Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
That's why they play the games. It turns out little did go wrong for Lee, as he overcame a few issues with his command but pitched out of trouble in his six innings, allowing only one run. He lowered his balky ERA to 6.75 and permitted the owners who believed in him on draft day to exhale. After Lee threw his final pitch (115 of them, by the way), his teammates exploded for nine runs to get him the win as well. Lee owners were wisely not dropping him, as he remained owned in 100 percent of ESPN standard mixed leagues, but certainly some of them sat him on the bench for this unattractive matchup. This is more proof why fantasy owners can't panic in mid-April.
Meanwhile, Sabathia was coming off 7 2/3 shutout innings against the resurgent Royals, and seemed like a lock in this one against a struggling offense. The hefty lefty had gotten tagged on Opening Day, but this outing was at home, and he certainly had motivation. Sabathia didn't get hammered by his old team in his first appearance against them, permitting only one run, but five walks in 5 2/3 innings is quite a bit for someone who walked seven hitters in six September starts in 2008. Sabathia also threw 122 pitches, the most by a Yankees starter since Randy Johnson tossed 129 pitches in a July 2006 outing.
"My command wasn't the best today, but my stuff was pretty good," Sabathia said. As for the high pitch count in an early-season game, manager Joe Girardi summed that angle up pretty well: "We don't feel that 120 [pitches] is really out of his realm. He's a big, strong man." Similarly, Lee's throwing 115 pitches isn't a big deal, either. These are veteran arms who have done it before, two of the top lefties in baseball.
Overall, fantasy owners probably expected a different result at Yankee Stadium, thinking the worst about Lee and assuming Sabathia would dominate. It's a long season, but I think each of these southpaws will aid plenty of fantasy owners in championship runs.
• Angels right fielder/designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero got Thursday off, and will have his strained chest muscle examined Friday. Guerrero reports a muscle near his right shoulder is swollen, and he's unable to throw. His status for the weekend remains up in the air, but I'm thinking this will result in a DL stint at some point. If you drafted Guerrero, who's off to a slow start in hitting .250 with three RBIs, you were hoping his decline would wait a year. In his case, injury could be part of the decline. Gary Matthews Jr. should get to play consistently, but there's no guarantee he hits. I know it's a long shot and I seem alone on my Brandon Wood island, but wouldn't it make sense to shift Chone Figgins to the outfield and let the right-handed, power-hitting Wood finally get a legit chance, or just play him at DH? If not now, when?
• There's no question Victor Martinez was one of the biggest busts from 2008, but his ninth-inning home run Thursday gave him three on the young season, one more than he gave us all of 2008! Martinez was a top-50 player heading into last season, coming off 25 home runs and 114 RBIs, then injuries derailed him. He didn't homer until September. Now he's hitting for power, walking, looking like the 2007 guy all over again, and the best part of his situation is he never sits, as his catching days off have him playing first base. Good to have him back!
• In addition to the lefties at Yankee Stadium, another nice pitching matchup took place in the Metrodome, as Roy Halladay outdueled Francisco Liriano. Halladay became the first three-game winner this season, but nobody was worried about him. Liriano lowered his ERA to 5.09, although he became the league's first three-game loser. His WHIP is far more palatable, at 1.25. He'll be fine.
• The unstoppable Marlins swept the Braves in Atlanta, the first time they've ever done that, but closer Matt Lindstrom didn't get to register any saves. This is frustrating: In each win in the series, the Marlins turned a potential save into a larger win just before Lindstrom could add to this very important fantasy category. On Thursday, the Marlins scored a run in the ninth to make a three-run lead four; the day before they erupted for five runs in the ninth to make a 5-4 game 10-4. And on Tuesday, Lindstrom finished up a 5-1 win when the Marlins scored one run in the top of the ninth. Overlooked is the fact his ERA is down to 2.25, and his sore shoulder appears to be performing capably.
• It takes a village, right? The Cardinals received home runs from the six, seven and eight hitters in their lineup, as Chris Duncan, Khalil Greene and Brian Barden had their fun. In each case, the home runs are significant. Duncan is hitting .389 and his homer off lefty Sean Marshall could be a breakthrough. Note Duncan is not being platooned against southpaws. Greene is still hitting only .233, but we can't deny he might reach 20 homers. Finally, Barden's second home run of the season will probably earn him more playing time, and David Freese might be sent to the minors any day now. Barden is batting .412.
• New closer in Houston? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. LaTroy Hawkins saved Thursday's win, the first save for the Astros all season, as Jose Valverde was dealing with a sore back. It's not clear whether Valverde will need to miss more time, but if you've got the room and really need saves, add Hawkins now on the chance Valverde's injury remains an issue. Hawkins hasn't pitched a 1-2-3 inning yet, and his previous struggles closing for the Cubs are well-documented, but saves are saves, ugly or not.
• Impatient fantasy owners short on stolen bases had already started dumping Michael Bourn, and he's owned in fewer than 10 percent of leagues. People, it's 10 days, and this guy could steal 40 bases! Anyway, presented with the opportunity to bat leadoff Thursday, Bourn finally swiped his first base of the season. Of course, Bourn should go back to hitting eighth when Kazuo Matsui is in the lineup. Matsui is dealing with a sore back. If you need steals, Bourn will get them, so keep him around. He can steal bases in bunches.
