Fantasy Game Notes for Friday: American League
Game Story: That Duckworth 2007 debut -- 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the defending AL champs -- shouldn't be expected too often. Of greater interest is his 6.53 ERA and .300 BAA on the road in his career. Plus, don't forget that Duckworth is mediocre against left-handed hitters (.261 AVG, .758 OPS), but right-handers hit him even better (.290/.871)! This is a perfect slump-buster for guys like Nick Markakis (9-for-37) and Brian Roberts (5-for-36). Give Kevin Millar a shot, as he has hit righties significantly better than lefties since 2005. For the Royals, Bedard should pose problems for a team led mainly by lefties Mark Teahen and Alex Gordon, so temper your expectations.
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: (Updated Friday, 10:00 a.m.) With Thursday's rainout, Wakefield will take the mound instead of Julian Tavarez, facing Angels ace John Lackey. Lackey is 1-4 with a 5.86 ERA and .324 BAA in nine career starts against these Red Sox, and his only victory came last July 30, when the Sox were beginning to hit the skids. He's off to a hot start, though, so sit lesser Sox options like Mike Lowell (1-for-9 career vs. Lackey), Dustin Pedroia (.198 career AVG) and perhaps even Kevin Youkilis, but keep the studs in there. Wakefield can be very good when he's on, but this isn't a game you want to start him. Besides automatic start Vladimir Guerrero (4 HR in 13 AB), Garrett Anderson has a strong history of success (.316, 5 HR, 3 2B in 58 at-bats.)
Notable Injuries: Victor Martinez, C (quadriceps, day-to-day)
Game Story: The Indians return from their three-game "home" series in Milwaukee, and if the weather cooperates, this will be their official home opener. It's been 15 days since Carmona last pitched in a game, and the fact that he allowed seven runs and three home runs in nine innings in two starts against the White Sox in 2006 doesn't bode well for his chances. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Vazquez, isn't as bad a start as it might seem on paper; he had a 3.13 ERA, .212 batting average allowed and 42 strikeouts in five starts against Cleveland in 2006. Use him, but don't be afraid of the Indians' left-handed hitters, either. On the Chicago side, it's a nice day to use a Darin Erstad, A.J. Pierzynski or Juan Uribe.
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: What a pitching matchup! One thing to consider: The Blue Jays are hitting extremely well, the Tigers aren't, so don't be too quick to predict a 1-0 final. Halladay's 10-2 record and 1.93 lifetime ERA against Detroit might lead many to give him the advantage, but Ivan Rodriguez (.476 AVG, 2 HR, 21 AB) hits him well, and Curtis Granderson warrants a look against every right-hander. Avoid Brandon Inge; he's 1-for-14 (.071 AVG) career against Halladay, and 0-for-21 against righties this year. Bonderman is strong on righties, incidentally, and Toronto's stacked from that side. Think a bounce-back Lyle Overbay effort, but don't reach too deep for an Aaron Hill or Reed Johnson.
Game Story: Two of the AL's best left-handers square off, and a healthy Kazmir isn't as far off Johan-caliber as you'd think. He's off to a slow start, but this could be a tougher day for Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, not that you'd sit either. Avoid Jason Kubel, but if Mike Redmond again gets the start at designated hitter, his .332/.820 career rates against left-handers make him an intriguing spot catcher. Pick him up, but check the lineup. A shocker: Carl Crawford's no automatic start. He's 2-for-16 career against Johan, so if you're loaded at outfield, I won't call you crazy if you sit him just this once.
Game Story: Oakland's offense is really struggling, and while Bradley and Crosby are expected back for Friday's game, the absence of one or either could make this a close, lower-scoring affair. The Athletics have noted lefty killer Bobby Kielty (.299/.901 career) on hand just for these games, so expect him to play, and spot him in deeper fantasy lineups. Meanwhile, Igawa's command is shaky, so avoid only Travis Buck (because he's lefty) and Jason Kendall (because he's not very good). Haren shouldn't scare owners of Yankee stars, though Melky Cabrera (5-for-28 to date) and Doug Mientkiewicz should sit for you.
Notable Injuries: Eric Gagne, RP (back, DL)
Game Story: (Updated Friday, 10:00 a.m. ET) Miguel Batista will be replaced by Washburn due to Thursday's rainout in Boston. Rangers hitters don't like Safeco Field; they simply don't. Core sluggers Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira and Michael Young haven't done well in Seattle. So how did the Rangers go 10-8 at Safeco from 2005-06? It's all about the pitching; Millwood was 9-5 with a 3.74 ERA on the road in 2006, and with the Mariners bats struggling, he's a great start. Texas manager Ron Washington says Gagne will return immediately to his closer role, and since it's a Safeco game, feel free to activate the right-hander. Buck the trend and use most Rangers; Brad Wilkerson likely gets the start and he was very strong against left-handers last year.
Fantasy Game Notes for Friday: National League
Notable Injuries: None
Game Story: Though it's a matchup of two power right-handers, Cubs/Reds is often a hotly-contested, high-scoring affair, so don't assume a pitchers' duel. Adam Dunn is an obvious play, dominating right-handers (.529 AVG, 4 HR, 17 AB this year) and Zambrano (.279 AVG, 7 HR, 43 AB), but did you know David Ross handles him as well (.286 AVG, 4 HR, 14 AB)? It'd be nice to see the Cubs' Matt Murton play -- check the lineup -- as he's 4-for-13 (.308 AVG) with two homers lifetime against Harang. It shouldn't be a bad day for the Reds' Edwin Encarnacion or the Cubs' Mark DeRosa, either.
