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Sunday, August 15, 2010
Jonathon Niese should stay hot

By Adam Madison
Special to ESPN.com

I've always been a fan of Derek Holland, and it could pay to keep an eye on him now that the Rangers placed Rich Harden on the disabled list on Sunday retroactive to Aug. 8. The Rangers obviously have little faith in Harden -- they skipped his spot in the rotation last week -- so Holland could carve out a rotation spot if things break right. Don't use a roster spot on him right away -- he has to battle Matt Harrison and Scott Feldman to see who gets called up in the first place -- but Holland's talent and the Rangers' infield defense could lead to some success in the near future.

For starters

Selected notes:

Jonathon Niese bounced back nicely from a 4 1/3-inning, six-run implosion Aug. 1 versus the Diamondbacks, tossing similar seven-inning, one-run, seven-strikeout performances against the Phillies and Rockies, two teams with above-average offenses. He's allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his past nine starts while continuing to maintain a strong strikeout rate, and there's no reason he shouldn't keep it going against the Astros.

• If it makes you feel better, writing about Javier Vazquez is as frustrating as owning him. He's been consistently roughed up in his outings, allowing 20 earned runs in his past 28 innings (five starts), including seven home runs. He's now allowed 22 home runs in 123 innings, two more homers than he allowed all of last season in 219 1/3 innings. Yet Vazquez had a 3.29 ERA spanning June and July, so it's not as if he's been worthless. It's a tough call, but I would start him versus the Tigers.

Tom Gorzelanny is a tempting spot start versus the Padres, but I just don't trust him anymore. He's allowed home runs in three consecutive starts and, going back even further, has averaged 4.7 walks per nine innings in his past eight starts. That's the definition of a WHIP killer.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals: The strikeouts have been creeping up recently, so he might be a big tease, but he does get another solid matchup Monday against Javier Vazquez. Gordon is 5-for-18 (.278) with three extra-base hits (one home run) in his career off Vazquez.

Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners: You always have to keep an eye on such home run potential, and the hot-and-cold Branyan could be heating up, as has two home runs in his past eight games. It might not be much, but he's also 2-for-6 with four walks and a home run against Brad Bergesen, so deeper-than-average mixed leaguers may want to grab him.

Jerry Hairston, Jr., OF/2B/3B/SS, Padres: Batting .300 with three home runs, three doubles and one steal in 50 at-bats this month, Hairston is one of the league's most popular adds and has a shot at another big game against Tom Gorzelanny, as he's 2-for-4 with a home run against him.

Pitchers' count:

Lance Berkman, 1B, Yankees: It's only six at-bats, but if you strike out in five of them, it's a strong implication you're overmatched. That's exactly what Berkman has done against Max Scherzer, so keep the slugger reserved.

Brian McCann, C, Braves: The catcher has mustered just one hit against Chad Billingsley, but it left the park. Toss in four walks, and McCann hasn't been so awful, but if you don't use OBP, you're left with a guy who has a .091 average in 11 at-bats and has struck out five times. It's also worth noting that McCann's teammate, Troy Glaus, is 0-for-7 against Billingsley.

Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays: Longoria is hitting a weak .243 since the All-Star break with just two home runs, so now is a good time to use alternatives considering he faces Cliff Lee, who may be the best pitcher in baseball. Longoria is 2-for-14 (.143) with three strikeouts against Lee.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: Barry Bonds-esque against right-handers, Hamilton is below-average against lefties, batting .259 with six home runs in 143 at-bats this season. Few are better at limiting left-handed hitters than David Price, who has yet to allow a home run to a lefty and is holding them to a .567 OPS.

Baseball Challenge pick of the day

Johnny Damon, OF, Tigers: It's the first and probably last time Damon gets a recommendation here, but you can't argue against the numbers. He has simply raked against Javier Vazquez, going 8-for-24 (.333) with four doubles and two homers.

Triage

Injury list: Day-to-day

Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (hamstring)
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (knee)
Matt Lindstrom, RP, Astros (back)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof: Rangers-Rays.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.