• Here's a new one for the odd-injury pile: Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar apparently strained an abdominal muscle while jumping up and down in the on-deck circle before his fifth-inning at-bat. It's his way of warming up. This time, it might be his way of missing three weeks with a DL stint. Escobar, hitting third in the lineup with Chipper Jones out, grounded out, then left the game, replaced by Martin Prado. With a .909 OPS, Escobar's absence would hurt the Atlanta offense. Prado is more of a utility infielder.
• Not that Emilio Bonifacio owners should officially jump ship, but it's clearly adjustment time for the young infielder, and he's losing the battle. His batting average is down to only .386, but check the trend: He fanned seven times in going 1-for-11 against the Braves. For the season, he's walked once in nine games. Be a bit wary.
Cody Ross, Marlins
A year ago Cody Ross hit 22 home runs and became a popular free-agent pickup in fantasy leagues. It didn't get him drafted in standard leagues this season, and if it did, he was dropped: He entered Thursday hitting .115. Ross homered and knocked in four runs, and raised his average to .207. Could .300 be far behind?
John Danks, White Sox
Danks permitted only two hits to the Rays on Thursday and registered his first win of the season. Danks fanned eight in six innings, upping his season total to 13 punchouts in 12 innings. A year ago Danks came out of nowhere to win 12 games with a 3.32 ERA. So far this season, he's been even more unhittable.
53: Victor Martinez isn't the only player hitting for power after struggling a season ago. Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome blasted a three-run homer off Adam Wainwright on Thursday, his third homer of the year. As a rookie in 2008 Fukudome needed 53 games to hit that many. It appears the touted Japanese import might really be as good as advertised. He's among the leaders on ESPN's most-added list, but he's still available in more than 50 percent of leagues.
• Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima left Wednesday's game with a sore hamstring, and it didn't take long for the team to place him on the DL. Those expecting Jeff Clement to be called up have to be disappointed to see the name Jamie Burke instead. Clement is hitting .053 at Triple-A Tacoma, which couldn't have helped. With Johjima out for three weeks, expect Rob Johnson to play the most, with Burke his backup. As for Clement, playing first base at Tacoma, he'll get his chance eventually.
• The Reds picked up second-base prospect Drew Sutton from the Astros as the player to be named in the Jeff Keppinger deal. Sutton, 25, might be just as good as Keppinger now, so it's a strange move by the farm-depleted Astros. The switch-hitter heads to the minors for the Reds, and he'll need to learn a new position if he wants to be in the bigs with Brandon Phillips entrenched at second base, but Sutton can hit and run; he went 20/20 at Double-A Corpus Christi in 2008.
• Those WBC pitchers are dropping like flies. A day after Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka hit the DL with arm fatigue, Atlanta's Jorge Campillo suddenly developed shoulder tendinitis. Campillo pitched Thursday, allowing a ninth-inning run, then right after the game was DLed and James Parr was recalled. This isn't major fantasy news, but it could mean that if Jo-Jo Reyes struggles in place of an injured Tom Glavine and Campillo isn't around to start, the Tommy Hanson era could start earlier. Hey, we all want Hanson up, so why not keep talking about it? Don't forget about prospect Kris Medlen as well; he's no Hanson, but hasn't allowed a run in two starts at Triple-A Gwinnett.
AJ Mass: Don't necessarily agree about Villanueva, but I do agree with you on Franklin. So, it's probably at worst a wash, and at best a huge upside.
-- Full chat transcript
Jason Grey: I think that might be a tad shallow, but here's the way I look at it. I want a chance for a huge return and a lot of upside on a mixed-league bench, because there are stable veterans I can grab in the FA pool if I need them. Give yourself a chance to get lucky. That goes for any top prospect -- those are the players I want to stash away on a mixed-league bench.
-- Full chat transcript
Friday's fantasy chat schedule:
Brendan Roberts, 11 a.m.
Pierre Becquey, 3 p.m.
• While Jeff Niemann was likely saving his rotation spot with the Rays, allowing only two runs in six innings against the White Sox, a certain first-overall draft pick was pitching for Triple-A Durham. David Price gave up one unearned run in five innings, allowing four hits and striking out six, throwing 48 of 65 pitches for strikes. Niemann's progress might have nothing to do with when Price gets the call to the majors, but it sure looks like Price is ready now.
• Not only are the Rangers leading the majors in runs per game, their brethren at Triple-A Oklahoma City can hit a bit. The RedHawks scored 17 runs, including 12 in the fifth inning, at beleaguered Nashville on Thursday. Major league veterans Scott Thorman and Esteban German hit home runs, which are nothing to get excited about in fantasy, but keep an eye on Max Ramirez, Greg Golson and Joaquin Arias, each of whom had two hits. Ramirez is the most appealing in fantasy when he hits, for he's a catcher with big-time potential, assuming he gets an opportunity.
• Brad Penny makes his first home start for the Red Sox, against Baltimore's 2-0 Jeremy Guthrie. Penny seems like a decent gamble to me, but he's owned in only 16.8 percent of leagues. Guthrie's presence might be good news for David Ortiz, who has four doubles in 15 at-bats against the right-hander. So far this season, Ortiz has one extra-base hit.
• Check out Daily Notes for more on Friday's games.