Wednesday's slate features a couple of recently injured hurlers who haven't shown us enough lately to start them, but their progress needs to be watched.
Pedro Martinez takes the mound for his second start since missing time for a groin injury and his father's funeral. He allowed three earned runs in five innings against the Astros on Aug. 1; all three were solo jacks. He needs to not allow any home runs and hopefully throw closer to 100 pitches. If he manages to accomplish both, consider snatching him up.
Jeff Francis returns to the Rockies' rotation after missed time with shoulder inflammation. In three starts for Triple-A Tulsa, he had a 0.63 ERA in 14 1/3 innings. He struck out 19 and walked just two. Watch for more signs that his command has returned and pick him up if he has a good start.
Matchups for Wednesday, Aug. 6
All times are ET.
Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (abdominal)
Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays (finger)
Michael Bourn, OF, Astros (ankle)
Milton Bradley, OF, Rangers (quadriceps)
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (hand)
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays (hamstring)
David DeJesus, OF, Royals (back)
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (thumb)
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (foot)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (hip)
Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees (back)
Scott Rolen, 3B, Blue Jays (shoulder)
Billy Wagner, RP, Mets (elbow)
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (hand)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Of the day-to-day fantasy regulars, Rick Ankiel and Robinson Cano are the closest to returning, and may be safe plays by Wednesday. ... Grady Sizemore has just a single in eight career at-bats versus Scott Kazmir. ... Michael Bourn's ankle injury may still have him out for Wednesday. In his absence, Kazuo Matsui becomes a better play as he is batting leadoff. ... Alex Rios is 0-for-6 lifetime versus Justin Duchscherer. ... It's not an indictment of Ervin Santana's chances at a good start, but you shouldn't bench Orioles like Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora or Brian Roberts against him. They all hit better than .300 in their careers versus Santana with sample sizes ranging from 11 to 17 at-bats. ... Scott Rolen's shoulder flared up over the weekend, but after a couple days rest he could be back by Wednesday. ... As I'll explain further, Justin Verlander has trouble with the White Sox. Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, A.J. Pierzynski and Nick Swisher are the cause of most of that hardship. Thome is 8-for-29 (.276) with five home runs; Dye is 12-for-33 (.364) with four home runs; Pierzynski is 11-for-32 (.344) with three home runs and 12 RBIs; Swisher is only 6-for-27 (.222) but with three home runs. Start 'em all. ... The Tigers' lefty killers, Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez, have pretty good numbers against John Danks. Actually, Polanco's .366 average versus lefties this season has translated to a "pretty good" 4-for-12 history versus Danks; Ordonez's numbers versus Danks are simply unfathomable. In 11 at-bats, Ordonez has eight hits, two doubles and a home run for six RBIs (.727 average and 1.932 OPS). ... Mike Lowell received an injection for his hip and missed Monday's game. He may get another day or two off, putting Wednesday's start in jeopardy. ... Adam Dunn is 12-for-24 (.500) against Jeff Suppan with 10 walks. A popular play lately, fellow Red Jerry Hairston Jr., is just 2-for-19 (.105) versus Suppan. ... Carl Crawford's status is up in the air after missing Monday's game with hamstring troubles. ... Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee both mash Jason Marquis. Berkman is 19-for-39 (.487) with 13 RBIs against him and Lee is 10-for-29 (.345) with three home runs. ... Recent Dodgers' acquisitions Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake are quite familiar with Joel Pineiro from the American League. Ramirez is 11-for-26 (.423) with three home runs off his former teammate and Blake is 6-for-15 (.400) with a home run. ... With a lefty on the hill, make sure to load Chris Iannetta, Jeff Baker and Ian Stewart into your lineup. Heck, anyone from the Rockies is a good start when they play lefties.
