Interleague play begins Friday with a rotation that will feature same-region divisional matchups. Jake Peavy has rejected his potential move to the Chicago White Sox. Instead, he will stay in the National League and make his scheduled start and face off against Carlos Zambrano in what should be a fabulous pitching duel.
Friday also marks the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is returning from a shoulder injury and will make his first start since April 14. Unfortunately, a stiff test versus Johan Santana and the Mets awaits. As one ace returns, another hits the shelf, as the Reds' Edinson Volquez will miss his scheduled start with back spasms, with Bronson Arroyo taking his place. Since it is interleague play, keep in mind seven interleague games will be played in NL parks, leaving some American League teams without a designated hitter.
Starting pitcher rankings for
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Selected notes: Ubaldo Jimenez has pitched well in May, to be sure, but he's also been padding his numbers against mediocre National League offenses. Facing the Tigers in Detroit -- where they sport an .846 OPS, fourth in the majors -- will be his stiffest test all season, and since he tends to have either very good starts or quite poor ones, he's a risky play. Since working with pitching coach Rich Dubee, Brett Myers has struck out 11 batters in 13 innings while allowing just three runs over two starts. But can you really trust the homer-prone Myers -- tied with teammate Jamie Moyer for a major league-leading 12 home runs allowed -- against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium? The Yanks are winners of eight in a row through Wednesday, averaging 6.5 runs per game. Jered Weaver has faced the Dodgers four times in the past two seasons and has allowed two runs or fewer each time, holding them to a woeful .209 AVG/.271 OBP/.244 SLG line. It also helps that Weaver's biggest weakness, the long ball, shouldn't be much of a problem against the Dodgers; without Manny Ramirez around, they lack pop (only 10 non-Manny home runs this month). It's always tough to start a pitcher in his first appearance off the disabled list, but Daisuke Matsuzaka looked healthy in his three rehab starts, with a 1.54 ERA, including 14 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings and zero home runs allowed. He's catching the Mets at the right time -- Jose Reyes may be headed for the disabled list after aggravating his hamstring, and they are already missing Carlos Delgado -- and they're not so hot against right-handed pitching anyway. Bronson Arroyo has been roughed up recently, allowing 26 runs in his past 28 2/3 innings, including allowing nine earned runs on two separate occasions. Batters are slugging .532 against him, so stay far away from him when he faces the Indians. The number of home runs Randy Johnson has allowed (10) is disconcerting, but to be fair, seven of his home runs and 25 of his 31 earned runs have come against the Dodgers, Nationals, Mets and Rockies; the first three rank in the top 10 in OPS against left-handed pitching, and the blowup against the Rockies came at Coors Field. The important thing is that he is still striking out better than a batter per inning, and a favorable matchup against the Mariners should get him back on track. Away from home, the Rockies have not been much of a threat, their .230 batting average ranking second-to-last ahead of the Diamondbacks (.205). After a rough April, Rick Porcello has now allowed one run or fewer in three consecutive starts, and the 20-year-old phenom should only get better.
• Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: He's a threat to nab a base against Brett Myers, against whom he has a .444 OBP in 14 at-bats, going 2-for-2 in steals; Myers allowed 17 of 20 steal attempts to be successful.
• Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: He has just destroyed Vicente Padilla, with 10 hits in 18 at-bats -- including two home runs and five doubles -- giving him an obscene .556 average and 1.167 slugging percentage.
• Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: Finally showing signs of snapping out of his slump, Uggla is 7-for-24 (.291) with two doubles and two home runs in his past seven games.
• J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: Kevin Slowey has already allowed a whopping eight home runs, and Hardy is 3-for-7 (.429) with a double and a home run against him.
• Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: One of the few batters who loves to see Jake Peavy: He's 6-for-13 with two home runs and three doubles (1.154 slugging), even if he has struck out five times.
• Nick Johnson, 1B, Nationals: What is taking fantasy owners so long to believe? He has 15 hits in his past 40 at-bats, bringing his average back to .333, and since he's hitting second in the lineup with an OBP better than .400, he has a shot at 100 runs scored.
• Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: A rare left-handed batter with considerable success against Randy Johnson, he's 7-for-15 (.467) with a double lifetime.
• Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox: The only Red Sock hitting better than .250 against Johan Santana (minimum 10 at-bats), he's an impressive 8-for-18 with a home run lifetime against the NL leader in ERA.
• Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers: While he's a non-factor against southpaws (.448 OPS), he's slugging .645 against right-handers, with nine home runs in 93 at-bats. It's a perfect matchup, since Astros righty Felipe Paulino has been unable to corral left-handed batters at all (1.184 OPS against).
• Adam Dunn, OF, Reds: You can make the case that Rich Hill is a different pitcher nowadays than when these at-bats occurred, but he didn't look so bad against the Royals, and he's limited Dunn to two hits in 16 at-bats lifetime, including six K's.
• Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies: He's struck out four times in 13 at-bats versus A.J. Burnett. Overall, he sports a paltry .231 AVG/.214 OBP/.308 SLG line.
• Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: Has more strikeouts (11) than hits (10) against Burnett, hitting .250 in 40 at-bats.
• Casey Kotchman, 1B, Braves: Back when he was with the Angels, Kotchman was only 2-for-12 (.167) against Roy Halladay.
• Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers: He's hitless in nine career at-bats versus Kevin Slowey, with three strikeouts to zero walks.
• Derrek Lee, 1B, and Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs: Each has struggled to make contact against Jake Peavy, with a combined 12 strikeouts in 31 at-bats; Lee is just 2-for-16 and Bradley is 2-for-15.
• Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners: In 62 at-bats against the Big Unit, he's struck out nearly a third of the time, with 18 K's. He does have some success -- two doubles and three home runs -- but his .226 average isn't worth taking a chance on.
• Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: He has been a non-factor against left-handed pitching, hitting .192 with zero homers in 26 at-bats, so facing Clayton Kershaw will be no easy task.
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• Geoff Blum, 3B, Astros: For a one-game spot start, Blum's success against Vicente Padilla makes him worthy. Blum's 4-for-12 with two home runs and a double, good for a .917 slugging percentage.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: He has a six-game extra-base hit streak, totaling six doubles and two home runs in that span. Ross is the definition of a streaky hitter, and right now he's scorching hot.
• Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: He continues to hit for power against right-handers (five home runs, .571 slugging), and batters are slugging .527 against Kenshin Kawakami for the season.
• Mat Gamel, 3B, Brewers: Facing the Twins in the Metrodome, Gamel is the sensible bet to get the start at DH, especially considering Kevin Slowey is so susceptible to left-handed hitting, allowing a .362 average and a .619 slugging percentage. It's not much, but in five at-bats against righties, both of Gamel's hits went for extra bases, including a home run off Kyle Lohse.
• Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pirates: Don't look now, but the former top prospect has a hit in six consecutive games, amassing six runs in that span as well. A favorable matchup against the struggling Gavin Floyd, who allows righties to hit .344, should keep the good times coming.
• Brandon Moss, OF, Pirates: Moss is on quite an impressive hot streak, with multi-hit games -- including five doubles and a home run -- in his past six starts. He starts every day against right-handers, and Floyd isn't much better against those, either, with a .500 slugging percentage against and five home runs allowed in 92 at-bats.
• Mike Jacobs, 1B, Royals: Strength against weakness: Jacobs has hit all nine of his home runs against right-handers with a .667 slugging percentage, while Todd Wellemeyer is being tattooed against left-handed hitters, allowing a robust .337 AVG/.414 OBP/.541 SLG line.
• Mark Teahen, 3B, Royals: Allow Teahen to get in on the fun, too! While not as adept against right-handed pitching as Jacobs, he's still hitting a respectable .321, with three home runs and five doubles in 81 at-bats.
Injury list: Out
• Pat Burrell, OF, Rays (15-day DL, neck): The stint is retroactive to May 11, and Burrell could return May 27.
• Alex Cora, SS, Mets (15-day DL, thumb): Cora will make a decision Friday on whether to undergo a surgical procedure that would keep him out for at least two months.
• Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals (hamstring)
• Omar Infante, 2B/3B/SS/OF, Braves (15-day DL, hand): Infante broke his hand Wednesday and is expected to be out until early July.
• Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds (back): Volquez is having his turn skipped because of back spasms; Bronson Arroyo will move up in the rotation to take his place.
• Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers (15-day DL, wrist): Weeks tore a tendon in his left wrist and is out for the season.
• Delmon Young, OF, Twins (personal): Young isn't expected to return until Sunday at the earliest after his mother's passing, with the Twins expected to place him on the restricted list Friday.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels (toe)
• Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (15-day DL, neck): The Cards decided against activating him when he was eligible Wednesday; instead, the team expects him to return by the weekend.
• Frank Francisco, RP, Rangers (15-day DL, biceps): It looks like Francisco will be activated and ready to resume closer duties Friday.
• Nomar Garciaparra, SS, Athletics (15-day DL, calf): Still day-to-day. A's manager Bob Geren decided to give him a couple more days and not activate him for Wednesday's game.
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (groin): He entered the game as a pinch-hitter Wednesday and is "close," according to manager Ron Washington.
• Cesar Izturis, SS, Orioles (groin)
• Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers (personal): He's currently with his wife, who is undergoing surgery, but he could return Friday.
• Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (heel): Quentin hopes to return Friday, but take a wait-and-see approach on his bothersome heel.
• Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants (hamstring): Renteria is expected to return Friday.
• Jose Reyes, SS, Mets (calf): And here we go again Reyes reaggravated his bothersome calf Wednesday. The disabled list may be a possibility.
• Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (ear): Votto has been diagnosed with an ear infection that should clear up soon with medication. Expect him back in the lineup soon.
• Three weatherproof games Friday: Rangers-Astros, Brewers-Twins and Giants-Mariners.
• Chicago is the only weather concern of the day, and a moderate one at that, with a 30 percent chance of a few showers for a couple of hours.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.