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Friday, April 30, 2010
Pelfrey, Hughes look to stay hot

By AJ Mass
ESPN.com

Daily Notes

Meet the new aces in New York. Maybe it's a bit premature to be taking the crown off the heads of Johan Santana and CC Sabathia, but this weekend, the two Big Apple teams show off the future of their rotations. At least, so far this season, they've each surpassed expectations. On Saturday, Mike Pelfrey goes up against Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, and surprisingly, it's the New York Mets hurler who is still undefeated with a stellar 0.69 ERA, to boot. On Sunday, it's the New York Yankees' turn to trot out their "Star of the Future, Today." Hughes nearly no-hit the Oakland Athletics earlier this season, and if he can rein in a bit of his wildness -- 11 walks in three starts -- he could well be on his way to winning 15 or more games this season. As for where these two rank overall this weekend, we've compiled the complete lists for you to help set your fantasy rotations below:

For starters: Saturday

Selected notes:

• Top of the Charts: While we like Pelfrey, he does not yet possess the same level of trust as Roy Halladay does. We'll keep Doc as our No. 1, just ahead of David Price, who is coming off a four-hit shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays and has a potent Tampa Bay Rays lineup giving him tons of offensive support.

Felix Hernandez is only 8-9 lifetime with a 3.72 ERA against the Texas Rangers. There could be some issues there, but he's a better play than Dan Haren. The Arizona Diamondbacks' starter usually struggles against the Chicago Cubs, with a career ERA of 5.84 against them. Yovani Gallardo has had similar difficulties with his Saturday opponent, the San Diego Padres, as evidenced by his 5.40 ERA facing them over the years.

• Rounding out the top 10: John Danks has looked good so far in 2010, but has a big fat 6.06 ERA against the Yankees. Matt Cain's issue is always the run support, and he's yet to earn a victory so far this season. Tim Hudson is undefeated against the Houston Astros, with a 1.16 ERA. The Astros counter with Wandy Rodriguez, who had his start pushed back a day due to back issues. There's no guarantee they won't flare up again.

• Middle-of-the-road options include Gio Gonzalez of the Oakland Athletics and Carlos Silva of the Chicago Cubs. Hey, I'm not buying his ranking either, but at some point, you have to look at the present body of work and leave his horrendous past in the past. Also on the Saturday radar is Daisuke Matsuzaka who finally gets on the mound this season.

• After that, there are a lot of ERAs over 6.00 to choose from, and not a lot of upside. Chris Volstad has a 6.48 ERA against the Washington Nationals, while Craig Stammen has allowed eight runs in seven innings pitched over two starts against the Florida Marlins. It's unlikely both of those pitchers will shine on Saturday, though one of them might rise above the numbers.

• Streamers on alert: Javier Vazquez has struggled mightily in pinstripes, but is 3-0 lifetime with a 1.88 ERA against the Chicago White Sox. Matt Harrison allowed only one run on six hits in an earlier start this season against the Seattle Mariners.

• Thanks, but no thanks: Homer Bailey is 1-3 with a 7.06 ERA in games against the St. Louis Cardinals. Carlos Monasterios of the Los Angeles Dodgers moves from the bullpen to the starting rotation for the first time. Even if he does perform well, it's hard to say how long he'll be able to go. Brad Bergesen is returning from Triple-A to make a bid to reclaim a spot in the rotation.

Kevin Slowey was originally slated to start Saturday, but he was pressed into action on Friday with Nick Blackburn leaving the team to attend to a personal matter. If Blackburn returns in time for Saturday, he should get the start, but right now the team is unsure what will happen if he isn't back.

For starters: Sunday

Selected notes:

• Top of the Charts: You have to like Chris Carpenter and his 8-3 record against the Cincinnati Reds, to go along with a 2.17 ERA. Hiroki Kuroda has a career 2.74 ERA against the Pittsburgh Pirates, so we'll give him the silver medal spot for Sunday. Bronze honors go to Doug Fister, at home against the Texas Rangers, who are hitting just .220 on the road.

• Johan Santana always brings his A-game against the Phillies; 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA for his career. Jered Weaver's undefeated 2010 might hit a speed bump versus the Detroit Tigers, who have been a nemesis over the years, torching him for a 6.34 ERA.

