AP Photo/Gail Burton
Then Price turned his outing around. The left-hander has struggled on the road in his young career, entering Monday with a 1-4 record and 6.31 ERA in nine starts this season, but after that rough first inning, he recovered to pitch six shutout innings. Price ended up allowing three earned runs in his seven frames, walking two and striking out four, and bettered his record to 8-7 in the 8-4 win.
Rookies generally are bad investments in fantasy baseball -- or any fantasy sport -- and Price's first full campaign is a reminder why. First, he didn't start the season in the majors, which often is a risk too large to take for those in one-year leagues. Price has made 20 starts, still more than Tommy Hanson and J.A. Happ. However, those pitchers have been consistent. Price gets on the occasional hot streak on which he befuddles hitters, like when he retired 13 consecutive Orioles at one point Monday, but for the most part, he's struggled to avoid bad innings and rough outings following good ones. Fantasy owners made Price the No. 52 starting pitcher in ESPN average live drafts, and certainly counted on an ERA and WHIP better than 4.60 and 1.42, respectively, and more than 91 strikeouts.
The other issue for young pitchers is when their teams decide on an arbitrary number of innings as a limit and shut players down early. There's been no official announcement from the Rays on how Price will be handled, but he has thrown 109 innings in the majors this season, with another 34 1/3 for Triple-A Durham. That already is 20 more innings than his sum from 2008, and the Rays aren't playoff bound this season. The point is, don't be surprised if Price, a mere 24 years old, isn't allowed to finish the season in the rotation.
For next season, it's tough to predict a 15-win season or 175 strikeouts for Price, and I can't imagine he'll break into my top 30 starting pitchers. Someday he'll get there, but not next season, not until he shows more consistency.
• Now, here's a great pitcher: Tim Lincecum made a triumphant return to the mound after 11 days off with a sore back, striking out 11 Rockies and permitting only one run in a key win for the Giants. Lincecum has eight double-digit strikeout games this season, the most in the majors, and 19 of them since the start of 2007. Jake Peavy and Johan Santana are next with 15. In home games, Lincecum is tough to beat: He's 9-1 with a 1.79 ERA and 132 strikeouts at AT&T Park this season. The last pitcher with as many wins and strikeouts and as low an ERA in home games in a season was Roger Clemens in 1997.
• With more run support and better middle relief, Wandy Rodriguez might be challenging to be a top-10 fantasy starting pitcher this season. As it is, Rodriguez is in the top five in the National League in strikeouts and ERA. He left Monday's game at Cincinnati with a 1-0 lead and two runners on base, and suffered his 10th loss. See, there's that annoying run support and middle relief again. Rodriguez might hit 200 strikeouts this season, so don't hold his 13-10 record against him.
• Joe Mauer is unbelievable. When most catchers slow down in September, this guy keeps hitting, adding three more singles Monday to raise his batting average to .371. A mere four catchers have hit better than .300 since the All-Star break with a minimum 100 at-bats: Mauer, Miguel Montero, A.J. Pierzynski and Victor Martinez, with Mauer leading the way with a .367 mark.
• While Mauer rakes, he'll be doing it the rest of the season sans teammate Justin Morneau, who has a stress fracture in a vertebrae in his back and will be sidelined for three months. Morneau was struggling at the plate, hitting .122 since Aug. 16, so fantasy owners in one-year leagues can look elsewhere for production. Try replacement Michael Cuddyer, who has 25 home runs and now is likely to add first base to his eligibility for next season. According to the Twins, Morneau will be fine for spring training.
• For as dominant as Ricky Nolasco has looked at times this year, his season ERA is 5.46 after another pounding Monday. Nolasco allowed the Cardinals 10 hits and seven runs in five messy innings, the fifth time this season the right-hander has permitted seven or more runs in an outing. It's tough to depend on someone like that, despite the considerable upside.
