AP Photo/Nick Wass
George Sherrill tossed a scoreless inning for his sixth save of the season. Chris Tillman, as you'll see in the "On the farm" section, tossed a gem for the team's Triple-A affiliate. But, most importantly, everyday center fielder Adam Jones, now a franchise cornerstone, had the first two-homer game of his career, with four RBIs.
Turns out Jones' work over the winter to build his strength and improve his pitch selection is paying huge dividends. At 23 years old, he's already a leading candidate for breakout player of the year. He finds himself on pace for 41 home runs, 129 RBIs, 181 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. Along with his .363 batting average, those numbers would make him a fantasy beast.
Naturally, it's silly to expect Jones to maintain such MVP-caliber totals. He'll come back to earth to a degree, but deeper analysis into his numbers suggests the drop-off won't be significant. Promising signs: He's a .409 hitter with six home runs, 12 doubles and a 1.182 OPS versus right-handers this season, after having struggled mightily against them in brief stints in the majors in 2006 and 2007, and managing a ho-hum .275 batting average and .728 OPS versus that side in 2008. Jones is also a .326 hitter with a 1.059 OPS in his road games, compared to .383/1.105 at home, splits that suggest he's not merely capitalizing upon the favorable confines of his home ballpark.
In short, that shows Jones' performance is every bit legitimate, and not fueled solely by matchups. Another fun fact: Among the pitchers against whom he already has at least two hits or one home run this season are Joba Chamberlain, Brian Fuentes, Matt Garza, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, James Shields, Kevin Slowey and Andy Sonnanstine (against whom he now has two doubles and two home runs). Wow, an impressive group.
It's tough to call Jones a guy to buy, hot as he has been. But if you're his owner, not in any way is he shaping up as a sell-high candidate. Enjoy the ride.
• Jayson Werth stole four bases, including second, third and home in the same inning, becoming the first player since Eric Young in 1996 to accomplish the latter feat. What you might know about Werth is that he can hit; he's a .284 hitter with a .875 OPS who has hit 38 home runs in 778 at-bats in his Phillies career. What you might not realize is that he's as talented a base-stealer as slugger, successfully stealing 34 bases in 37 tries in that time. When I call him a 25/25 candidate, I'm not exaggerating his talents.
• Matt Capps returned from his elbow injury in a non-save situation, and it was an adventure, as he loaded the bases yet escaped without allowing a run. He had two strikeouts, but the two walks tell me he might not yet be back to 100 percent. Fortunately for Capps, because the Pirates lack any decent alternatives means he'll be allowed to work through it.
• Apparently a player can lose his job while sidelined by injury. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Tuesday that Scott Downs will remain the team's closer even after B.J. Ryan's potential return from shoulder and back injuries this weekend. Downs has a 1.99 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 162 games since 2007, and receives the vote of confidence despite having served up three runs on five hits in his most recent outing, a non-save situation on May 9. There's no guarantee Ryan will ever reclaim his job this year, though it's not impossible to think he might. He's going to have to earn it. Based on how poorly he pitched in the spring and early regular season, I think it'll take some time.
• Defending American League batting champion Joe Mauer is up to his old tricks, going 2-for-3 to raise his batting average to a nice, round .500 in his first 10 games since returning from the DL. But more notable was that he belted his fourth home run, marking the first time in his career that he has managed that many homers in any 10-game span. The knock on Mauer in recent years is that, for all his ability to hit for average, he offers little power. Today, he finds himself on pace for a career-best 20 homers (56 if you prorate for the number of games he has remaining), and he's 26 years old. It's still early, but it's entirely possible he'll get into the 20s in the category, if he can stay healthy.
• Ubaldo Jimenez turned in a third consecutive quality start, limiting the Astros to one run on seven hits in seven innings. That he has faced the Giants (twice) and Astros, two bottom-10 offenses, has played in Jimenez's favor, but from a pure talent perspective it's nice to see him with 15 strikeouts compared to three walks during that span. Consider buying.
• You can't ask for more contrast: Luke Hochevar, 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Omaha before his recall this week, was shelled for eight runs in two innings in his first start of 2009 for the Royals. One outing might not be much to get an accurate read on a pitcher, but that it came against the light-hitting Athletics is a concern. Hochevar has a 3.28 ERA in 19 career starts at the Triple-A level, and 5.98 in 24 starts at the big-league level, so let's just say that the "Quadruple-A player" sticker has been almost fully peeled from its backing, and ready to be affixed if he's similarly poor his next couple of turns.
• Joe Beimel blew his first save chance of the season, serving up a walk-off three-run homer to Pablo Sandoval to move his Nationals into a tie for first place in the majors with 10 blown saves. Washington's bullpen has 10 losses, most in the majors, and a 6.02 ERA, third-worst, and at this point it's anyone's guess who, if anyone, will step up to grab this closer's job in the long haul. Even if you think it might be Joel Hanrahan, who recorded the save this past Saturday, be aware he has allowed two runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings in his past four outings (the Saturday game included). He's largely ineffective right now.
