With the starting debut of Brandon Morrow, fantasy owners get the odd yet interesting task of sliding a pitcher who has already netted them 10 saves into their starting rotation. While his ownership in ESPN leagues has dipped (to 13 percent) during his stint in Triple-A, some owners certainly hung on to the young hurler in hopes he can repeat his 1.47 ERA as a reliever while beginning games instead of ending them.
Morrow had a respectable 3.38 ERA in five starts for Tacoma, but the 23 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings tell a better tale of his potential. He also added a changeup to his repertoire to help him as a starter. This matchup with the Yankees should be a good barometer for fantasy players, as Morrow definitely has more trouble with left-handed batters than righties, and the Yankees boast some reliable lefty bats.
Also, make sure to note the weather section below, as rarely is there a 100 percent chance of showers forecast.
Matchups for Friday, Sept. 5
Kevin Gregg, RP, Marlins (knee)
Carlos Guillen, 1B/SS/3B, Tigers (back)
Rich Harden, SP, Cubs (discomfort)
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels (hamstring)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C/1B, Rangers (elbow)
Jered Weaver, SP, Angels (finger)
Mike Aviles, 2B/SS, Royals (finger)
Erick Aybar, 2B/SS, Angels (hamstring)
Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox (elbow)
Joe Crede, 3B, White Sox (back)
Mark Ellis, 2B, A's (shoulder)
Yunel Escobar, 2B/3B/SS, Braves (elbow)
Jesus Flores, C, Nationals (ankle)
Jody Gerut, OF, Padres (finger)
Ken Griffey Jr., OF, White Sox (back)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (knee)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (oblique)
Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros (back)
Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles (hamstring)
Juan Pierre, OF, Dodgers (back)
Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (forearm)
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (headaches)
Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates (finger)
Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox (back)
Delmon Young, OF, Twins (ankle)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Kevin Youkilis is 6-for-9 versus Kevin Millwood, so watch his status leading into the start; he missed Wednesday's game because of back spasms. Zach Duke has the potential for a good outing, but that doesn't mean Aaron Rowand should be benched. Rowand is hitting .325 versus lefties on the season, with eight of his 13 home runs coming against southpaws. Chone Figgins has been turning the jets on again lately but is a paltry 4-for-27 (.148 BA) in his career against Mark Buehrle. Watch Mike Aviles' status during Thursday's doubleheader; he has been bothered by a bruised finger. Carlos Guillen has been pegged as "out until at least Monday." Plan appropriately, although his chronic back pain is almost to the point where that roster spot could be put to better use in shallow leagues. Justin Upton is hoping to be OK for Friday's game after being a late scratch Tuesday and missing Wednesday's contest. Not only would his presence be nice for the 25 percent of owners still hanging on to him, but with Upton in the lineup, Adam Dunn should get starts at first base, maybe making him eligible there in some leagues. He has played three games there so far this season. Watch Ken Griffey Jr.'s status, as he hopes to return for Friday's game against Angels right-hander Dustin Moseley. Griff has an .831 OPS versus righties this season. Chipper Jones is expected to take a few days off to rest his knee. Look to see if you are in one of the 25 percent of ESPN leagues in which Mike Lowell is available, and use him to replace Jones. If you have another option at second base, Brandon Phillips has managed just one hit in 18 at-bats against Ted Lilly. Mark DeRosa is a strong 9-for-18 in his career against Bronson Arroyo. Adrian Beltre is hitting .340 versus lefties this season and has Andy Pettitte on the docket Friday. Sure enough, Beltre is 3-for-5 lifetime versus Pettitte. Always slide Stephen Drew into your lineup against Derek Lowe. He is a career 14-for-23 (.609 average) hitter versus the Dodgers righty.
Pitchers: Josh Beckett is coming off a trip to see Dr. James Andrews, and although he got the "all clear" tag, you still need to approach with a certain sense of caution. Considering the Rangers are the best hitting club in the majors against righties (.812 OPS), it might be wise to let Beckett ride the pine for one more turn of the rotation. Keep rolling Brett Myers. Only CC Sabathia and Rich Harden have better ERAs than Myers since the All-Star break. Mike Pelfrey is Myers' opposing starter at Shea, and he has a 2.66 ERA and two straight complete games on his home field. Pelfrey kept up his strong pitching with a great performance in Florida against a Marlins team that had lit him up earlier this season. Don't play for the win here; start Myers and Pelfrey with confidence. Armando Galarraga is 5-0 and hasn't lost in his past eight starts. However, three of Galarraga's four losses this season have come at the hands of the Twins, but it hasn't really been his fault since he has a respectable 4.56 ERA in four starts against the Twinkies. That said, don't be overanxious with Galarraga; his prospects for a win are grim with Francisco Liriano opposing him. Be careful with Dan Haren in tight head-to-head playoff races. It really is starting to look like some of the Diamondbacks' division rivals are figuring him out. He had a 5.63 ERA in August, and he gave up double-digit hits in three starts, which was something Haren hadn't done all season prior to August. I'd use him in most leagues but would lean toward benching him if my pitching stats already looked good. It's time to slide Ubaldo Jimenez to the bench until he works out his kinks. He blamed a mechanical flaw for his five walks in his most recent outing. Wait for a strong start before you lean on him again, but don't outright drop Jimenez in medium-sized leagues yet since he should regain value in the final weeks.
