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Here we are on Monday, three short days after the non-waiver trade deadline, and two contending teams have lost critical parts to injuries, both of them mainstays in fantasy lineups. The Rangers placed Ian Kinsler, who was ranked No. 31 on the Player Rater heading into Sunday, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, while the Dodgers lifted ace Chad Billingsley from Sunday night's game against the Braves after five innings with a right hamstring cramp.
Kinsler might be able to return once eligible on Aug. 13, but after missing the past four days, the Rangers felt it better to put him on the DL and give him at least two weeks' rest. Most frustrating to his owners is that it's the second consecutive season in which he has landed on the DL in August. He was shelved Aug. 18 and never returned last season, but at least his injury isn't quite the long-term concern this time; hernia surgery sent him to the sideline in 2008.
As for Billingsley, he was able to pitch to three more hitters after suffering his injury, and he struck out two of them to complete five shutout frames. He also pleaded his case to remain in the game with manager Joe Torre, meaning it's possible the right-hander might be able to take his next turn in the rotation, slated for Friday against the Braves, this time at home.
Expect Omar Vizquel, who has started each of the five games since Kinsler got hurt, to take the bulk of the at-bats at second base. He's hardly a great fantasy fill-in, though, having batted .279 and maintained a zero-homer, 38-RBI, 63-run, 19-steal pace scaled to a 500-at-bat season. Maicer Izturis, batting .337 with 21 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 26 games since June 26, would be a more appropriate deep-league target. In a handful of shallow ESPN.com leagues, useful plug-ins such as Howie Kendrick, Jose Lopez and Asdrubal Cabrera remain available.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, might have to turn to either Jeff Weaver or Eric Stults in the event of a Billingsley DL stint. It would be a noticeable downgrade for them, and fantasy owners might be better off reserving the strikeout artist in weekly formats. Those seeking a viable fantasy fill-in might want to consider Jorge De La Rosa, winner of seven consecutive decisions with a 3.02 ERA; Jeff Niemann, who has three wins and 26 K's in his past four starts; or Jarrod Washburn, he of the sub-3 ERA with the Mariners and now a good bet for wins as a member of the Tigers.
• It's official: Brandon Webb's season is over, or at least it will be once he undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on Monday. "[My surgeon] thinks my labrum is fine," Webb wrote in a text message to the Diamondbacks' official Web site. "As of right now, he is going in to do general cleanup." That makes it sound as if Webb should be fine for the start of spring training in 2010, but his contract status might lend some hints to his status before we reach the winter. He has an $8.5 million option for 2010 with a $2 million buyout, with the team's decision required within five days after the end of the World Series. If the Diamondbacks opt to decline the option, it would be an ominous sign.
• Kendry Morales' breakout campaign continues, as the 26-year-old clubbed two more home runs on Sunday and chipped in a career-high six RBIs. Most impressive was that both of the homers came against left-handers, significant in that entering the game, he had hit only three of 33 career homers against lefties and had an OPS 216 points lower than he did against right-handers. If Morales keeps improving from the right side, he might yet meet his current .299-37 homers-111 RBIs pace.
• Victor Martinez led the Red Sox's charge Sunday in an 18-10 victory, his first game as a catcher for his new team. He's 6-for-11 with five RBIs in his first two games for Boston, a very encouraging sign after he batted just .149 with a .503 OPS in his final 32 games with the Indians. If the Red Sox give him enough rest from catching by slotting him in mostly as a first baseman, Martinez might yet be able to narrow the gap between himself and No. 1 catcher Joe Mauer on the Player Rater.
• Stepping in for an injured Roy Oswalt, Bud Norris tossed seven shutout innings against a potent Cardinals offense on Sunday, certainly earning himself a few more turns in the Houston rotation. Although Norris walked four batters, he limited St. Louis to a mere two hits and was extremely efficient, throwing 55 of his 91 pitches for strikes. He won't be that productive every start, but at the bare minimum he warrants matchups consideration, especially in light of his consistent performance for Triple-A Round Rock. He had a 2.63 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 19 starts there, with an ERA of 3.82 or lower in each of his four months in the minors.
• If the Nationals were being truthful when they said part of the reason they didn't trade players such as Adam Dunn on July 31 was that they believed they saw him and others as contending parts in future years, there's no reason for them not to ensure Josh Willingham is in their lineup every single day. He had another good game Sunday, going 2-for-3 with a double and a home run, bringing his numbers to a .305 batting average and 1.015 OPS. Willingham has mashed right-handed pitching all year, so he's hardly a platoon candidate, either. He's a definite pickup.
• Ian Snell's Mariners debut was a promising one, as the right-hander allowed only two runs -- both on solo homers -- on three hits in six innings in a game at Texas. He was a tad wild, with three walks and only 49 of 84 pitches for strikes, but accounting for the challenging matchup, it's a good first step. Snell, who was practically untouchable in a recent minor league stint (0.96 ERA, 47 K's in 37 1/3 innings in six starts for Triple-A Indianapolis), might have needed only a change of scenery to get his career back on track. He's well worth AL-only consideration and even is worth a pickup in deep mixed formats.
