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News » Short hops: Peña on Ice

Short hops: Peña on Ice

Short hops: Peña on Ice
Have you recovered from the NFL Draft?

It'll take a few days to fully digest, and we now begin the months of anticipation and speculation about the relative impacts that these players will have on their new squads. Don't worry. We'll have you covered.

While this weekend's draft and the continuation of the NBA and NHL Playoffs dominated the headlines, Major League Baseball chugged along with a veritable truckload of interesting games and storylines. Brandon Webb won his sixth game of the month. James Shields pitched the first of what will be many complete games for the upstart Rays. Two veteran fantasy studs, John Smoltz and Jorge Posada, face longer stints on the disabled list.

Fantasy forces: High yields

Edinson Volquez continued his hot start to the year with seven innings of one-run ball against the Giants. Volquez struck out a season-best 10 batters en route to his fourth win. He's still walking too many batters (three in seven innings in his most recent start) with 16 in 29 1/3 innings pitched. With that said, Volquez's huge strikeout numbers will help mitigate the damages sustained as a result of the free passes.

I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the brilliant start to the season turned in by Rays closer Troy Percival. The veteran hurler has completed nine shutout innings with five saves. Percival continues to pack a strikeout punch, racking up one strikeout per inning.

John Lannan of the Nationals has quietly been pitching lights-out baseball. Lannan owns a 19-inning scoreless streak and has surrendered just one earned run in his past 20 frames. During this period, the 6-foot-4 lefty has fanned 18 batters.

Don't look now, but Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia has rediscovered his magic. Sabathia entered his April 22 start against Kansas City with a bloated 13.50 ERA. He's turned the corner, allowing just one earned run in his past 14 innings pitched (0.64 ERA). Most impressively, Sabathia is punching out hitters in buckets, fanning 19 in his past two starts.

The Orioles have found a solid starter in Brian Burres. Burres has produced three strong outings in four turns on the hill (he was hammered for six earned runs by the Rays). The 27-year-old righty has pitched 13 2/3 innings of scoreless ball in his past two starts, allowing just eight hits during those outings.

Jason Giambi of the Yankees watched his modest four-game hitting streak fall to the wayside on Sunday with a 0-for-3 performance against the Indians. During the streak, Giambi batted .462 (6-for-13) with two home runs and three RBI. It isn't the monster run we've seen him put up in the past, but given his slow start, we'll take it.

Carlos Quentin of the White Sox has become a strong power option for owners, finally playing up to his minor league hype. Quentin has hit safely in seven straight games entering this week's series against the Orioles and has hit one home run with four RBI during this period.

Emil Brown of the A's has hit safely in 11 of his past 12 games. During this period, he's driven in 15 runs. Brown ranks second in the American League with 22 RBI entering Monday's game.

Fantasy flops: Trimming margins

Prince Fielder is feeling the heat for his power struggles, but J.J. Hardy is the player capturing my attention in Milwaukee. Hardy has been struggling at the plate of late, producing just four hits in his past 22 at-bats (.182) with one RBI. Hardy has not recorded an extra-base hit in his past 11 games.

Adam Dunn of the Reds has yet to find his power stroke in Cincinnati. He'll eventually go on a tear in Great American Ballpark and make his annual run toward 40 home runs, but this has to be disconcerting for Dunn owners. He's homered once in his past 10 games while driving in just two runs.

My preseason projections for Cleveland slugger Ryan Garko have yet to come to fruition. Garko has produced just a single hit in his past 24 at-bats and one RBI in his past eight games. I still believe that Garko will find his stroke and begin to crush the ball, but he's killing fantasy owners at the corner position right now.

The second half of April has been unkind to Carlos Peña, whose home run drought has extended to 13 games. During this drought, Peña has driven in just one run while batting .175 (7-for-40). Interestingly, Peña remains tied for the American League lead with six home runs.

Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals knows the date April 12 as well, as it was the last game in which he'd found the seats. Ankiel has driven in one run in his past 12 games, a stretch during which he's batted .209.

Barry Zito pitched well in the second half of the 2007 season, and it stood to reason that he might be able to carry that success into the new year. That certainly hasn't occurred. Zito did string together three straight solid outings, but he couldn't stop the losses from piling up. In his past two outings, he has been unable to escape the fourth inning, allowing 13 earned runs in his past 6 2/3 innings. He's allowed an astounding 41 hits in 28 2/3 innings and walked 15 batters. Zito's cutter isn't working and his fastball lacks the punch to compensate.

He's pitched well enough to keep the potent Red Sox in games, but Jon Lester has decimated fantasy lineups in his six starts. He has allowed three or more earned runs in five of his six starts (four earned runs allowed in four of them). Lester's walk rate has been abysmal (19 in his 31 2/3 innings), which has compounded the issues faced because his high hit rate.

Category kings: Who's riding high?

Each week, I'll break down my top performers in each of the standard categories. It won't be a simple regurgitation of the sortable stats. Rather, it'll take into account historical performance, current trends and expected returns. The season-opening ranks reflect my projections put forth in columns during the past month.

Injury updates

Posada has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career because of continued discomfort in his throwing shoulder. Per The New York Times, Posada wants to have his shoulder reevaluated, and surgery might be in the offing. Jose Molina assumes the full-time role behind the plate in his absence.

We talked about it last week, but Smoltz experienced discomfort in his shoulder once again. Smoltz will take a few days before trying to throw again, and there's been some speculation that he'll pay a visit to Dr. Andrews before it's all said and done. Tom Glavine will return to the hill on Tuesday night to face the Nationals. Glavine has been on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury.

Rising star Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks missed Sunday's game after tweaking his left hamstring against the Padres. The Arizona Republic advises that Upton is day-to-day, and the team is hopeful to avoid a stint on the disabled list.

It's not an injury update, but Mike Cameron of the Brewers is set to return to the field against the Cubs on Tuesday. Cameron had been suspended for 25 games because of a second failed test for a banned substance. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Tuesday will also mark Ben Sheets' return to the hill. Sheets has not pitched since April 18 because of a triceps injury.

Arizona infielder Chad Tracy is expected to begin an extended stint in the minor leagues. Tracy is recovering from knee surgery and will be brought along slowly given the Diamondbacks' early-season brilliance.

The Boston Globe reports that Mike Lowell will return to the team on Tuesday night following a stint on the disabled list with a thumb injury. Kevin Youkilis, who owns a strong .309 batting average, slides back to first base.

The St. Petersburg Times reports Rays starter Scott Kazmir will make his final rehabilitation start on Monday night. Provided that he does not experience a setback, Kazmir will rejoin the Rays to face the Red Sox this weekend.

Mark Mulder struggled with his control during his latest rehab start. He walked three of the first four batters he faced before settling down and completing five innings. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Mulder's minor league assignment may last the maximum 30 days.

Keep your eyes locked on for all of the latest player and team news.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 28, 2008

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