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Though the man picked No. 19 in average live drafts in the preseason appeared as a pinch hitter on Sunday, chipping in a single, the news on Hamilton wasn't in any way promising. According to the Dallas Morning News, he's scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on Monday to determine the cause of his groin and abdominal pain. In fact, Hamilton told the paper that in the past couple of days he has been swinging the bat at only about 75-percent effort and running at 50 percent.
Perhaps that would explain Hamilton's so-so .237 batting average (9-for-38), one home run and only nine starts in 13 Rangers games since he first suffered the injury crashing into a wall during the team's May 17 game against the Angels. He hasn't seemed quite right since then, and when he was previously unproductive in April due to a rib cage injury, a two-week DL stint did seem to help him.
The Rangers can surely afford to give Hamilton a little time off, accounting for the depth of their potential replacements, but for those owners in weekly leagues, he'll almost assuredly be that frustrating "will he play or will he land on the DL" Monday fringe fantasy starter. Hopefully, we'll hear a definitive report on his health before the week's deadline, but consider him iffy for now.
As for those possible replacements, Andruw Jones and David Murphy stand to benefit most from any Hamilton absence. Jones has been quite the hitter when given the chance to play; he's batting .282 with a .980 OPS in 25 games, but has yet to find a comfortable spot in the lineup. Problem is, the Rangers don't seem comfortable playing him other than mostly against left-handed pitchers and in home games; 16 of his 23 starts have come against southpaws and 15 of his 23 have come at Rangers Ballpark.
Murphy, meanwhile, is off to a wretched start, batting .226 with a .680 OPS, but despite that actually has more starts (26) than Jones. Though Murphy was a productive enough player in AL-only formats in 2008, batting .275 with 15 homers and 74 RBIs in 108 games, he's actually the lesser talent of the two for fantasy this year. If Hamilton lands on the DL, Jones is the talent you want but Murphy might be the one who plays more, and in a ballpark like the one in Texas, that absolutely matters.
• It's about time Jon Lester had one of those elite outings he came to be known for during his breakout 2008; he threw six innings of one-run, three-hit baseball and struck out a career-high 12. He's far more talented than his current 5.65 ERA and 1.55 WHIP show -- check that 10.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings number and that 3.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- and has now defeated the Blue Jays, one of baseball's most potent offenses the first month-plus of the season, in back-to-back turns.
• Sometimes a vote of confidence is all a player needs. Such must be the case with Brad Lidge; after bouncing back from a dreadful series at new Yankee Stadium with a save this past Tuesday, he managed back-to-back-to-back saves during the Phillies' weekend series against the Nationals. He has four saves in as many outings, five strikeouts and only one hit and one walk allowed in 3 2/3 innings during that span. By the way, silencing the Nationals' offense is no longer a feat that should be casually dismissed; Washington ranks ninth in baseball in team OPS (.777).
• Though Zack Greinke appeared somewhat more human on Sunday, the right-hander did turn in his ninth consecutive quality start. Here's how incredible his hot streak has been: With four runs allowed (only three were earned), he snapped a string of 16 consecutive starts allowing three runs or fewer, dating back to Aug. 26, 2008. He's 12-2 with a 1.34 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in his past 17 regular-season starts.
• What is up with Adam Kennedy? He registered his third career multihomer game on Sunday -- if you include the postseason, his career high is actually three in the clinching game of the 2002 ALCS -- and went 3-for-5 to raise his batting average to .390. Let go in a May 10 trade by the Rays, who could surely use him now that Akinori Iwamura's season is done, Kennedy has been a fantasy category-filler in Oakland so far, on pace for 26 homers, 96 RBIs and 32 steals. No, he's not going to get to those totals, but enjoy the ride.
• Ervin Santana's performance Sunday wasn't anywhere near as disastrous as his one last Monday, but it's not like it was significantly better, either. He coughed up eight runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings and struck out but two Mariners and, accounting for the matchup, that has to qualify as an out-and-out disappointment. After all, Seattle ranks next-to-last in team OPS versus right-handers (.695). Count me as one who believes Santana might not be out of the water in the health department.