• Closer follies: Jason Frasor blew the save against the Tigers when Aubrey Huff smacked a three-run home run in the ninth inning, but don't look for him to lose the closer role yet, even though Scott Downs has pitched well since coming off the DL, allowing one run in 10 outings. Tigers closer Fernando Rodney had his suspension reduced from three games to two, and he began serving his penalty Monday. If the Tigers have a save chance Wednesday, it should be Rodney's. If they have one Tuesday, look for Brandon Lyon to close. Where would the Cubs be if Carlos Marmol had closed all season? Probably in the same spot they are now, preparing to play golf in a few weeks. Marmol saved his 13th game, but it's relevant to note his walk rate hasn't dropped much in his new role. Chris Perez had pitched so well for the Indians, but it all came apart when he allowed eighth-inning home runs Monday to Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Even if Kerry Wood were to leave the Indians, Perez might not be next in line.
Reid Brignac, Rays
As the Rays play out the string, they might give more playing time to Brignac, who had four hits in as many at-bats Monday, with a home run, a stolen base and three RBIs. As long as Jason Bartlett remains a Ray, Brignac will have to find either a new position or a new franchise, and even though he didn't hit for power or average at Triple-A Durham, he is only 23.
Ryan Dempster, Cubs
Few believed Dempster would improve on his 17-6 season from 2008, but the Cubs right-hander remains useful. Dempster's eight shutout innings of four-hit ball Monday propelled him to his 10th win, with a 3.84 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. Those aren't Cy Young numbers, but certainly Dempster has proved to be a safe mixed-league option.
I think we all can see that Giants catcher Bengie Molina is not a fast man. But did you know Molina, who homered and scored three runs Monday, had not scored three runs in a game since August 2005 when he was with the Angels? That's a span of 554 games, for those counting, which we are. For comparison, Albert Pujols has scored three runs in a game seven times this season.
• It's that time of the year when teams bring up speedsters solely for pinch-running assignments, so if you need every last stolen base, keep an eye on Freddy Guzman of the Yankees and Luis Durango of the Padres. Guzman has been in the bigs a few times but never has hit enough. This season in the minors, he stole 45 bases but batted .223. He pinch ran for Jorge Posada late in Monday's game. Durango hit .281 in Double-A and stole 44 bases, and unlike Guzman, remains a pretty good prospect.
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Buster Olney: It was just a guess, and you know what -- I'm thinking there could be a better fit with the Brewers for a Fielder trade, anyway: The San Francisco Giants. Pure speculation: Fielder for Cain makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons, which I'll write about in Tuesday's blog.
-- Full chat transcript
Peter Gammons: When the Orioles were in town the last week, Jim Palmer observed there isn't a pitcher in the AL with the combination of four above average pitches that can match Buchholz. He predicted he'll be a 20-game winner in the near future. Sometimes the old cliche about the best deals are the ones you don't make. He could have been gone for Halladay or Lee.
-- Full chat transcript
Tuesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Stephania Bell, 11 a.m. ET
Brendan Roberts, 3 p.m. ET
• The d'Arnaud brothers enjoyed a nice day of hitting Monday, as Pirates Class A middle infielder Chase singled, doubled, knocked in three runs and stole a base, while Phillies Low-A catcher Travis doubled on his two hits and scored twice. Chase d'Arnaud is the leadoff hitter for Lynchburg, and his exploits helped the Hillcats advance to the Carolina League championship series. He is hitting .293 at two levels of the minors this season with seven home runs and 31 stolen bases, and was recognized as the Pirates' No. 17 prospect by Baseball America prior to the season. Travis d'Arnaud is seen as the Phillies' catcher of the future, already ranking in the organization's top 10 prospects, and remember, Lou Marson and Jason Jaramillo have been dealt since last season. Check back on each d'Arnaud as they approach the majors in 2011.
• The Rockies and Giants meet in the second game of their critical three-game series, with Ubaldo Jimenez facing Barry Zito. Each pitcher has thrived since the All-Star break; Jimenez is 7-1 with a 2.60 ERA in that span, while Zito has a 2.34 ERA.
• Roy Halladay originally was slated to pitch Monday, but the Blue Jays pushed him back a day to face the Yankees. Halladay tossed a one-hit shutout two starts ago against the Yankees, so if you're thinking New York's Chad Gaudin is a wise spot-start option, think again.
• For more on Tuesday's games, check Daily Notes.