Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Perhaps there's hope for Ervin Santana yet.
Right smack dab in the middle of an otherwise miserable season, the right-hander tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Rays. Going by game score (85), it was the second best start of his career; only a complete-game, four-hit shutout of the Royals that included nine strikeouts on May 5, 2008, was better (89 game score). Most importantly, it gave the Angels back-to-back wins against the Rays and put them another game up in the American League West race.
Counting this game, Santana is 4-1 with a 4.89 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and .232 batting average allowed in six starts since the All-Star break. Those might not rival his numbers from his breakout 2008 -- 16-7 record, 3.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .237 BAA -- but they certainly are welcomed by owners who have struggled to trust him all season.
Take his poor first half, for instance: Santana was 1-5 with a 7.81 ERA, 1.91 WHIP and .349 BAA in eight starts, including 51 days spent on the disabled list with elbow and triceps injuries. He was about as disappointing as a pitcher could be.
I've had a few people ask about Santana's future prospects throughout the course of the season, and here's my take: He's every bit as talented a pitcher as he showed in 2008, but since raw talent often can't overcome injuries, he's about as risky as they come the remainder of this season. Label him a risk/reward type, but on Tuesday, he demonstrated the huge reward potential for those who take the risk.
At the very least, it was a step in the right direction.
• Fantasy owners just hate bench-clearing brawls. They almost always lead to suspensions, and the ones that likely will be handed out to the Tigers' Rick Porcello and Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis probably won't be short ones. The ruckus Tuesday ensued when Porcello plunked Youkilis in the middle of the back with the first pitch of the second inning, an inning after he had thrown a pitch inside to Victor Martinez. It seemed to be retaliation for Boston hitting Brandon Inge and Miguel Cabrera with pitches over the first two games in the series. In fact, Cabrera had to leave Tuesday's game after being hit on the hand by a Junichi Tazawa pitch. Even if Porcello and Youkilis appeal potential suspensions, count on them missing a few games for you at some point in the coming weeks.
• In Youkilis' absence (he was ejected, naturally), Mike Lowell came off the bench to belt two home runs in three at-bats, driving in three runs and scoring three more. That's nice to see from Lowell, who has suffered the steepest drop in playing time since the arrival of Martinez, starting only five of Boston's past 10 games. That Lowell can come off the bench like this and put a charge into the offense demonstrates that he's not moping as a result of diminished playing time, giving hope that he might earn enough at-bats to still matter in AL-only formats.
• Jim Johnson notched his third straight save, the past two coming since George Sherrill's trade to the Dodgers, a sure sign that he is indeed the go-to guy in the ninth inning. Not that there was much worry of a true committee, but it's nice to see no hint of doubt. The only problem for Johnson, really, is that the Orioles are winners of only four games since the Sherrill deal; they're 4-9 during that span.
• Note to matchups seekers: With his 6 2/3 shutout innings to beat the Rangers, Aaron Laffey now has pitched five consecutive quality starts at home and 11 in his past 12 starts at Jacobs Field dating back to last season. He might not be anything resembling a strikeout pitcher, but Laffey is 9-4 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 17 career games (16 starts) at Jacobs Field, which warrants attention.
• So just who is this Doug Fister character? Although Alexei Ramirez hit a game-winning three-run homer in the ninth to overshadow Fister's big league debut, Fister's six shutout innings of one-hit baseball might have him an attractive pickup Wednesday. Don't go overboard with your expectations, though. The right-hander earned his chance by posting a 3.81 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 22 games (17 starts) for Triple-A Tacoma; those numbers are somewhat inflated, of course, by the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Still, they're not knock-your-socks-off stats, nor are Fister's career 4.38 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in the minors. He might have a bit of a size advantage at 6-foot-8, as pitchers as tall as him sometimes earn a short-term matchups benefit because they throw from a higher plane. But for now, only AL-only owners need concern themselves with Fister. Plus, even they won't want him active against the Yankees later in the week.
• Although Jhoulys Chacin had been quite a force for the Rockies out of their bullpen, his first career start didn't go nearly as well, as he was touched up for four runs in 2 2/3 innings, during which he walked six Pirates. He had a 1.80 ERA and limited opponents to a .125 batting average while striking out nine in five innings in four relief appearances, so expect the Rockies to stop experimenting with him in the rotation from this point forward. Chacin has the talent to contribute to NL-only teams in ERA and WHIP out of the bullpen, but it probably will be at least 2010 before he's a contributor in a starter's role.
• Is Roy Oswalt truly healthy, or might he just have been rusty from so much time off? On Tuesday, he allowed six runs on nine hits in five innings at Florida, having taken 13 days' rest between his starts due to back problems. It could just as easily be a sign that Oswalt isn't 100 percent, so demand one good performance from him before you activate him.
