBIs in his past 21 games (some of that spent as a pinch-hitter during interleague play), while Jermaine Dye has batted .404 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his past 14.
As a team, meanwhile, the White Sox have batted .279 with 57 home runs and an .814 OPS in 40 games since that May 25 date, averaging 5.2 runs and six times managing double-digit runs. Suddenly this team is no longer one to dismiss, especially if you're the owner of a starter scheduled to face it.
• The White Sox also made a move Tuesday to shore up their bullpen, acquiring Tony Pena from the Diamondbacks in exchange for first-base prospect Brandon Allen. The 23-year-old Allen was batting .281 with a .783 OPS in 77 games split between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, and profiles as a decent power-hitting prospect, having belted 29 homers in 2008. That Chicago paid such a steep price in young talent to get Pena might paint him as the team's new eighth-inning bridge to closer Bobby Jenks, though more likely this just gives manager Ozzie Guillen another option along with fellow right-handers Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink. AL-only owners (in deep formats) can consider Pena for his ERA and strikeout help.
• So can you spell Marc Rzepczynski's name? You should learn, seeing as how the 23-year-old left-hander tossed seven innings of one-run, two-hit baseball in a road start at the Rays, striking out seven, which is probably enough to keep him in the rotation for a few more turns as the fifth starter. Rzepczynski had some stellar minor league numbers, too, with a 2.76 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 9.8 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in 49 career games (45 starts). This is his first professional season above Class A ball (he had 14 starts at Double-A New Hampshire and two at Triple-A Las Vegas this year), so some sort of adjustment period should be expected.
• In only his second game for the Athletics, Scott Hairston managed to squeak into the lineup as both the team's starting center fielder and No. 3 hitter, and that role came against a tough right-hander, Josh Beckett, a very telling thing. Hairston proved the Athletics right for chancing on him; he took Beckett deep. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Hairston's arrival has officially shifted Ryan Sweeney from center to right field, paving the way for the ex-Padre to take over the center-field duties on an every-day basis. If you haven't warmed to Hairston as a viable mixed-league starter yet, you're about to miss out on your opportunity.
• If you believed the Cubs were jinxed, just wait until you hear this: Ryan Dempster has a broken right big toe, suffered when he jumped over the dugout fence to celebrate Sunday's win over the Brewers, reports the Chicago Tribune. The right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, and though he said he'd miss only his two scheduled starts this week plus one after the All-Star break, manager Lou Piniella said trainer Mark O'Neal put Dempster's timetable at closer to three to four weeks, which might cost him 6-7 starts. Carlos Zambrano moved up to start on three days' rest Tuesday with Kevin Hart promoted from Triple-A Iowa to start Wednesday's game. Depending on how Hart fares, he might get a longer look in the rotation. Current relievers Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija could be future candidates if Hart isn't up to the task.
• Tuesday's two-homer effort -- one against tough left-hander Mark Buehrle -- might be just the jump-start Grady Sizemore needs to get his season back on track. Sizemore is now 7-for-14 with three homers and seven RBIs in his past four games, and he's batting .289 (13-for-45) since returning from the DL.
• Juan Rivera's breakout season continues, as the veteran left fielder belted homers Nos. 15 and 16, albeit in a losing effort, against the Rangers. Since May 14, he's batting .340 with 15 of those homers and 43 RBIs in 47 games, and his season paces are now at 33 home runs and 108 RBIs. Rivera has always been able to clobber left-handed pitching, but it's the years in which he handles right-handers aptly that he takes fantasy owners by surprise. He's batting .299 with an .804 OPS against his supposedly "weaker" side, so his keeping this up to some degree shouldn't be unexpected. Only one thing possibly stands in Rivera's path: injuries, which have ended many of his past hot streaks.
• Suffice it to say Josh Hamilton has convinced us he's completely healthy. In addition to three hits and a walk in five trips to the plate Tuesday, he stole a base, and he's now 5-for-8 in his first two games fresh off the DL.
• Barry Zito managed his best start in nearly two years (going by game score), shutting out the Marlins on four hits for 8 1/3 innings for a game score of 80. Interestingly enough, his previous 80-plus start in terms of game score also came against the Marlins; he's now 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in five career starts against them. Though Zito has had his share of strong outings this season, he was still 3-6 with a 5.59 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 10 previous starts to this one. Some skepticism with him looking forward seems reasonable.
• The Yankees announced Tuesday that Alfredo Aceves, who had an impressive 2.02 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 21 relief appearances this season, will take the rotation spot of the injured Chien-Ming Wang beginning Thursday. Aceves will have a pitch count of 70, which might not be high enough to be a useful fantasy option at Minnesota, but if he impresses the team enough, he might get a few more turns in the role. Aceves might not get much credit for his strong performances in fantasy, but the guy has a 2.48 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 52 games (27 of them starts) between the majors and minors this and last season. Keep an eye on him.
