Updated: May 20, 2009, 2:15 PM ET

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AP Photo/Duane Burleson

It's been a rough road, but Dontrelle Willis finally earned his first win as a Tiger.

D-Train rolls against Rangers
If you were watching the Rangers-Tigers game on Tuesday, you might have been wondering, "What is this, 2005?"

Dontrelle Willis mastered the Rangers for 6 1/3 innings, shutting them out on one hit, notching his first win since coming to the Tigers more than 17 months ago. It was a victory long awaited, and even more notable based upon the strength of his opponent: Texas ranks second in the game in team OPS (.815) and seventh in runs (209).

Most impressive: Willis didn't display any of the command problems that plagued him in either his final two years in Florida or his first in Detroit, walking but two Rangers and throwing 61 of 100 pitches for strikes. Consider that in his three previous seasons, Willis averaged 4.1 walks per nine innings, up from 2.6 in his first three big-league seasons, and as a result he paid a steep price in ERA, going from 3.27 from 2003-05 to 4.75 from 2006-08.

Willis' 2008 was particularly disastrous. He walked 35 batters in 24 innings in his first year for the Tigers, and saw his ERA balloon to 9.38. Things got so bad for him, in fact, that he began this season on the disabled list, not because of any arm problems; the Tigers slotted him on the DL presumably just to get him off the roster, explaining it as an "anxiety disorder."

If that's the truth, Willis didn't look at all anxious in mastering the Rangers' bats. Now, one start won't make him an instant sensation, or a pitcher ready to recapture his 2005 Cy Young glory. Persistent command issues don't necessarily subside at a moment's instance, though in support of his case, Willis did walk only nine batters in 25 1/3 innings in four minor league rehabilitation starts before being activated on May 13. He did, however, walk two batters in 4 2/3 innings in that May 13 start.

Fantasy owners in AL-only leagues, and perhaps deep, deep mixed formats (think greater than 16 teams) should probably stash Willis on the bench for now. If he strings together one or two more such outings like these, at that point he'd warrant matchups potential, especially on a team that has averaged 5.5 runs per game.

Be aware, though, that Willis' fantasy contributions, even at his best, tend to come in wins and ERA, the most unpredictable categories of the primary ones in rotisserie. Case in point: He has a 1.38 career WHIP, slightly high for a guy whose ERA is 3.91.

Previous editions: May 19: Weeks out for season | May 18: Kershaw fillets Fish

News, Notes and Box-Score Bits
Barry Zito tossed his fifth quality start in his past six appearances, though this one might have been one of the more expected ones; the game was at cavernous Petco Park. He went eight innings of two-run, five-hit baseball, giving him a 2.21 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in his past six turns. Sadly, Zito has but one win to show for it during his hot streak, one of the reasons his ownership in ESPN leagues might still be at 11.6 percent. He's still not striking out many batters, averaging 5.8 per nine innings, his lowest number since 2003, and breaking down his batting average on balls in play to strictly the ground balls he has allowed, his number is a career-low .147. Though Zito is no longer a laughable fantasy option, I'm not convinced he's not a sell-high candidate.

• Speaking of mirages, what about Matt Palmer, now 5-0 after defeating the Mariners with five innings of five-run baseball? That an offense this weak -- Seattle's team OPS versus right-handers is second-worst in the game, at .681 -- was able to get to the right-hander for that many runs and seven hits, including two home runs, doesn't strike me as an encouraging sign, nor does the fact that, for the third time in his five starts, Palmer didn't strike out any more batters than he walked. For his career, in fact, he has 26 walks compared to 21 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings, so I hope you've enjoyed the ride.

Scott Baker's home run problems continue to be his undoing this season, as he served up two more gopher balls to the White Sox, bringing his total to 10. Between spring training and the regular season, Baker has now served up 19 homers in 62 1/3 innings (an unsightly 2.7 per nine); he has already made one DL trip this season with shoulder issues, and he's on pace to allow 41 for the full regular season. The case for him as a buy-low candidate is sure beginning to show some cracks, and I'd no longer support him as a surefire top-25 starting pitcher from this point forward.

• How about the Joe Mauer power? He belted his seventh home run of the season on Tuesday, putting him on pace for a mind-numbing career high of 57, even more shocking a number when you consider that he didn't even make his 2009 debut until May 1 due to a back injury. He's already more than halfway to his previous career best of 13, set in 2006, and while there's no way he can maintain his current .438 home run/fly-ball percentage, 30 home runs is well within reach if he can stay healthy. Mauer is 26; it shouldn't be considered at all shocking that he's developing power this late into his career.