Hitters: Although Coco Crisp has been a reliable option while J.D. Drew is hurt, note that Crisp is a big fat 0-for-9 versus the Rangers' Kevin Millwood. While I think Chris Waters will have a good start, A's outfielder Emil Brown is still dangerous versus southpaws. His .303 average and .836 OPS against lefties this season make him useful in those situations. Same goes for Rich Aurilia of the Giants. I have Zach Duke as a strong spot-start option, but Aurilia is 6-for-9 with a home run against him. In deeper leagues, those are numbers to exploit. The injury to Erick Aybar has allowed Brandon Wood some guaranteed playing time, and the prospect is definitely a high-upside waiver play in your middle-infield spot. Jamie Burke and his .350 average versus southpaws this season might be leaned upon at catcher for the Mariners. If you're in a deeper league, the return of Mark Ellis should be happy news. His shoulder is said to be bothering him more in the field than at the plate, so don't hesitate to rely on him again. Robb Quinlan might get spot duty for the Angels and could be a boon to deep-league teams as well. Hitting better than .300 versus lefties this season, Quinlan is 10-for-24 (.417 BA), with three homers, versus the White Sox's Mark Buehrle. With both Ken Griffey Jr. and Carlos Quentin dinged up, Jerry Owens isn't a bad start if you're looking for a boost in stolen bases. The way Sabathia has been throwing the ball, don't be surprised if most Padres are useless Friday. If you start anyone, make it Chase Headley, as he is hitting lefties at a .326 clip this season. Jeff Keppinger can be used for a boost in average; he carries a .360 average against left-handers into a game versus Ted Lilly.
Pitchers: Kevin Millwood is on a serious roll, and although the Red Sox are a tough test, he should be up for the task. Millwood has won three straight starts, and the first two were complete-game one-hitters. Then on Sunday, he downed the Angels with a quality start. Note that he is up against Josh Beckett, but we still don't know if Beckett is at the top of his game.
Chris Waters' overall numbers might look troubling, but consider that all of his six starts have come against contending teams (Angels, Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox, White Sox, Rays). A 5.45 ERA and two wins doesn't seem so bad now, does it? Waters gets to take on the league's worst hitting team against lefties here, as Oakland has a lowly .654 OPS against southpaws. His Orioles also have a top-10 offense against lefties -- southpaw Dallas Braden is pitching for the A's -- and a top-10 offense over the past week. Waters is in line for a third win here.
The strikeouts won't be there and I think his counterpart on the mound could limit his win potential, but Anthony Reyes is a good start if you want quality innings and a reasonable shot at a win. Reyes is coming off two straight seven-inning one-run performances and hasn't allowed more than two runs in five starts for the Tribe.
As I just mentioned, Brandon Duckworth should give Reyes a good start for the Royals against Reyes and the Indians. Duckworth has pitched to contact and enjoyed tremendous run support in his two starts this season and came away with a victory in both of them. While I think the run support will be limited here, he should notch a quality start. He comes with more potential damage to WHIP than Reyes, though.
Zach Duke has enjoyed moderate success in his past two starts thanks to a change in his mechanics. True to expectations, his most recent start was his first without allowing a home run since July 1. San Francisco is a much friendlier foe than his last two opponents (the Cubs and Brewers), as the Giants are a bottom-five offense against southpaws (.705 OPS). Duke's new mechanics should allow him to give you a quality start, with more strikeouts than most waiver-wire options, and he has a strong chance at a win here (which we can't say often for Pirates pitchers).
If you are trolling for saves, Joe Nelson nailed one down with a perfect ninth for the Marlins on Wednesday.
Bronson Arroyo deserves better than 28 percent ownership in ESPN leagues. He is coming off three straight wins in which he totaled 23 innings and allowed just three runs. Seven of his last nine outings have been quality starts, and he has won seven of his past 10 starts. Arroyo should fare well against the Cubs; he just faced them three turns ago and managed seven innings of one-run ball. I also give an edge to Arroyo as his counterpart, Ted Lilly, brings an 0-3 record against Cincinnati this season into the home-run-friendly Great American Ball Park. And did I mention Lilly is among the league leaders for serving up taters this season (30)?
Don't rely heavily on any of your Marlins or Cardinals, as St. Louis has a forecast calling for 100 percent chance of heavy rain. Nearby Kansas City is also calling for a 70 percent likelihood of morning showers, so keep tabs on your Indians and Royals, as well. Chicago is calling for rain, too, making the Angels and White Sox players a slight risk. There is also a 30 percent chance of showers in Denver for the Astros-Rockies contest. Weatherproof games include the Rays-Blue Jays, Padres-Brewers, Tigers-Twins and Yankees-Mariners.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.