• The Blue Jays filled Alex Rios' vacated roster spot Tuesday, but Travis Snider didn't get the call. Instead, Toronto purchased Randy Ruiz's contract from Triple-A, rewarding him for exceptional numbers in the Pacific Coast League: .320 average, 25 homers and 106 RBIs in 114 games. However, it's unclear whether Ruiz will be an everyday player or a reserve/pinch-hitting type. On Tuesday, at least, he started at DH, batted sixth and hit a home run. Comparing his expectations to Micah Hoffpauir's from a year ago -- Hoffpauir was an older prospect with standout Triple-A numbers when he got called up -- seems a reasonable expectation.
Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
Kiss his batting-average slump goodbye. After batting .199 (30-for-151) in his past 46 games, Gonzalez went on a tear Tuesday, totaling six hits at Milwaukee. He added two runs scored and three RBIs, and now is batting .285 with 19 homers and 39 RBIs in 54 road games this season.
Tommy Hanson, Braves
Another day, another win for Hanson, who has been one of the hottest rookies since making his big league debut June 7. With his 6 2/3 innings of one-run, seven-hit baseball, he's 7-2 with a 2.53 ERA in his past 11 starts. He also is vastly improving his command ratios, with 30 strikeouts compared to nine walks in 32 2/3 innings in his past five turns, including nine K's and zero walks Tuesday. Hanson continues to grow with each turn, so keep riding this hot streak.
With four hits again Tuesday, rookie Trent Oeltjen now has 12 in his first five games in the majors, matching the record for any player who debuted since 1961, joining Ken Reitz, Kirby Puckett, Mike Lansing and Bo Hart. A .300-plus hitter with an .800-plus OPS in Triple-A ball both this season and last, Oeltjen should keep getting regular playing time at this pace, so NL-only owners can feel free to scoop him up and enjoy the output.
• The injury-prone version of Scott Rolen has once again reared his ugly head, as the Reds placed the veteran third baseman on the 15-day disabled list with post-concussion symptoms, a result of being hit in the head by a Jason Marquis pitch last week. With Rolen out, Adam Rosales has been filling in recently at third base. Chris Dickerson was activated from the DL to fill Rolen's roster spot, started in center field and led off. Dickerson will return to being a useful spot-start fantasy choice versus right-handers, as he has an .829 career OPS against them.
• Only days after announcing they would reinsert him in the rotation, the Cardinals placed Todd Wellemeyer on the 15-day DL with elbow inflammation. Mitchell Boggs was promoted from Triple-A Memphis to take the open rotation spot Tuesday, and he tossed six innings of four-run, nine-hit baseball. The Cardinals routinely skip or push back their fifth starter as off days allow, but Boggs probably will get at least the next turn in that spot regardless.
• The Dodgers, looking for a long man since they'll be forced to press Jeff Weaver back into the rotation Wednesday, promoted knuckleballer Charlie Haeger from Triple-A Albuquerque, demoting Eric Stults. Haeger isn't fantasy-worthy in his relief role, but Stults' demotion means the Dodgers will skip his turn in the rotation thanks to Thursday's off day, hope Chad Billingsley is ready to pitch Monday and then use Weaver on Tuesday. Otherwise, Billingsley might be DL-bound before then in order for the team to find a fill-in early next week.
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AJ Mass: If you're considering a Royals starter at this point of the year, then you probably need to gamble. I think he'll be OK, but I wouldn't start him first time out of the gate, just to be safe.
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m. ET
• Carlos Carrasco struck out 10 in eight innings for Triple-A Columbus, allowing one run on four hits. It was his first standout performance since joining the Phillies in the Cliff Lee trade, although he has an impressive 21 strikeouts with just three walks and a .218 opponents' batting average in his three starts for the team. The Indians might consider Carrasco for their rotation once rosters expand, but he's probably more of a future No. 3 or 4 starter at this point, rather than a No. 1 or 2.
• Russ Ortiz posted his second consecutive dominant outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, enhancing his chances at getting a look as the Yankees' No. 5 starter, should Sergio Mitre continue to struggle. Ortiz tossed seven scoreless frames of one-hit baseball, giving him 13 shutout innings and a .114 BAA in his first two starts for the team. He can't be expected perform close to this well for the Yankees if he gets a chance, though, especially not in their home ballpark.
• Martinez won't be the only pitcher making his season debut Wednesday. The Angels will summon Trevor Bell, a standout in their minor league ranks this year, from Triple-A Salt Lake to face the Rays. He was 7-7 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 22 starts combined between Salt Lake and Double-A Arkansas, but he rarely graced the top of any prospect lists in the past. Bell is a pitcher who relies on his fielders to make plays -- he has 89 strikeouts in 140 minor league innings this season -- so add him in AL-only formats, but don't activate him yet.
• Francisco Liriano gets another chance to earn back the Twins' trust, as he has been battling a forearm injury and some personal matters in the past couple of weeks, and was a candidate to be bumped from the rotation by the newly acquired Carl Pavano. Liriano will need to be sharp as he takes on the Royals, one of the weaker offenses in the game, but his fantasy owners might be better served keeping him comfortable on their benches until he proves again he can be productive.
• For more on Wednesday's games, check out Daily Notes.