• Perhaps pitching for his rotation spot, Kris Medlen went six innings and limited the Diamondbacks to one run while striking out nine hitters. This will probably earn him another start, but I'd need to see at least one more comparable performance before calling him a trustworthy fantasy option. After all, the Diamondbacks sat offensive stud Justin Upton and batted Augie Ojeda second against the Braves.
• Sean Marshall was pummeled for eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings on Sunday Night Baseball, and strangely enough, that wasn't what cost him his rotation spot. No, the outing didn't help his cause, but Cubs manager Lou Piniella informed the Arlington Heights Daily Herald before the game that the left-hander would move to the bullpen once Rich Harden returns from the DL. Marshall will probably spend the year next-in-line for rotation openings, a "No. 6 starter," if you will, but fantasy owners in all but deep NL-only leagues can feel free to cut him.
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
With his 4-for-5 performance, Ichiro extended his hitting streak to 24 games, currently the longest in the majors. He's batting .406 (43-for-106) with three home runs during the streak, and with a home run on Sunday he's now on pace for 18, which would represent a new career high. One drawback: He's on pace for a career-low 29 stolen bases.
Edwin Jackson, Tigers
He went eight innings strong, shutting out the Orioles on two hits and one walk while striking out seven to notch his fourth win in his past five games, all of which were quality starts. But what's most interesting about Jackson's performance thus far is his dominance away from Comerica Park; he has a 1.31 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in six road starts this year.
Congratulations go out to Jamie Moyer, who notched his 250th career victory with six innings of one-run, three-hit baseball. But if you think it's the Marlins against whom Moyer has been most successful of late, you'd be wrong; this represented his eighth win in a row against the Nationals. He's also the oldest pitcher to win 250 games (46 years, 195 days) and has the highest career ERA of any modern pitcher to win that many (4.22).
• The Dodgers have their rotation opening to accommodate Hiroki Kuroda's return on Monday; they placed Eric Stults on the 15-day DL with a sprained left thumb. Stults' turn in the rotation would have next arrived on Thursday, so the Dodgers will activate Kuroda and use Clayton Kershaw, who was originally scheduled to pitch Monday, as an emergency long reliever behind him. If Kershaw isn't needed in relief Monday, he'll merely be bumped back to start Thursday's game against Philadelphia. Right-hander Travis Schlichting was recalled from Double-A Chattanooga to take Stults' roster spot before Sunday's game, but it might be only a one-day promotion.
• John Buck landed on the 15-day DL with a slight herniation in his lower back, the Royals recalling Brayan Pena from Triple-A Omaha. Pena played sparingly in his previous stint with the team and has a .582 OPS in 75 career games, so expect starter Miguel Olivo to play almost every day (as his body allows).
• The Rays optioned Dale Thayer, who had a 5.06 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in his three appearances, to Triple-A Durham, and recalled a man they never should have demoted in the first place: Matt Joyce. Joyce, who batted .315 with a .938 OPS in 41 games for Durham, is probably a better choice for the team in right field than Gabe Gross, and sure enough, in Joyce's first game back, he went 2-for-3 with a home run.
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Stephania Bell: I agree. It's not clear what the problem is (they're calling it a stiff neck) but the fact that he had a cortisone injection which really didn't help, along with the setback, suggests something more. Maybe a disc problem that's at the core of this. If that's the case, it's tough to put a timetable on it because it could be a week to a month. I really wouldn't expect to see him soon.
-- Full chat transcript
James Quintong: Well, he's had a knack of hitting in the .290-.300 range for most of his career, although his OBP has only been in the .330-ish range in recent years. He probably should finish in that .300-.310 range, although that means a major slump could be in the cards at some point.
-- Full chat transcript
Monday's fantasy chat schedule:
• Jeremy Bonderman, making his third rehabilitation start for Triple-A Toledo, had his best outing yet, going eight shutout innings allowing six hits and no walks. If that's his final rehab start -- and by all means it probably should be -- he finishes with a 3.00 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in his four appearances. Three of them were quality starts.
• Joba Chamberlain makes his first career start at Progressive Field, the site where he was plagued by midges in a relief appearance during the 2007 postseason. He'll be rooting for them not to make an appearance on what's likely to be a somewhat rainy night, but should be more concerned about being more efficient with his pitches; he has lasted into the seventh inning in only four of his 21 career starts.
• For more on Monday's games, check out Daily Notes.