Monday was supposed to be highlighted by the return of Tim Hudson, who is set to make his first start since July 23, 2008. Hudson is returning from elbow surgery, and coincidentally, he'll make his return against the same team he blew out his elbow against, the Marlins. But now it won't happen until Tuesday, and Kenshin Kawakami will take his place on Monday. While it's always a worry when a pitcher returns from major surgery, Hudson is owned in less than 5 percent of ESPN leagues and could have some value in the final month. He's throwing with his usual velocity and is a ground-ball pitcher who relies more on pitching savvy than raw stuff anyway, so it might not take him long to get up to speed. If you're looking a day ahead, he could be worth a pickup depending on the type of league you're in.
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 31, 2009
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Selected notes: Randy Wolf has been one of the best pitchers in the National League all season but is still being relatively ignored in fantasy; he's owned in more than half of ESPN leagues only thanks to a recent boost. (His ownership is up 4.6 percent in the past week.) He just hurled 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the Rockies, an exclamation point on a superb season, as few lefties can conquer the Rockies at Coors Field. The D-backs are hitting only .194 against Wolf in three starts this season, so Wolf has a very real shot at his fifth straight quality start and his fourth consecutive win. With two runs or fewer allowed in five of his past six starts, Andy Pettitte has been on quite a roll. He has a 2.81 ERA and 54 K's in 51 2/3 innings in that eight-start span, and should be nearly a lock for another superb outing against the Orioles, who have the second-worst OPS in the AL against left-handers. After five consecutive starts allowing at least four runs, Paul Maholm finally bounced back, shutting down two good offenses in the Phillies and Brewers in his past two outings, as he's allowed two runs in his past 14 2/3 innings. Things get easier against the Reds, who have had baseball's worst offense since the All-Star break by a full 25 points of OPS. As far as spot-start opportunities go, it doesn't get much better than that. Gio Gonzalez's inconsistency has popped up again, as he's allowed 13 walks and 12 runs in his past three starts (15 2/3 innings), but it's probably worth taking a chance on him versus the Royals. Gonzalez's strikeout potential -- he's struck out 16 batters in his past two starts -- is enticing, and since the Royals' offense lacks pop, Gonzalez can get away with more mistakes. You could do worse if you are chasing strikeouts. In his return from the disabled list, Joe Saunders limited the Tigers to two runs in five innings, breaking an unflattering streak of eight consecutive starts with at least four earned runs allowed. Since Saunders is usually a much better pitcher than that stretch of bad pitching would indicate, maybe a stint on the disabled list was all he needed, and because he has a very good offense backing him, he's a tempting play against the light-hitting Mariners. Jarrod Washburn has been predictably mediocre since coming to the Tigers, with nearly as many home runs allowed in 31 innings (nine) than in 133 innings with the Mariners (11). Things won't get any easier versus the Rays, who have the fourth-best OPS in baseball and are fifth in the majors in home runs.
• Pat Burrell, OF, Rays: Burrell has reached base in 11 consecutive games, going 16-for-42 (.380) with six multi-hit games, three doubles and two home runs. He's finally hot and is a must-own in all leagues. His career .927 OPS against left-handed pitching should serve him well against Jarrod Washburn.
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Against Paul Maholm, Phillips has raked, going 11-for-31 (.355) with three home runs in his career. Maholm has allowed righties to bat .316, too, so Phillips looks like a strong bet for a nice game.
• Jim Thome, DH, White Sox: Thome has had no problem making contact or hitting for power against Nick Blackburn, batting .333 with four extra-base hits -- including two home runs -- in 21 at-bats versus Blackburn, resulting in an impressive .714 slugging percentage.
• Juan Rivera, OF, Angels: As soon as everyone picked him up, Rivera decided to cool off, but in just 102 at-bats versus lefties, he's hitting .353 with seven home runs. A promising matchup is on tap when he faces Luke French, against whom righties are slugging .497.
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: Although he's yet to face James Shields this season, in his career Granderson is 1-for-12 with two strikeouts.
• Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: Jarrod Washburn has limited lefties to a measly .173 average in 168 at-bats, and Pena is hitting below the Mendoza Line against southpaws this season as well. His slugging percentage drops 139 points, and he's 0-for-3 with three strikeouts versus Washburn this season.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: Batters are hitting only .258 and slugging .370 versus Gavin Floyd, and Cuddyer's slugging percentage decreases more than 100 points when he's facing right-handers and not lefties. He's just a career .235 hitter against Floyd in 17 at-bats, going 0-for-3 with two K's this season.
• Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Still looking for his first extra-base hit off Blackburn, Konerko is just 3-for-23 (.130) against the right-hander. He has as many strikeouts as hits and hasn't drawn a walk, either, as Blackburn definitely seems to have his number.
• Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Diamondbacks: The strikeout-happy Reynolds has had trouble making any contact against Randy Wolf, fanning five times in eight at-bats this season. Overall he's just 2-for-16 with 7 K's in his career against the southpaw.
If you're hardcore
• Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: Paul Maholm doesn't allow a lot of home runs, but the ones he does allow tend to come versus right-handers, as 12 of the 13 dingers he's allowed this year have. Overall, righties are hitting .316 BA/.364 OBP/.469 SLG off him, so Gomes, who's batting .347 in 72 at-bats versus southpaws this season, has the perfect matchup for his strengths.
• Chris Coghlan, OF, Marlins: Coghlan is 11-for-25 (.440) in his past six games with five extra-base hits, including two home runs. A .313 hitter against right-handed pitching this year, Coghlan is a good bet to continue hitting against Kenshin Kawakami.
• Garret Anderson, OF, Braves: With hits in eight out of his past nine games, Anderson is hot, batting .411 in that span. He's added a couple of home runs and a double, and although power is not his strength, it's his ability to hit for average combined with a refusal to take a walk that increases the impact his average has. Now hitting .324 since the All-Star break, Anderson is also 2-for-3 with a homer and a double versus Josh Johnson.
• Steve Pearce, 1B/OF, Pirates: Pearce hit .286 with 13 home runs in 273 at-bats at Triple-A and may finally be heating up on the major league level, going 8-for-23 (.348) with three doubles, one home run and six RBIs in his past seven games. He's worth a look in NL-only leagues.
• Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: Butler has finally cooled down, as he's been held without an extra-base hit for eight straight games now, but a matchup against the left-handed Gio Gonzalez should get him back on track. He's slugging .551 off lefties, with 20 extra-base hits (eight homers) in 156 at-bats, and has already taken Gonzalez deep earlier in the year.
• Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: Kouzmanoff has a couple of doubles and a homer in his past four games and has hit Livan Hernandez particularly hard, with two homers and a double in 15 career at-bats.
• Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: It's been an underwhelming month for Gutierrez, who followed up a .351 average in July by hitting .271 with just two home runs in 107 at-bats in August, but he has gone 9-for-24 (.375) in the past week. A .331 hitter against lefties this season, he should keep up the hot-hitting against the Angels' Joe Saunders on Monday.
Injury list: Out
• Kyle Blanks, 1B/OF, Padres (15-day DL, foot)
• Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners (15-day DL, back)
• Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (15-day DL, back)
• Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals (15-day DL, hand; out for the season)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres (biceps; doubtful)
• Jose Guillen, OF, Royals (15-day DL, knee): Guillen was able to run the bases Friday and is targeting a return for Tuesday, the day when rosters expand.
• Adam LaRoche, 1B, Braves (hip)
• Jorge Posada, C, Yankees (finger)
• Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS/3B, Blue Jays (head): Scutaro, who was plunked in the head by Josh Beckett, returned to action Sunday.
• Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs (knee)
• Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners (calf)
• White Sox-Twins and Angels-Mariners are the only weatherproof games for Monday.
• Miami is the only city that could end up wet, with thunderstorms a possibility for most of the day, including a 40 percent chance of storms at game time.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.