• The Rangers activated Frank Francisco from the DL on Sunday. However, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Francisco will be eased back into the closer's role rather than thrust directly into it, and that's much the strategy the team used when he returned from the DL in June, when he made three eighth-inning appearances initially. Expect C.J. Wilson to get the bulk of the saves in the next few days, with Francisco taking over once he proves he's 100 percent. In other Rangers transactions news, the team promoted top prospect Neftali Feliz from Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he had a 2.16 ERA and 20 K's in 16 2/3 innings since being converted to a reliever. The team hopes for some "Joba Chamberlain 2007" magic, and with Feliz's potential, such a comparison isn't unwarranted. AL-only owners might find some sleeper value in him.
Melky Cabrera, Yankees
Yankees fans, update your trivia-question book, as there's a new answer to the question, "Who was the last Yankee to hit for the cycle?" Cabrera now holds that honor after managing not only a single, double, triple and home run but also four RBIs and three runs scored. Three of Cabrera's hits (all but the triple) came off Mark Buehrle, two starts removed from a perfect game, no less.
Brian Bannister, Royals
People don't seem to pay Bannister much attention, but after he tossed seven shutout innings of five-hit baseball without a single walk in a game at Tampa Bay, they probably should. It's his seventh quality start in his past 10 tries, and although he has only three wins during that time, he also has a 2.67 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.
Baseball statistics so often have a pendulum effect. Take the example of Mark Buehrle, who recently set a major league record by retiring 47 consecutive batters. That's right, zero hits, zero walks, zero earned runs, 47 outs. Since that streak was snapped, Buehrle has been well not so good. Of the past 34 batters he has faced, he has allowed 17 hits, two walks and 12 earned runs while recording 15 outs. He didn't strike out a single one of those 34 hitters.
• The Royals finally designated Sidney Ponson, 1-6 with a 6.44 ERA in nine starts this season, for assignment, replacing him in the rotation with Kyle Davies, promoted from Triple-A Omaha. Davies had a 4-2 record and 2.14 ERA in eight minor league starts and is well worth AL-only and perhaps even deep-mixed league consideration. It's astonishing how long Ponson has been able to stick around the majors, despite an ERA north of 5 in a starting role in every season since 2003. Royals manager Trey Hillman offered some insight on that, telling the team's official Web site: "Honestly, I still love his stuff, I really do."
• One night after the Cubs torched Burke Badenhop, the Marlins placed him on the 15-day DL and promoted Tim Wood from Triple-A New Orleans to pad the bullpen. That might be an indication Sean West is about to get another look as the team's fifth starter, because alternative option Andrew Miller is on the minor league seven-day DL with an ankle injury.
Click here for all the latest MLB transactions.
Stephania Bell: Lots of posts with the not-too-kind quotes about how Quentin looked running. I think though that his inability to run normally tells you all you need to know. I've said all along that this plantar fasciitis is very hard to recover from and really requires a long time off - like an offseason, so no, I don't think he returns to normal this year ... hopefully next.
-- Full chat transcript
Jason Grey: I would expect both Santana and [Lou] Marson stay in Triple-A until at least Sept., with [Kelly] Shoppach and [Gio] Gimenez the tandem. No need to rush them. That seems to be the safer bet as to what will happen there.
-- Full chat transcript
Thursday's fantasy chat schedule:
Christopher Harris, 11 a.m. ET
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
• Jason Heyward hit his fourth home run for Double-A Mississippi, and through 24 games for the team, he's batting .417 with 21 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Most impressive about his performance, besides the fact that he's doing it at the young age of 19 (he'll turn 20 on Saturday), is his plate discipline: He has 15 walks compared to nine strikeouts in 84 at-bats. Heyward might be a long shot to see time with the Braves this season, outside a brief September stint, but he might get a chance to win a starting job in the spring or be a prime midseason call-up in 2010.
• It looks as though Kevin Pucetas won't be the Giants' starter the next time the No. 5 spot in the rotation comes up Wednesday, as he pitched poorly for Triple-A Fresno on Sunday. The right-hander surrendered 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits in six innings, inflating his ERA to 3.76. It was only the second time in his past eight turns he failed to have a quality start. Pucetas remains one of the top candidates for a rotation spot the next time the Giants need a starter, but it looks now as though they'll wait another couple of turns before calling on him.
• Tyler Colvin set a Double-A Southern League record with 11 consecutive hits, going 3-for-5 Sunday to increase his batting average to .286. He's not an elite prospect, though, as a soon-to-be-24-year-old in Double-A ball, one repeating the level for the third straight season. Colvin might have a future as a fourth outfielder type, but he's probably not destined for an exciting career fantasywise.
• The Orioles' Chris Tillman makes career start No. 2, and it's a tall task, as he'll make a road start at the Tigers and face ace Justin Verlander. Based on Tillman's lackluster numbers in his major league debut, it's a smarter idea to keep him reserved for this one to evaluate him during his adjustment period.
• The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw will attempt his sixth consecutive quality start and eighth in his past nine turns as he takes on the Brewers, a team he defeated in Milwaukee on July 12. Kershaw is 5-0 with a 0.88 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in his past eight turns, branding himself a must-start fantasy pitcher.
• For more on Monday's games, check out Daily Notes.