AP Photo/Michael Dwye
You can be forgiven if you had some trepidation about putting Daisuke Matsuzaka in your lineup this week, even with a projected two-start week. Given the start he had to the season, the long layoff, some uneven rehab outings and a tough opponent in the Los Angeles Angels, nobody would blame you for not getting him back in the mix right away.
However, Dice-K wound up coming back in a big way, throwing 93 pitches over six shutout innings Tuesday, giving up three hits and three walks, and striking out five, outpitching John Lackey in the process.
After getting completely torched in his first eight starts of the season and a layoff of almost three months due to shoulder fatigue, Matsuzaka returned to put up zeros against the team with the greatest batting average and second most runs scored in baseball. The Boston Red Sox couldn't have scripted it any better, and there are reasons to believe Dice-K can continue to perform over his last few starts.
Matsuzaka reportedly worked out heavily on the rest of his body during his absence from the game, and returned noticeably leaner and fit. It also was very encouraging that he put up multiple 93-94 mph readings on the radar gun, after struggling to get faster than 90-91 mph earlier in the season, and was throwing his full assortment of pitches rather than relying too heavily on his fastball.
"I thought he was terrific," manager Terry Francona told the team Web site. "He stayed in his delivery the entire night. It looked like he had some life on his fastball without a lot of effort. He threw a real good cutter. He had three walks and two of them, he had guys 0-2. It's a huge shot in the arm for us."
Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw Sunday in Balitmore, then in Yankee Stadium (you might want to skip that one), followed by a final outing in Toronto, so there are a couple of situations in which you might want to deploy him over the final weeks and see whether he can build on Tuesday's outing heading into the playoffs.Previous editions: Sept. 15: Price's recovery | Sept. 14: Pedro silences Mets
• Tommy Hanson continues to prove some rookie pitchers can have effects in any fantasy league, firing seven shutout innings and striking out eight to reduce his ERA to 2.65 on the season. He has allowed just one run in his past 20 innings and has given up three runs in a start just once in his past eight trips to the mound. Amazingly, he still is available in 25 percent of ESPN leagues.
• Travis Snider hit two homers for the Toronto Blue Jays off the New York Yankees' Sergio Mitre, yet also struck out in three other at-bats. It was the first time he went yard since Aug. 25, and he still is experiencing some growing pains since his recall as he tries to find some consistency.
• The Chicago Cubs' Sam Fuld is awaiting the results of an X-ray and MRI on the wrist he injured making a diving catch Monday, but early reports have not been optimistic, and he's going to miss at least a few games, if not more.
• Lance Berkman was a late lineup scratch with a back spasm, and manager Cecil Cooper told the team Web site Berkman might not play again until Friday. The Boston Red Sox scratched Kevin Youkilis due to the same reason, and he, too, is day-to-day.
• Michael Young (hamstring) made a surprise return to the Texas Rangers' lineup a few days earlier than expected as the designated hitter, but he had to pull himself again after just one at-bat. He hopes to play again Friday.
• Andy Pettitte won't make his start Wednesday due to shoulder fatigue, although at this time he has not been ruled out to return to the rotation Monday. Chad Gaudin will take Pettitte's place against the Blue Jays.
• It was Barry Zito, not Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched like an ace in a big game Tuesday. While Jimenez got knocked out of the box in the third, Zito struck out the side in the first on his way to a season-high nine punchouts over seven innings. Zito -- owned in less than 20 percent of ESPN leagues -- has a 2.36 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP since the break, while bumping his strikeout rate up to 7.5 batters per nine innings.
• Although he admittedly is not at 100 percent, Jake Peavy will return to the mound Saturday. He'll have a favorable matchup against the Kansas City Royals but is not expected to go deep into the game.
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
Ethier had his sixth walk-off hit of the season (four of which have been homers) after his two-run shot in the bottom of the 13th Tuesday. For all the talk about how Ethier has stepped up his offensive game this season, it's worth nothing that there still is more upside if he can figure out left-handed pitching, as he's hit just .193 against southpaws this season. That's something to consider when playing matchups during fantasy playoffs.
Cliff Lee, Phillies
Lee went the distance for a six-hit shutout, striking out nine, and has a 2.67 ERA in nine starts for the Phillies. It appears Lee's recent rough three-start stretch now is in the past after this stellar performance. It's worth noting that Lee has gone nine innings in five of his past 12 starts.
That's the mark the notoriously streaky Adam LaRoche has posted since the All-Star break, after he went 4-for-4 with two homers and two doubles Tuesday. He also has 11 homers and is slugging .557 in that time. It looks like he's on one of his patented late-season runs again.
• Laynce Nix returned to the Cincinnati Reds' lineup Tuesday after being on the disabled list for two weeks due to a sore neck. Expect him to get a lot of playing time against right-handed pitching for the balance of the season, but his average has been plummeting since a hot start, dropping almost 30 points since June 1, so don't expect much.
• The San Francisco Giants activated Randy Johnson from the disabled list, where he had been since July 6 due to a torn rotator cuff. However, Johnson will be returning as a reliever, as he doesn't have the arm strength to last five innings. Given his new role, there's no reason to pick him up.
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Brendan Roberts: I definitely would. By all accounts, he's healthy again, and I hear he's been taking a ton of batting practice to try to "wear out" the wrist, and it withstood it. Once he's back in game shape, which should be soon, he'll really help you. I say he's worth starting, especially this week with a home stand.
-- Full chat transcript
Stephania Bell: I think given the bulging disc he's at risk every time he plays. It's not something that goes away completely and he'll need the offseason to get back to square one. I think he'll perform, but may not be consistent.
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Eric Karabell, 3 p.m. ET
• One of the best pitching prospects in baseball was in his usual form Tuesday night. The Tampa Bay Rays' Jeremy Hellickson allowed just one run over 6 2/3 innings, striking out six in Game 1 of the Triple-A International League finals. Hellickson posted a 2.45 ERA in 20 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season, striking out 132 and walking just 29 in 114 innings. We should see him in Tampa at some point next season.
• The noteworthy thing about the Oakland Athletics' Chris Carter in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League finals was what he didn't do. Carter homered in all four games of the first round of the playoffs, but Memphis' pitching held him to just a walk and a single in four trips to the plate in a game Carter's Sacramento team lost 1-0. It originally was thought Carter might need one more year in the minors, and that still might be the case, but Carter -- who has hit 67 homers the past two seasons -- has put his name into the A's big league picture for 2010.
• Joel Pineiro still is available in 50 percent of ESPN leagues despite a 3.21 ERA and 1.11 WHIP for a first-place team. His numbers indicate he hasn't been unduly lucky, and they've been driven by a huge amount of harmless ground balls. His ground ball-to-fly ball ratio is better than 2.5-to-1. He has a tough assignment against Josh Johnson and the Florida Marlins on Wednesday, but Pineiro has made himself fantasy worthy again for the first time since his 2003 season with the Seattle Mariners.
• The Detroit Tigers will have Eddie Bonine pitch out of their rotation for the balance of the season. The 28-year-old hasn't done much in six previous big league starts over the past two seasons, but the sinkerballer could have some short-term success, especially drawing Lenny DiNardo and the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.
• Ryan Rowland-Smith has been quietly productive as a starter this season, with a 3.88 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 11 starts since returning from the disabled list, and posting quality starts in six of his past seven outings. It also is helpful that when he has a bad outing, he doesn't get bombed, as he has not given up more runs than innings pitched in any start this season. He's owned in just 3 percent of ESPN leagues as he matches up with the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.
• For more on Wednesday's games, check Daily Notes.