Pitchers: It's a relatively weak day for pitching, with only four slam-dunk must-start pitchers going. Of Tim Lincecum, Scott Kazmir, Ervin Santana and Justin Duchscherer, only Kazmir comes with a warning. He seems to be falling back to old habits of using way too many pitches per plate appearance, and hasn't escaped the sixth inning in either of his last two starts. In fact, in his last outing he lasted just 4 1/3 innings and walked six Tigers. He needs to get his slider going again to be successful. With the Indians finishing July with the fifth-best OPS in the majors (.818), there is some concern for Kazmir. If you insist on starting him, take solace in the fact that only the Blue Jays and Giants have scored fewer runs than the Tribe against southpaws. ... Randy Johnson is an absolute must-start. He has won five straight starts while allowing just five earned runs and is actually carrying a 21-inning shutout streak into his matchup with the Pirates. ... Never start Justin Verlander against the White Sox. It's a simple rule, and it's held water for most of the season. Admittedly, Verlander does have a nine-inning one-run gem against Chicago this season but consider this: in four starts against the White Sox this year, including the complete-game gem, Verlander has a 6.15 ERA. Besides that good outing, he's allowed 17 earned runs (22 total) in 17 1/3 innings. Ouch! ... John Danks has only been average at home this season, with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts at U.S. Cellular Field (2.63 ERA on the road). Considering that he is coming off four straight non-quality starts (three of them on the road), Danks should be relegated your bench for a while. ... Mariano Rivera is said to be available now after taking a few days rest for his back. Keep him active. You can likely bench the other New York closer as Billy Wagner is having an MRI on his elbow Tuesday. Eddie Kunz has been anointed as the fill-in. ... Marcum's ERA in three starts since his DL stint is 9.82. You just can't use him until his command comes back. ... Closer monitor both Pedro Martinez's and Jeff Francis' start on Wednesday. Neither have done enough to regain our trust, but they could very quickly with a good outing.
Hitters: Gregg Zaun makes a decent spot start at catcher because of his success against the A's Justin Duchscherer. Zaun is 3-for-7 with a home run versus the AL's WHIP king. ... Eligible at every infield position, the Pirates' Chris Gomez has 40 career at-bat versus Randy Johnson, and is a .300 hitter against the Big Unit. Fellow Pirate Luis Rivas is a .350 hitter against southpaws this season (.995 OPS) and is 3-for-6 versus Johnson. ... Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett has only been available for pinch running, but he is getting closer to a return. He is 3-for-8 (.375) versus Sowers should he start. ... Eligible at first base and in the outfield, Darin Erstad will play if Michael Bourn is still unable to start. Erstad has seven hits in seven games entering Tuesday. ... Activate some borderline Giants hitters as Aaron Rowand, Rich Aurilia, Kevin Frandsen, Randy Winn and Bengie Molina all have a home run versus the Braves' Chuck James. In fact, take out the at-bats by pitchers and the Giants' lineup is a combined 16-for-41 (.390) against James. ... Adam Kennedy is 11-for-29 (.379) versus Derek Lowe and the recently hot Ryan Ludwick is 4-for-7 with a home run against him.
Pitchers: With his ownership criminally low at 15 percent in ESPN leagues, Tim Wakefield becomes one of the day's better spot starts. Ten of his previous 12 outings have been quality starts. Unbelievably, he has only won three of those games, but luck has to give sometime and this matchup with the Royals should allow Wakefield to get a 'W.' ... Jeremy Sowers has taken two straight starts into the sixth inning as perfect games, before things unraveled from there. Both came against the Twins and their weak OPS versus lefties (.704). The Rays aren't much better than the Twins against lefties, but their patience quickly eroded Sowers last start against them on July 13. He walked seven Rays in four innings despite also striking out eight. This start could go either way, but I'll back Sowers as Tampa Bay's offense has been spiraling since June. ... Don't get sucked in by Garrett Olson's terrific outing in his previous start. The Angels have been pounding the ball and producing runs. Only the Rockies had more runners cross the plate in July and the Halos have an .820 OPS over the past week. ... It's good to see a right-hander in the Pirates' rotation and Jeff Karstens is certainly intriguing but against Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks, there doesn't appear to be much upside in this start. ... Nick Blackburn is coming off back-to-back dominant outings over Cleveland and has never faced the Mariners. Seattle has been swinging hot sticks lately though, with an .831 OPS over previous week, so it's a tough call on the matchup. ... Minnesota's weak offense against left-handers (.704 OPS) should help Jarrod Washburn get back on the quality-start horse. He has a 3.46 ERA in his career against the Twins and had a 3.26 ERA against them last season. ... Anibal Sanchez looked good in his first start in 15 months, shutting down the league's best offense in July (Colorado) for two runs over six innings. I'd hold off on his first road start as it comes in the ever-dangerous Citizens Bank Park. Similarly, Kyle Kendrick isn't really a great option, as his last poor outing came against these same Marlins on July 19 (4-1/3 innings, seven earned-runs).
It looks like some of the lingering showers associated with Edouard could affect some games in the area. Arlington, Kansas City and St. Louis are forecast to get showers. So watch your Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, Royals, Dodgers and Cardinals. ... There's a 50 percent chance of showers in Denver for the Nationals-Rockies contest and a 40 percent chance for the Brewers-Reds game in Cincinnati. ... Weather-proof games will be played in Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg (Indians-Rays), Phoenix (Pirates-Diamondbacks), Seattle (Twins-Mariners) and Toronto (A's-Blue Jays).
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.