• Rounding out the top 10: C.J. Wilson (5-2 against the Mariners), Phil Hughes (1.64 ERA and a 9.0 K/9 rate against the White Sox) and Josh Johnson, sporting a perfect 5-0 record when the Washington Nationals are in the other dugout.

• Middle-of-the-road options: Jonathan Sanchez has struggled against the Colorado Rockies with a 6.85 career ERA against them, though he's been solid so far in 2010. Why is Francisco Liriano so low? Call it the quick rematch with the Cleveland Indians to go along with a recent cold spell at the plate for the Minnesota Twins. It's hard to believe Zack Greinke is still winless, and he's a lifetime 0-3 against the Rays.

Josh Beckett might get back on track against the Baltimore Orioles. He's 6-2 against them in his career with a 3.70 ERA, although his opponent, Kevin Millwood, has a 3.84 ERA against the Boston Red Sox. This contest could end up being a pitchers' duel.

• Streamers on alert: Jhoulys Chacin fills in for the Rockies' multiple injuries in the rotation. He has a career 2.43 ERA in the minors as a starter. Ben Sheets is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA against the Blue Jays. Edwin Jackson might be available on the waiver wire after his recent disastrous outing, but he does have a 2.57 ERA facing the Cubs. He's worth the risk if you're already behind in a head-to-head league.

Justin Verlander and Mark Buehrle aren't usually found this low in the rankings, but not only have they been shaky in 2010, they both have difficult matchups. Verlander has a 5.10 ERA against the Los Angeles Angels and Buehrle is a career 1-6 with a 6.43 ERA facing the Yankees. I'd seriously consider benching them both on Sunday.

•Thanks, but no thanks: Tom Gorzelanny has a 5.09 ERA against the Diamondbacks, which is only marginally better than Aaron Harang's dismal 4.57 ERA facing the Cardinals. Harang already got lit up for three runs in five innings against the Cards in April. Bringing up the rear is Jeff Karstens, who has a WHIP of 2.04 when facing the Dodgers.

Now batting

Hitters' count: Saturday

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox: In addition to his .308 batting average over the past week, Pedroia is 4-for-6 against Brad Bergesen, who may well be shipped back to Triple-A after the second baseman has his way with him.

Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates: He's had two four-hit games in the past week, raising his batting average to .358 for the year. Facing an inexperienced starter should give him a leg up to possibly make it a trifecta.

Jose Lopez, 3B, Seattle Mariners: It's been a week since Lopez popped his first career grand slam, but he's hit safely in four of five games since then, so perhaps he's found his stroke. Plus, he's a career .308 hitter against Matt Harrison.

Orlando Hudson, 2B, Minnesota Twins: Hudson has a six-game hitting streak going and a career .833 OBP against Justin Masterson. It's the right time to be looking in his direction.

Adam Lind, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: He's hitting .385 over the past few days, and went 2-for-3 against Gio Gonzalez in their previous baseball battle. Ride him while his bat is fresh.

Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians: Sizemore has a .963 OPS against possible starter Nick Blackburn, and anyone else the Twins trot out there Saturday isn't likely to have had better luck against Grady.

Pitchers' count: Saturday

Mark DeRosa, OF, San Francisco Giants: In the midst of a 2-for-18 slump, DeRosa now gets to face Rockies pitching. That's not good news, as he's batting just .212 against the current Rockies staff.

Rod Barajas, C, New York Mets: Few Mets batters enjoy seeing Roy Halladay on the mound, but Barajas has never managed to get a base hit off the ace. He'll be the happiest of all to get to Sunday.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, San Diego Padres: After hitting four home runs in four days, Gonzalez has now put the power stick away for a few games. Teams are going to start pitching around him again, so expect his power to run in streaks.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers: Hamilton is riding a super-hot streak; 9-for-23 over his past five games. Having said that, today is King Felix day, and he's got ice water in his veins to spare. Hamilton is a mere .130 hitter against Hernandez. Fire ... out!

Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves: The catcher went 2-for-12 in his past three starts and has a career-long goose egg against Wandy Rodriguez. Even with Wandy's current back issues, he should be able to stand up strong against McCann.

Alex Gordon, 3B, Kansas City Royals: Gordon had two hits in a game against the Minnesota Twins and all of a sudden, his supporters declared, "He was back." Well, he's just 1-for-12 since then and if that's "back," then I don't want him.

Hitters' count: Sunday

Jorge Cantu, 1B, Florida Marlins: If it's true that home runs tend to come in bunches, then Cantu can do. He just homered against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, and owns a.818 slugging percentage when facing John Lannan.

