The Yankees return to Cleveland for the first time since the Bug Game, with the same exact pitcher, Andy Pettitte, on the mound for them as on that fateful October night. Joba Chamberlain can only hope for friendlier circumstances if he's called upon in the eighth this time around. Anti-road warrior Ervin Santana gets his first big test of 2008, a road start against the red-hot Tigers. Meanwhile, Yovani Gallardo, coming off a 112-pitch road gem in his first start off the DL, takes his second turn back at home.
Matchups for Friday, April 25
All times are ET. Statistics are from the 2007 regular season.
Michael Bourn, OF, Astros (groin)
Chad Cordero, RP, Nationals (shoulder)
Coco Crisp, OF, Red Sox (hamstring)
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B, Royals (back)
Carlos Guillen, SS/1B, Tigers (leg)
Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers (back)
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (quadriceps)
Gary Sheffield, DH, Tigers (shoulder)
Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox (flu)
Brad Wilkerson, 1B/OF, Mariners (hamstring)
Brian Schneider, C, Mets (thumb)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: With Jake Westbrook on the DL, the Indians will turn to Paul Byrd, a move that has to please Yankee hitters. Melky Cabrera, in particular, has an impressive history against Byrd: 3-for-5 with a home run and six RBIs. ... A matchup against strong-armed Ivan Rodriguez and the Tigers isn't a favorable one for a baserunner, but Chone Figgins remains a useful option as a hitter, thanks to his .438 career batting average (7-for-16) against Nate Robertson. ... Geoff Jenkins is a clear sit whenever he's facing a left-hander, as he's batting .208 (15-for-72) with three homers against them since the start of last season. That's especially true against Pirates southpaw Zach Duke, against whom Jenkins is 2-for-12 with seven K's in his career. ... Pay attention to track records against a knuckleballer: In this case, Rays hitters face the Red Sox's Tim Wakefield. Eric Hinske (7-for-32), Carlos Pena (4-for-26) and B.J. Upton (4-for-17) have historically struggled against him, but the latter two should be reserved only if you have a deep, deep roster. ... Neither Austin Kearns (2-for-12, 5 K's) nor Paul Lo Duca (0-for-11) has experienced much career success against the Cubs' Ryan Dempster. ... If you've been worried about Ryan Braun's sluggish start, Friday seems a good time for him to begin heating up. He's a .430 hitter with a 1.399 OPS in his career against left-handers, and in three career plate appearances against the Marlins' Scott Olsen, he's 2-for-2 with a home run and a walk. ... John Buck is one of the few Royals who has hit A.J. Burnett well in his career: He's 2-for-6 with the two hits both homers. Meanwhile, David DeJesus (1-for-8 lifetime against Burnett) and Mark Teahen (1-for-8) are better left on your bench. ... Nick Markakis is about the only Orioles hitter worth your consideration on Friday; he's 4-for-7 with a homer against the White Sox's Mark Buehrle. Check out the poor track records of some of the rest: Ramon Hernandez (5-for-34 lifetime against Buehrle), Kevin Millar (4-for-25), Melvin Mora (4-for-21) and Brian Roberts (5-for-22). ... Slow-starting Khalil Greene warrants a look based on his .400 lifetime batting average (6-for-15) with a homer against the Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson. Conversely, Brian Giles is a must-sit, as he's 3-for-30 with 13 K's lifetime against the Big Unit. ... Dodgers hitters don't seem to have much trouble getting to the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez. Check out some of their best lifetime stats against him: Andre Ethier (2-for-5 with a homer), James Loney (3-for-9 with a homer) and Jeff Kent (4-for-8 with three doubles).
