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Friday, September 3, 2010
Minnesota Twins' rotation shaken up

By AJ Mass
ESPN.com

Those darned extra-inning affairs! Fantasy owners of Brian Duensing got a double dose of bad news on Thursday, when the pitcher was called in for an emergency relief outing as the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers battled into the 13th inning. Two innings, four hits and one earned run won't kill your fantasy squad's ERA, but it certainly won't help, and the outing also likely pushes back Duensing's scheduled Sunday start until next week. Head-to-head owners, you are out of luck. As for the pitchers who can help your team this weekend, check out the complete set of rankings below:

For starters: Saturday

Selected notes:

Top of the charts: Roy Halladay continues to keep opposing lineups in check, with four consecutive quality starts. Now all he needs is a little run support. Josh Johnson has an 0.75 ERA in two starts against the Atlanta Braves, but no decisions, as his bullpen has let him down on both occasions. It's hard to fathom a pitcher as good as Adam Wainwright losing four in a row, especially against a Cincinnati Reds team he held to just two hits in their previous encounter.

Decent pitchers, lousy records: Matt Cain has a respectable 3.94 career ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he's won just one of nine decisions against the team. Colby Lewis has never beaten the Minnesota Twins, though he does have a 3.65 ERA against them in two 2010 starts.

Ted Lilly has a 3-1 lifetime mark facing the San Francisco Giants, but has needed plenty of help, as his ERA in those games is 5.12. James Shields is 7-3 for his career when going up against the Baltimore Orioles, but this season is 1-1 with a garish 5.71 ERA against them. Carl Pavano's 7.62 ERA versus the Texas Rangers is a big red flag for Saturday, assuming of course the Twins don't move his start to Friday due to the amount of pitchers they used on Thursday.

Middle of the pack: Jason Hammel is 2-0 against the San Diego Padres this season. Javier Vazquez has a 2.38 ERA against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 and is facing Marc Rzepczynski, who is 0-2 lifetime against the New York Yankees, with a 10.22 ERA. Gavin Floyd has never suffered defeat at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, against whom he is 3-0 with a 3.94 ERA.

Hey, you never know: Rick Porcello is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA against the Kansas City Royals so far this season. Jeremy Guthrie has managed to keep his cool against the Tampa Bay Rays, with a 2.79 ERA in three 2010 decisions versus them.

Thanks, but no thanks: John Lannan and Paul Maholm are each 0-3 against the other's team in their careers with ERAs above 5.00. Start your hitters from both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals and enjoy the fireworks.

For starters: Sunday

Selected notes:

Top of the charts: The St. Louis Cardinals have their backs against the wall, and nobody is better suited to beat the Reds than Chris Carpenter, already with four victories against the division leaders under his belt this season. A quick look at the past 21 days and you should have no questions as to why Felix Hernandez and C.J. Wilson round out the top three.

Hiroki Kuroda is coming off a one-hit effort versus the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Giants are hitting just .212 during the past week. Ervin Santana is 11-3 lifetime facing the Oakland Athletics with a 1.73 ERA. Up-and-down Carlos Zambrano is 3-0 since returning to the Chicago Cubs' rotation.

Track records of doom: Phil Hughes has a 6.60 ERA against the Blue Jays in 2010, while Jonathan Sanchez is 0-5 lifetime versus the Dodgers with a 6.04 ERA. Clayton Richard is 1-1 when going up against the Colorado Rockies this year, but with a 5.11 ERA.

Take a chance on them: Justin Masterson is unbeaten facing the Mariners, with a 1.16 ERA. Wade Davis is even more impressive as an Orioles killer -- 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA, including an 8-1 victory back on July 19. Josh Beckett's recent struggles aside, he is 4-1 for his career against the Chicago White Sox with a 3.72 ERA. Brett Cecil is 2-0 versus the Yankees this season with a 1.64 ERA.

Thanks, but no thanks: Brian Matusz has a 6.06 ERA against the Rays in 2010, which is still better than Kyle Davies' 7.94 ERA when the Tigers swing the bats against him. As for Charlie Morton, I expect that Charlize Theron would have far better results.

Now batting

Hitters' count: Saturday

Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: Soriano is batting .429 against the Mets this season, with a .929 slugging percentage. Plus, he has hit more than 50 points higher versus lefties than versus right-handers this season.

Casey Kotchman, 1B, Mariners: He's reached base safely in 17 of his past 18 games. By no means is he a glamorous pick, but he's been fairly consistent the past few weeks.

Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: Choo is hitting .368 since Aug. 30 and is hitting .345 against the Mariners' staff, including a 2-for-3 against David Pauley.

Tommy Manzella, SS, Astros: Not only has he gone 6-for-14 since Aug. 28, but his only career home run came off Rodrigo Lopez.

Ryan Roberts, 2B, Diamondbacks: Admittedly, this one is a stretch pick, but with expanded rosters, anything goes in September. Roberts is batting .471 against the current Astros pitching staff.

Pitchers' count: Saturday

Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: He's missed a few games with a pain in his side, but even if he plays, the .198 batting average against the Cardinals' staff doesn't bode well for a happy return to the lineup.

Martin Prado, 2B, Braves: Prado has yet to figure out Josh Johnson, as the .190 career batting average -- 4-for-21, all singles -- would attest.

Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Every time it seems like his bat is coming around, he goes off on another 3-for-16 (.188) slide. Then Roy Halladay steps on the hill, and we head for the hills ourselves.

Denard Span, OF, Twins: It's only Sept. 3, and Span is already 0-for-9 this month while his team has scored 11 runs. With a career .167 mark against Colby Lewis, it's best to steer clear here, dear.

Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels: Perhaps the veteran is finally running out of gas, as his recent 3-for-31 (.097) slump seems to suggest. The track record of 2-for-12 against Trevor Cahill doesn't appear to be a tank-filler.

Hitters' count: Sunday

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: There's plenty of highlights in Ortiz's vault when facing Mark Buehrle, with a .354 batting average in 48 at-bats, including eight extra-base hits.

Kila Ka'aihue, 1B, Royals: Ka'aihue already has a home run off of Armando Galarraga under his belt and eight hits in his past eight games.

Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays: Time to jump back on the Rays shortstop's bandwagon against Brian Matusz, against whom he's batting .462 for his career.

Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: Jeter has scored six times in his past six games and has a .357 batting average when Brett Cecil is on the mound.

Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies: Certainly any player in the middle of a 1-for-20 run is a gamble, but Ibanez is slugging .786 in 14 at-bats against Randy Wolf. Time for you to join Team Raul.

Pitchers' count: Sunday

Jorge Cantu, 1B, Rangers: Fantasy players are fleeing from Cantu -- ownership down 4.8 percent this week -- like rats off a sinking ship. The .143 against the Twins' staff isn't going to save this Titanic.

Cody Ross, OF, Giants: Continuing our trip through former Marlins players, Ross is 0-for-6 in his past four games and simply isn't turning out to be the answer the Giants thought he would be for them.

Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Marlins: Sanchez has been hitting plenty of late (six hits in seven games), but it's his hit on Nyjer Morgan that has us concerned some discipline may be forthcoming. Start him with caution until the dust settles.

David Wright, 3B, Mets: With 10 strikeouts in 21 at-bats -- and only three hits -- against Carlos Zambrano, this might be a good day to look elsewhere at third base.

Adam Lind, DH, Blue Jays: When you look at his .188 average against Phil Hughes, and then realize it's a huge improvement over his recent 2-for-17 (.118) stretch, you'll make the right call.

Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend

Saturday: Johnny Damon, DH, Tigers: Damon's bat always seems to come alive when Bruce Chen is on the mound. He's 11-for-22 against the Royals pitcher lifetime with a pair of home runs and an .864 slugging percentage.

Sunday: Adam Dunn, 1B, Nationals: Dunn is hitting .600 since Aug. 28 with nine RBIs and the hits should keep on coming against Charlie Morton, himself a Dunn home run victim in their only prior encounter.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Jose Lobaton, C, Rays (15-day DL, foot)
Laynce Nix, OF, Reds (15-day DL, sprained left ankle)
Craig Gentry, OF, Rangers (15-day DL, broken wrist)
Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies (15-day DL, strained right oblique)
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays (15-day DL, sprained left wrist)
Kanekoa Texeira, P, Royals (15-day DL, right elbow strain)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals (possible suspension)
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (shoulder)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (sore biceps)
Johan Santana, P, Mets (strained pectoral)
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins (left wrist)
Corey Patterson, OF, Orioles (sore neck)
Nick Swisher, 1B, Yankees (knee)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Indians at Mariners and Astros at Diamondbacks. Hopefully, Earl will be nothing more than a faded memory once the weekend rolls around. Expect stormy weather to be a bit of a pest on the Florida coast, but other than that, nothing in the forecast suggests anything to worry about.

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.