Brad Hawpe, Rockies
Not that it's tough for a hitter to succeed in the thin air of Coors Field, but Hawpe has taken it to another level so far this season. With his 4-for-4, 5-RBI performance on Tuesday, he's now batting .419 (18-for-43) in 12 games at Coors this year
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays
Halladay turned in his first complete game of the season, his 36th since 2003 and 41st of his career, limiting the Yankees to one run on five hits while striking out five. With the outing his career ERA against the Yankees is now 2.77, his best against any American League opponent. He's 16-5 in 33 career games versus New York.
One of the frustrations of being a Jake Peavy owner -- other than having to stomach his inflated 4.30 -- is that he pitches for the Padres, one of the worst teams in baseball. With his loss on Tuesday, it has now been 27 days since a Padres starting pitcher has won a game; Peavy last won for them on April 16. Since that date the Padres are 6-17, and losers of nine consecutive road games and four overall. Reliever Cla Meredith, incidentally, has half of those six wins during the team's recent slump.
• Unsurprisingly, Scott Proctor had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, and was transferred to the 60-day disabled list by the Marlins. Critics will point to the 83 games and 102 1/3 innings he threw in 2006 under Joe Torre in New York as the primary cause, and I can't say I disagree. Perhaps it's no coincidence that both Hong-Chih Kuo and Cory Wade, each of whom breezed past 70 innings last year, are dealing with arm issues of their own.
• The Rangers activated Josh Hamilton, the No. 19 player picked overall in ESPN live drafts in the preseason, from the DL on Tuesday, and slotted him into their lineup in the No. 3 hole. Hamilton's owners have to be happy to have him back, and he rewarded them right away, hitting his third homer of the year.
• Kevin Youkilis finally landed on the 15-day disabled list with his oblique injury, the move retroactive to May 5. It's a frustrating development for Youkilis owners, but the Red Sox haven't seemed to mind his absence. They have scored 42 runs in the seven games he has missed (6.0 per game), compared to 147 in their first 26 contests (5.7 per game). Gil Velazquez was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to help provide infield depth in Youkilis' absence, which should probably be only about another week.
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AJ Mass: I think we are. I've been pretty steady touting Justin over B.J. in the Upton Wars, and I don't see any reason to switch my support any time soon.
-- Full chat transcript
Brendan Roberts: Yeah, how 'bout that Justin Upton! In a keeper league, you keep Maybin, of course, but if you're asking whether I think he figures it out this year, I'd say no. He is simply overmatched by big-league pitching, especially offspeed stuff, and it shows in his amazing high K totals. Heck, he might not even figure it out next season. He's still very raw.
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m. ET
Eric Karabell, 3 p.m. ET
• Chien-Ming Wang tossed six shutout innings of three-hit ball in his first rehabilitation start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, throwing 49 of 82 pitches for strikes. "He's definitely heading in the right direction," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who was in attendance, according to MiLB.com. "He had great mound presence and showed some great tempo. I thought his slider was terrific." It's unclear whether the Yankees plan to activate Wang following this outing or give him another rehab start in the minors, but he's looking closer to rejoining the Yankee rotation by the day.
• If the Orioles need starting pitching help at any point soon, they can always count on top prospect Chris Tillman, off to a hot start for Triple-A Norfolk. He threw six shutout innings in winning his fourth consecutive start, striking out 10 batters in the process. For the year, Tillman is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings in six starts. He's probably worth an add in all AL-only formats at this point.
• Sticking with Orioles prospects, Nolan Reimold went 3-for-5 and hit his eighth homer for Norfolk, and is now batting .396 through 30 games there. There had been some speculation in Baltimore that if Luke Scott went on the DL that Reimold might get promoted, and now Felix Pie is a candidate to be shelved himself. Even if both Scott and Pie turn out fine for now, it's clear Reimold is ready for a shot in the majors the second there is an opening in the Baltimore outfield.
• The Diamondbacks will debut a right-hander fresh out of Double-A on Wednesday, Bryan Augenstein, and like Willis, it's Augenstein's opponent who should garner most of the headlines. Johnny Cueto had a 1.50 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in his two starts against Arizona in 2008, and he has 32 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings in his red-hot start to 2009. Oh, and by the way, the Diamondbacks have a 76.8 percent contact rate as a team; that's the sixth-worst rate in the game.
• Not many hitters have succeeded against Mark Buehrle so far this season, but Ryan Garko's past suggests he might help Cleveland tarnish Buehrle's perfect 5-0 record. He's 10-for-19 in his career against the left-hander, so expect him to get a start at first base.
• For more on Wednesday's games, check out Daily Notes.