Pitchers: This is a real statement start for Ervin Santana, who has four consecutive quality starts -- two of them on the road -- to begin the season. He'll pitch at the Tigers, whose current hitters are a combined 24-for-75 (.320) with a .940 OPS against him lifetime. I'm skeptical enough about his chances that I'd consider benching him in shallow mixed leagues in which I have a decent alternative, but don't be afraid to use him in AL-only or deep mixed formats. Santana's performance should be right along the lines of quality-start numbers, but I don't think he'll pitch quite that well. ... With Chad Cordero's shoulder still troubling him -- Wednesday's diagnosis was tendinitis and general weakness -- Jon Rauch continues to be a nice fill-in at closer for NL-only and deep-mixed owners. ... The Brewers have done nothing but torch left-handed pitching since the beginning of last season, which bodes poorly for the Marlins' Scott Olsen. On June 1, 2007, the Brewers clobbered him for five runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, and he's not likely to fare much better this time around. ... The Marlins may boast the game's best OPS against right-handers (.902), but they're especially susceptible to strikeout pitchers. Yovani Gallardo certainly qualifies, so expect another solid outing from him, but perhaps not quite up to the level of his first outing off the DL on Sunday. ... Expect A.J. Burnett to begin turning the corner in Kansas City, as current Royals are a combined 13-for-69 (.188) with a .659 OPS against him. ... Of course, it might be tough for Burnett to nab the win in a road game against Zack Greinke. Greinke, incidentally, has held current Blue Jays to .234 AVG/.597 OPS lifetime rates in 64 at-bats, so expect a low-scoring, well-pitched affair. ... Randy Johnson is a must-start at Petco Park, where he has started twice in his career, registering two quality starts, including a two-hit shutout. The Padres also rank as one of the game's weakest against left-handers. ... The Diamondbacks, by comparison, rate as one of the best against southpaws, so temper your expectations from Randy Wolf. He allowed four runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings at Arizona last Sunday, and now that the D-backs are more familiar with him, they should handle him even better.
Hitters: Entering Thursday, Reed Johnson had started eight consecutive games for the Cubs, helped by Alfonso Soriano's DL status. Soriano might be due back next week, but count on Johnson being in there on Friday on account of his hot hitting, as well as his 5-for-8 career performance against the Nationals' Odalis Perez. ... Chris Duncan continues to tear up right-handed pitching, with a .382 AVG/1.147 OPS against them this season and .293/.957 for his career. He's 2-for-5 with a homer against the Astros' Shawn Chacon. ... He might be one of the game's most brittle players, but Bobby Crosby is off to a hot start, one well worth riding for as long as it lasts. He's 5-for-14 with a homer in his career against the Mariners' Miguel Batista, so plug him in for Friday. ... Giants hitters as a whole don't stack up that well against the Reds' Aaron Harang, but one who does is Randy Winn: He's 5-for-17 with a homer against the right-hander. ... The Dodgers should give some thought to slotting Chin-lung Hu into Friday's lineup, perhaps at third base. He's 2-for-2 lifetime against the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, including one of his two career homers.
Pitchers: Brian Fuentes has been named the Rockies' new closer, and warrants a pickup in all formats immediately. Considering he has a 2.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP to date this season and did a nice job in the role from 2005 through the 2007 All- Star break, he's well worth activating right away. ... Few pitchers possess the type of track record at one ballpark that Tim Wakefield does at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field. In 20 career games there (14 starts), he's 9-1 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, and in nine starts there since the beginning of the 2004 season, he's 6-1 with a 2.95 ERA. Sounds like a matchup to exploit, doesn't it? ... He may have been knocked around by the woeful Giants last time out, but Braden Looper's matchup again leans towards the favorable side. He has already beaten the Astros this season, is 3-1 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in five starts against them since the beginning of last season and is 9-5 with a 3.66 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 18 starts at Busch Stadium in 2007-08. ... Miguel Batista is a respectable 10-6 with a 4.12 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 20 career games (18 starts) at Safeco Field, and the opposing Athletics rank among the game's 10 weakest offenses in terms of team OPS.
Three Friday games are weatherproof: Red Sox-Rays, Marlins-Brewers and A's-Mariners. Rain could be an issue in the Midwest/Great Lakes region; doesn't that sound like a broken record? Check out these probabilities of rain: Yankees-Indians (50 percent), Angels-Tigers (50), Phillies-Pirates (30), Blue Jays-Royals (60), Orioles-White Sox (70) and Astros-Cardinals (60). Based on full-day weather reports, the games in Chicago, Kansas City and St. Louis seem the most at risk. Want good weather? Check out games in Los Angeles (Dodgers-Rockies), New York (Mets-Braves), San Diego (Padres-D-backs) and San Francisco (Giants-Reds).
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.