• Could it be that Colby Rasmus is finally getting acclimated to life in the big leagues? The rookie center fielder homered for the second consecutive night on Tuesday, and for the third time in five games. Since becoming a starter due to injuries to Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick, Rasmus sure has helped owners with their counting numbers, totaling four homers, 11 RBIs and six runs scored in 15 games in the month of May. Of course, we'd like to see more from him than a .245 batting average and zero stolen bases. Rasmus' contributions at this stage of his career seem most centered around his power, and his 22 strikeouts in 108 at-bats do suggest some painful slumps are in his future. Enjoy the hot streak, but his value remains much higher in keeper leagues than yearly formats.

Grady Sizemore, dropped to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, went 0-for-4 with a strikeout on Wednesday, extending his funk to a .159 batting average (10-for-63), one home run and 17 strikeouts in his past 14 games. The Indians are seemingly trying everything to get him back on track, but don't be shocked if he gets a night off sometime this week in order to help him clear his mind. With Sizemore's value slipping considerably this month, he'd be a good trade target. He remains one of the better 30/30 candidates in baseball, even if his batting average rarely soars north of .280.

• How about this one: James Shields shut out the Athletics for 8 1/3 innings, but was matched pitch-for-pitch by Oakland's Josh Outman, who went six scoreless frames of his own. Shields' performance isn't unexpected, especially not against the hapless Oakland offense, but Outman's is, as it's his second consecutive quality start and third in his past four turns. The left-hander also has 31 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings for the season, and he has already shown against Kansas City and Seattle that he can rise up to exploit the favorable matchups. Outman won't get much run support, as evidenced on Tuesday, but there might be some matchups potential in him in deeper formats.

• It looks like Cole Hamels is out of the proverbial woods; he tossed a third consecutive quality start on Tuesday, winning at Great American Ball Park, not the easiest venue for a pitcher. He has a 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 19 innings during his three-game hot streak, erasing any injury concerns he had earlier in the year. Those numbers sure seem much more Hamels-like, don't they?


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Player Spotlight

Hitter of the night
Scott Hairston, Padres
The ultimate deep-league matchups hitter, Hairston capitalized, predictably, upon his slotting into the lineup as San Diego's No. 3 hitter against a left-hander, going 2-for-2 with a home run and two walks versus hot-starting Barry Zito. It's the 23rd time he has started a game for the Padres and all but two of them have come out of one of the top four spots in the batting order. With a .409 batting average, four home runs and a 1.331 OPS in 51 plate appearances versus lefties this year, Hairston is a name you absolutely need to know in deeper leagues, particularly daily formats.


Pitcher of the night
Joel Pineiro, Cardinals
For the first time since July 26, 2003, Pineiro tossed a complete-game shutout, and he picked a good time to do it, against the Cardinals' division rivals, the Cubs. Besides holding a respectable-enough, though bruised-and-battered Cubs offense to a mere three hits, Pineiro set a season high in strikeouts, with five. That's quite a change from the 14 he had in 45 1/3 innings to begin the season, but it's also not an overwhelming total, meaning further Pineiro domination shouldn't be entirely expected.


Stat of the Night: .341
Don't believe in the idea of "lineup protection"? Look no further than Mark Teixeira as evidence. Since the return of Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees' lineup, and to the No. 4 spot in the order behind "Tex," the switch-hitting first baseman has batted .341 with six home runs and 15 RBIs. Sorry if you missed out on your buy-low opportunity.
Notable Transactions
Elijah Dukes landed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday, after attempting unsuccessfully to play through the strained left hamstring he suffered this past Friday. Willie Harris has started all four games for the Nationals in center field since Dukes got hurt, and probably will continue to do so since neither Austin Kearns nor Josh Willingham is a suitable defender at the position. Keep in mind, NL-only owners, that Harris has 14 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 163 games since Opening Day 2008.

• The Athletics demoted Sean Gallagher, pounded by the Blue Jays and Rays for 13 runs (10 earned) on 13 hits in 7 1/3 innings in his past two starts, to Triple-A Sacramento, replacing him in the rotation with Edgar Gonzalez, who was in the hunt for such a spot during spring training. You might know Gonzalez from his days in Arizona; he had an 8-19 record, 5.83 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 35 starts in his Diamondbacks career. Don't bother adding him. Strangely enough, a fellow Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez, was also demoted to Sacramento instead of being considered a candidate for Gallagher's rotation spot.