Luis Castillo, 2B, New York Mets: Castillo is 4-for-9 over his past three games, and knows veteran Jamie Moyer quite well, batting .308 against him in 26 career at-bats.

Ryan Ludwick, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Ludwick is working on a five-game hitting streak and has two career home runs off Aaron Harang.

Stephen Drew, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks: Hits in four of five games to go along with a lifetime .417 batting average versus Tom Gorzelanny make Drew a solid Sunday start.

Xavier Nady, OF, Chicago Cubs: Rumor has it Nady might be getting a few more starts soon. Edwin Jackson provides manager Lou Piniella with a perfect opportunity. Nady is 4-for-7 against him with two doubles.

Blake DeWitt, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers: DeWitt was given some time off during the Mets series and returned to action with two hits against the Pirates on Thursday. He's a perfect 3-for-3 lifetime against Jeff Karstens, so perhaps that was the start of something big.

Pitchers' count: Sunday

Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds: A recent 7-for-15 run has breathed new life into Bruce's 2010 season, but you should hold your breath when he faces Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals' ace has held Bruce to a .200 batting average.

A.J. Pierzynski, C, Chicago White Sox: Just 4-for-23 over the past seven games, and with a paltry .172 batting average on the season, not to mention zero home runs. Where's the upside?

Carl Crawford, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: Crawford is operating on all cylinders and has raised his batting average to .341, yet there's something about facing Zack Greinke that makes us want to give him a day off. Maybe it's the .211 career batting average, combined with the fact Greinke is bound to win sooner or later.

Julio Borbon, OF, Texas Rangers: Yes, he's got a four-game hitting streak going that has crept his average to within sight of .200, but against Seattle earlier this season, he was only 1-for-9. This recent "surge" just doesn't hold any weight.

Casey Kotchman, 1B, Seattle Mariners: After a 2-for-11 series against the Kansas City Royals, Kotchman faces the Texas Rangers' C. J. Wilson, against whom he's a lifetime 0-for-6 .

Clint Barmes, 2B, Colorado Rockies: After a 1-for-12 stretch, it's hard enough to justify putting him in your fantasy lineup, even more so when the Rockies themselves are swapping in Melvin Mora for the .189 hitter.

Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend

Saturday: Matt Kemp, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Kemp has had a hit each of the past five days and owns a career batting average of .353 against Zach Duke. Plus, he's been called out by the team's general manager, so there's added motivation to put some crush in the baseball.

Sunday: Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins: He's tailed off a bit of late, with a 1-for-11 series against the Detroit Tigers, but Mauer is a .429 career hitter against David Huff, which is a pretty nice number, even given his higher-than-normal baseline.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres (15-day DL, right hamstring strain)

Kris Benson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (15-day DL, right shoulder)

Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas Rangers (15-day DL, right hamstring strain)

Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, strained flexor tendon)

Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, torn tendon in finger)

Jason Hammel, SP, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, strained right groin)

Felipe Lopez, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals (15-day DL, elbow strain)

Brad Hawpe, OF, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, strained left quadriceps)

Chris Jakubauskas, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (15-day DL, head contusion/concussion)

Vicente Padilla, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (15-day DL, right forearm soreness)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Jair Jurrjens, SP, Atlanta Braves (strained left hamstring)

Carlos Quentin, OF, Chicago White Sox (hamstring)

Chris Dickerson, OF, Cincinnati Reds (sprained right wrist)

Rick Ankiel, OF, Kansas City Royals (strained right quad)

Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (strained left hamstring)

Jorge Posada, C, New York Yankees (knee)

Justin Duchscherer, SP, Oakland Athletics (left hip): A possible trip to the disabled list looms as he's had hip problems in the past that required surgery, albeit on the other hip.

Kurt Suzuki, C, Oakland Athletics (sore side)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Athletics at Blue Jays, Rangers at Mariners and Royals at Rays. While the rain has stayed away for most of the season so far, this may be the weekend when the skies open up and play havoc with the schedule. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for both Saturday and Sunday in Cleveland and Detroit. Light showers are possible on Saturday in St. Louis, with some heavier downpours possible in Atlanta. Sunday, the storms shift to the Mid-Atlantic part of the country, with Philadelphia and Baltimore possible precipitation participants.

AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can follow AJ on Twitter or e-mail him here.