Brandon Phillips, Reds
Phillips capitalized upon the hitter-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park by hitting two home runs with three RBIs, adding a key sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning of a 4-3 win. That helped him snap out of a 14-game cold spell in which he batted .189 with a .464 OPS. Phillips is now on pace for 27 home runs and 23 stolen bases, which would mark the third 20/20 campaign of his career.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
For the fourth time in his past five starts, Kershaw registered a scoreless appearance, holding the Mets to a doughnut through six innings of three-hit baseball to win his sixth game of the season. The left-hander is now 3-0 with an 0.61 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings in his past five starts, which granted came during a stretch of favorable matchups, but also offers great encouragement for his future. If there are any complaints with Kershaw, they'd be either his low innings-per-start (5.5) or high walks-per-nine-innings (5.2) numbers.
Javier Vazquez had yet another strong effort, going seven innings of one-run, five-hit baseball to defeat the Cubs, but more representative of his sheer dominance than those game statistics was that he induced 12 swinging strikes, helping him retain his major league lead in the category. Interestingly enough, the two pitchers now first and second in the category worked Tuesday; Justin Verlander had 16 swinging strikes to bring him to 245 for the season, reports the Elias Sports Bureau.
• The Mariners also welcomed Erik Bedard back to their rotation, activating him from the 15-day DL. He pitched four innings of two-run, two-hit baseball with eight strikeouts. Bedard was on a strict pitch count and lasted just 72 throws, and might only get into the 90 range in his next turn Sunday. But it's progress; he should be back in full form coming out of the All-Star break. Mike Sweeney landed on the 15-day DL to clear a roster spot.
• The Cardinals placed Mark DeRosa on the 15-day DL with what the team described a left wrist strain, but digging deeper, the news on him doesn't sound at all promising. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the team's recent acquisition is apparently suffering from a torn tendon sheath, a diagnosis confirmed by DeRosa himself shortly after his DL placement and was revealed in an MRI on Monday. He said his wrist "popped" during a June 30 at-bat. Though Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Tuesday he expected DeRosa back shortly after the All-Star break, this has the potential to be much longer than a 15-day absence. The Cardinals also promoted both Brian Barden and Nick Stavinoha from Triple-A Memphis, while demoting Tyler Greene there. Barden might platoon with Joe Thurston, who started Tuesday's game, at third base in DeRosa's absence.
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AJ Mass: I don't buy into first-half/second-half splits. I'm sorry, I just don't. True, pitchers may get more tired from being overworked in pressure situations, and Zona certainly has been in many playoff runs over Haren's career, but not this year.
-- Full chat transcript
Jason Grey: Although I do like Drew to turn it on in the second half, Ramirez is likely the better fantasy player thanks to the added speed dimension.
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m. ET
Eric Karabell, 3 p.m. ET
• Neftali Feliz is adapting nicely to his shift to the bullpen with Triple-A Oklahoma, striking out three in his scoreless inning of work Tuesday. Through five relief appearances, he has allowed one earned run on four hits and one walk in 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine. Feliz, 21, might need a few more outings in the minors before joining the Rangers' bullpen, but the decision to shift him to relief sends a clear signal the team wants him up soon to help with their pennant race. The strategy has all the makings of a Joba Chamberlain-like angle, when the Yankees adopted the same plan with their right-hander in 2007, and Feliz's fantasy impact might be quite similar.
• Speaking of relief-pitching prospects, Ryan Perry, the recently demoted Tiger, tossed two scoreless innings for his second save in six appearances for Triple-A Toledo, striking out four. Since being sent down, the right-hander has an 0.90 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, .171 batting average allowed and 10 strikeouts in 10 innings. Perry might have been a bit rushed to the big leagues this past spring, but he also had a standout spring training and is showing once more that his stuff isn't far off from being big league-ready. He'll be back with the team before long, and profiles as a future closer.
• Tim Wakefield takes on the Athletics, a team against whom he tossed a complete game for a victory on the road April 15. He's 6-0 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in eight starts at home this season, painting the All-Star as a must-start for Wednesday. On Oakland's side, Jason Giambi is especially unattractive; he's 3-for-43 (.070 BA) against Wakefield since 2003, though the three hits were all home runs.
• Rodrigo Lopez shapes up as an intriguing spot-start candidate, at least in deep-mixed or NL-only leagues. Be aware he hasn't walked more than two batters in any of his 13 starts at the Triple-A level or in his 2009 debut with the Phillies, and in his most recent three turns in Triple-A ball he had an 0.86 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. The Reds, meanwhile, have a .658 team OPS in their past 30 games.