• Apparently there's an explanation for Glen Perkins' struggles on Monday against the Yankees; he was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Twins on Tuesday due to left elbow inflammation. He complained of some tingling in his left arm during that disastrous outing. R.A. Dickey is one candidate to replace Perkins in the rotation, though manager Ron Gardenhire told the team's official Web site that he prefers the knuckleballer working out of the bullpen. "I like him [in long relief]," Gardenhire said. "Dickey is very good where he's at. I thought [Monday] he really proved that."

• The White Sox activated Brian Anderson from the DL and immediately slotted him back in center field and the No. 7 spot in the lineup on Tuesday. He's batting .268 for the season but hasn't offered much power in his big-league career, with a .372 slugging percentage. AL-only owners can take a look at him, but he's not much of a fantasy choice.

Click here for all of the latest MLB transactions.

They Said It
Will (St. Louis): Of course you didn't rank him, but looking over the ESPN composite re-rankings, it seems like I'd be crazy not to pick up Alexei Ramirez after he was dropped in my 12-team H2H. Can't possibly be any more disappointing than the backup 2B/SS I drafted (I'm looking at you, Aviles).

AJ Mass: He wasn't too far out of my rankings, and I was required to rank 90 pitchers, otherwise he would have made the cut. My concern with Alexei is that manager Ozzie Guillen is a bit of a renegade, and I can see him sitting Ramirez (or demoting him) for large stretches of time on a whim.
-- Full chat transcript


Nick (Lorado): I hear the Braves will start [Kris] Medlen on Thursday. Is he worth a pickup for a pitching-starved owner? How good do you think he will be? Top 75 going forward?

Brendan Roberts: He's worth a pickup this week, but not for long-term purposes. He's hot right now, and the Braves are just hoping to capitalize on that. But he's just up for a few starts. If his rotation spot were to turn into a long-term one, Hanson would be called up to fill it.
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m. ET
Eric Karabell, 3 p.m. ET
On The Farm
• If the Mets are in need of some outfield help, Fernando Martinez is seemingly getting close to big-league ready. He socked two home runs for Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday, his second straight game going deep, and is now batting .343 with six homers and 15 RBIs in 19 games in the month of May. Martinez might be the type of prospect who needs a little time to get acclimated to big-league competition once promoted, but he's an intriguing athlete who might be able to help in all five rotisserie categories.

• Speaking of solid outfield prospects, the Rays' Desmond Jennings went 3-for-4 to bring his season average to .400 in 38 games for Double-A Montgomery. It's a wonder that he hasn't yet been promoted to Triple-A, but he might be a candidate for a big-league call-up later in the year at his current pace. With 14 steals in those 38 contests, Jennings' initial contributions at the major league level might be more in that category than anything, but that'd still make him an instant pickup in deeper formats once he gets the call.

• Brett Wallace, who was recently promoted to Triple-A Memphis by the Cardinals, went 2-for-3, his third multihit effort in his first four games for the Redbirds. Wallace batted .281 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 32 games for Double-A Springfield, numbers that don't scream out "promote him," but his advancement might hint at the Cardinals' plans to get him up to the big-league level at some point this summer. Keep tabs on his performance, but Wallace thus far is 8-for-17 (.471) for Memphis.

Looking Ahead
Chris Carpenter's return to the Cardinals' rotation is the big story on Wednesday, and he'll get to face a familiar foe in his 2009 debut, the division rival Cubs. He's 9-5 with a 1.90 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 20 career starts at Busch Stadium, and 7-3 with a 3.08 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 14 career starts against the Cubs, who found themselves dominated by the less-overpowering Joel Pineiro on Tuesday.

• Big pitching matchup to watch: Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo versus Houston's Wandy Rodriguez. For his career, Gallardo is a perfect 3-0 in three starts against Houston, with a 0.75 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and an average of eight innings per turn. But Rodriguez, his counterpart, is a beast in home games, with four quality starts in as many appearances there this year and a 0.67 ERA and 0.65 WHIP in those games.

Chase Utley is 7-for-14 with three doubles and one home run in his career against Reds right-hander Aaron Harang, and is a .309 hitter with six home runs, 15 RBIs and a 1.142 OPS in 16 career games at Great American Ball Park.

• For more on Wednesday's games, check out Daily Notes.