Notable Injuries: Chase Utley, 2B (hand, day-to-day)
Game Story: Utley's on the injury report, but don't press the panic button; he should be fine after being hit in the hand by a Pedro Feliciano pitch. He's a must-play despite facing Oswalt, and don't be afraid of Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, either. Still, Oswalt's 2-0 record and 0.57 ERA in two career starts at Citizens Bank Park makes most Phillies sits for Friday. Aaron Rowand isn't a great play, nor is Pat Burrell, 0-for-9 lifetime against Oswalt, for that matter. Meanwhile, don't be too scared of Myers, a better road pitcher in recent history. Luke Scott could be primed to snap his 0-for-18 career mark at Citizens Bank, and I'd use him.
Game Story: My sleeper start of the day is Duke, 13-6 with a 3.55 ERA in 24 career starts at home, and facing a San Francisco offense ranked second-worst in the majors in team OPS (.596). He's not overpowering, but of the Giants hitters, Rich Aurilia could give him the most trouble, and Bengie Molina warrants a start as well. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, should feast on Ortiz, 5-20 with a 7.28 ERA since 2005. LaRoche is on the injury report, but expect him to play and thrive. It could be another fine day for lesser-known Pirates like Jose Bautista, Xavier Nady and Ronny Paulino.
Notable Injuries: Ray King, RP (shoulder inflammation, day-to-day)
Game Story: Patterson is the best arm the Nationals have, but it doesn't make him a strong fantasy play on Friday. He's off to a slow start, and he's 0-2 with a 6.59 ERA in six career starts at Shea. The Mets hit him well, and of the less-obvious choices, Moises Alou (.333 AVG, 2 HR, 12 AB against Patterson) and Paul Lo Duca (.357 AVG, 14 AB) are fine plays. Let Jose Valentin prove his worth before you consider activating him, though. Pelfrey, meanwhile, is making his first start of the season, and it couldn't be a much better matchup for him. Facing Washington's sluggish offense makes him a fine spot start.
Game Story: Willis is off to a much better start to this year than last, and he has a decent history at Turner Field (4.04 ERA, 5 GS), making him worth the start. The Braves, though, have some right-handed parts that can handle him. Jeff Francoeur (.333 AVG, 3 HR, 21 AB) and Edgar Renteria (.368 AVG, 19 AB) hit him well, and Matt Diaz is a noted lefty killer (.308/.833 career) who should earn the start for Atlanta, and for you. Meanwhile, Redman could run into his share of trouble against Marlins sluggers Josh Willingham (.298/1.025 career against left-handers) and Dan Uggla (.308/.832 career against lefties). If Ramirez plays, as he should, go ahead and activate him.
Notable Injuries: Scott Rolen, 3B (back spasms, day-to-day)
Game Story: Of all the games on Friday, this is the most likely to be washed out, not that Geoff Jenkins is rooting for it. He's a .311/.910 hitter against right-handers since the start of 2005, and 4-for-12 (.333 AVG) with three homers career against Reyes. Bill Hall also handles Reyes well -- .385 AVG, 2 HR, 13 AB -- so this could help him shake his recent slump. St. Louis plays well at home -- a .590 clip at the new Busch Stadium -- though Sheets could continue the team's streak of three straight home losses to begin the season. Chris Duncan, though, is hitting too well to sit.
Game Story: Though Fogg is 3-0 career at Chase Field and coming off a decent outing, the fact that current Diamondbacks players have batted a combined .372 with eight homers in 78 at-bats makes him a poor bet here. Chad Tracy (.636 AVG, 5 HR, 22 AB) owns him; he's perhaps the start of the day. Red-hot Orlando Hudson is a must-play, and if Young sits again, Alberto Callaspo isn't a bad shortstop-eligible sub. Meanwhile, Rockies sluggers Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday are a combined 7-for-48 (.146 AVG) without a homer against Webb, stacking the deck in his favor. Don't sit the Colorado stars, but among the lesser names, Kazuo Matsui (5-for-11 against Webb) is your only decent bet.
Game Story: Furcal could be back, but check on his status first. If he's in, he'll lead off and Juan Pierre will bat second. Furcal might need time to get back to top form, but the fact that he hits Wells (4-for-9) makes him a worthy gamble if he plays. Wells, by the way, is no standout against left-handers; that's why Luis Gonzalez (.400 AVG, 2 HR, 25 AB) hits him, and why I'd call Andre Ethier (.337/.810 career against lefties) a sneaky play. Jose Cruz Jr. hits Lowe well (.368 AVG, 6 HR, 38 AB), and while his traditional role is a platoon outfielder against lefties, expect Bud Black to give him a shot, as should you.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Geoff Jenkins, OF, MIL @ St. Louis Cardinals
Bobby Kielty, OF, OAK versus New York Yankees
Casey Kotchman, 1B, LAA @ Boston Red Sox
Kazuo Matsui, 2B, COL @ Arizona Diamondbacks
Zach Duke, SP, PIT versus San Francisco Giants
Mike Pelfrey, SP, NYM versus Washington Nationals
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.