A full slate provides plenty of intrigue Tuesday. New Phillies hurler Joe Blanton's National League debut against Johan Santana and the Mets certainly bears watching. Toronto's Shaun Marcum and Milwaukee's Jeff Suppan will be under the microscope as well as they make their returns from elbow injuries. There are also plenty of lesser-known starters to keep an eye on. Oakland's Dallas Braden and the Dodgers' Jason Johnson make their first starts of the year, while little-used Nick Massett of the White Sox, Jack Cassell of the Astros and Matt Ginter of the Indians also take the hill.
Matchups for Tuesday, July 22nd
All times are ET.
Daric Barton, 1B, A's (neck)
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (finger)
Jerry Hairston Jr., SS, Reds (hamstring)
Julio Lugo, SS, Red Sox (quad)
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (oblique)
Kerry Wood, RP, Cubs (finger)
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox (knee)
Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (shoulder)
Khalil Greene, SS, Padres (back)
Jose Guillen, OF, Royals (back)
Geoff Jenkins, OF, Phillies (shoulder)
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (ankle)
Fred Lewis, OF, Giants (foot)
Gary Matthews Jr., OF, Angels (knee)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers (illness)
Omar Vizquel, SS, Giants (foot)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Joe Crede owners won't soon forget his amazing four-game streak in early June, when the White Sox third baseman collected 10 hits, five home runs and 12 RBIs in a mere 15 at-bats. Many of those same owners now have Crede on the bench, however, due to his 6-for-39 start to July. It's now time for those owners to get the streaky slugger back in their lineups, though, as Crede is 4-for-11 with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs since the All-Star break. Daisuke Matsuzaka is a tough assignment for Seattle hitters Tuesday, especially in pitching-friendly Safeco Field. The Red Sox right-hander has held the Mariners roster to a .225 batting average in 89 at-bats. Mixed-league regulars such as Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez -- both of whom are 2-for-12 versus Matsuzaka -- belong on the bench. Cody Ross is batting .270 with 16 home runs this year, but mixed leaguers have been slow to join the party, as the Marlins center fielder is owned in barely half of ESPN leagues. Ross has turned it up a notch with a .394/.420/.652 line so far in July and should certainly be used against Braves rookie Charlie Morton on Tuesday. Troy Glaus is a top play Tuesday. The Cardinals third baseman has been on a tear since second-half play resumed, going 7-for-16 with three home runs in the Cards' four-game set with the Padres. Glaus is also batting a robust .333/.429/.583 in 41 meetings with Brewers veteran Jeff Suppan. Brewers third baseman Bill Hall has been on the bench a lot lately, accumulating just 92 at-bats since the beginning of June. He might not play Tuesday against St. Louis right-hander Kyle Lohse, against whom Hall has managed just one hit in 12 at-bats.
Pitchers: Minnesota right-hander Kevin Slowey is an emerging talent who deserves attention in mixed leagues. However, Slowey belongs on the bench Tuesday against the Yankees. The 24-year-old is making his return to action after having a start pushed back from a finger infection. He's pitched just twice since June 29 and he was rocked for a combined 11 earned runs in those outings. Slowey might need some time to regain his form before he's activated. Reds rookie Johnny Cueto should probably not be owned in 70 percent of mixed leagues, especially given his rough start to July. However, the slumping Padres -- who began the second half by dropping four straight to the Cardinals -- might be just what the doctor ordered. Although Cueto would surely rather be in Petco Park for this matchup, his ERA is a run lower at home. He can be used Tuesday in his tilt with visiting San Diego. Joe Blanton makes his National League debut Tuesday, but he draws a tough assignment in Johan Santana and the surging Mets. The former Oakland right-hander was drilled for six earned runs by the lowly Mariners in his last outing for the A's and he managed just a 7.16 ERA in June. Blanton has significant ownership in ESPN leagues, but he's no more than a fringe starter in mixed leagues right now and should be benched against all but the most offensively-challenged opponents. Diamondbacks right-hander Micah Owings has really struggled this year, yet is owned in almost a third of ESPN leagues. Owings has suffered some misfortune with his strand rate, but he's still been too ineffective overall to be a reliable mixed-league starter. His ERA is nearly a run higher at home in Arizona, and he should definitely grab some pine against the offensive-minded Cubs Tuesday night.
Hitters: Orioles outfielder Luke Scott was one of the American League's best hitters during the month of June, posting a nifty 1.090 OPS for the month. He's cooled considerably in July, but during the past seven games has found his stroke again, going 7-for-13 with three home runs and two doubles. Mixed-leaguers haven't caught on to this 30-homer talent who is owned in just 35 percent of ESPN leagues. Scott has also had some success against Toronto starter Shaun Marcum. That's not true of Scott's equally red-hot teammate Melvin Mora, who is 6-for-15 with three home runs of his own in his past four games, but who has struggled to a 1-for-17 mark versus the Jays right-hander. Billy Butler spent nearly the entire month of June in exile in the minor leagues after a miserable May in which he slugged just .302. Butler is now back at home in the Royals' designated hitter spot, and in three games since the All-Star break he's 5-for-13 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Butler is also 5-for-10 against Detroit left-hander Kenny Rogers, including two doubles, two walks and six RBIs. When it comes to owning Rogers, though, even Butler has to take a back seat to teammate Mark Grudzielanek. The Royals' second sacker is 12-for-20 versus Rogers, with two doubles and five home runs. Both should be used Tuesday against the Tigers' increasingly ineffective 43-year old. A lousy June has the Angels' Garrett Anderson owned in fewer than a third of ESPN leagues, but thus far in July he's batting a healthy .354/.415/.563. Anderson is 5-for-11 with a home run and five RBIs since the All-Star break, and he's 6-for-11 with one tater versus Cleveland right-hander Matt Ginter. Nomar Garciaparra has been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers since his return from a calf injury that's cost him most of the season to date. Playing shortstop every day with Rafael Furcal still sidelined, Garciaparra is hitting .333/.378/.643 since his activation, and has six hits -- including two home runs -- in three games since the break. He makes a worthy pickup during the Dodgers' series in Coors Field.
Pitchers: Andy Sonnanstine allowed three home runs to the Indians in his most recent outing. Prior to that, however, the Rays right-hander had taken eight straight turns in the rotation without surrendering a single longball. He also allowed no more than three runs in any of those starts. Sonnanstine is not a major strikeout source, but he's a solid up-and-comer whose numbers could look really good with a little better luck from his hit and strand rates. The punchless A's provide a good opportunity. Paul Maholm is in the process of taking a big step forward. The Pirates left-hander has been very effective since the tail end of May and has notched 17 strikeouts against just two walks in three July starts despite taking the mound against the Yankees, Brewers and Rockies in Coors Field. Maholm has also solved the opposing Astros' biggest threats, allowing sluggers Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee to combine for just five singles in 35 total at-bats. Jason Bergmann might be sporting a 1-6 record, but the Nationals right-hander has been better than those numbers indicate this year. Bergmann has racked up 63 strikeouts against just 19 walks en route to a 4.03 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in the tough National League East. He's allowed more than two runs just three times since April, and makes an excellent spot starter in mixed leagues Tuesday versus the lowly Giants.
Games in Seattle, Tampa, Arizona and Houston are always weatherproof. Nearly every other game, however, will be threatened on a rainy Tuesday throughout the nation. Only the West Coast affairs are sure to be dry.
Will Harris is a fantasy baseball and college football analyst for ESPN.com