It was a busy week in Major League Baseball as teams prepared for the second half of the season. Here's a look at some of the top names who have come and gone over the past week.
THURSDAY, JULY 15
Jason Heyward activated from the 15-day DL
The Braves’ rookie right fielder has wasted little time making himself known in Atlanta and throughout the baseball community. Voted in by the fans to start the All-Star Game at just 20 years of age, he was unable to participate due to a bruised left thumb. Through the end of May, he was hitting .292 with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs in just 161 at-bats, but his numbers took a hit when he tried to play through the thumb injury. By the time the Braves put him on the DL, his average had dropped to .251, and he added just one home run and seven RBIs in 94 June at-bats. Now that he’s had some time off to let the injury heal properly, his productivity will hopefully return. The Braves optioned infielder Brandon Hicks to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Heyward on the roster. Hicks was 0 for 5 in 13 games with the Atlanta.
Justin Morneau to the 15-day DL
The Twins lost their most productive player when he suffered a concussion after being accidentally kneed in the head by Blue Jays second baseman John McDonald on July 7. After missing a week and still experiencing “fogginess”, Minnesota opted to place him on the DL and send him to a concussion specialist. At the time of the injury, the 2006 AL MVP was hitting .345 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs. These injuries are unpredictable, so the timetable for Morneau’s return is up in the air. All is not lost for the Twins however, as the injury allows Jim Thome to get some extra playing time as their designated hitter. Thome has been productive, hitting .255 with ten home runs and 29 RBIs in just 145 at-bats. Michael Cuddyer will now move from right field to cover first base, while Jason Kubel moves from DH to right field. The Twins called up pitcher Jeff Manship to give them an extra arm in the bullpen.
Carlos Beltran activated from 60-day DL
Up until 2008, Beltran had been one of the most sought-after players in fantasy baseball leagues for about a decade. His ability to hit for power and steal bases, hit for a decent batting average, and score and drive in over 100 runs a season gave him value in all five of the most common fantasy baseball categories. Last season, however, he was limited to just 81 games due to a knee injury, and missed the entire first half of this year after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He did manage to hit .325 in his injury-plagued season last year, so he can obviously still hit when healthy. However, the Mets are going to take it easy with Beltran, giving him the occasional day off to rest his surgically-repaired knee. What this means in fantasy terms is that he likely won’t be as valuable as he has been, due to the reduced playing time. His ability to steal bases may also take a hit. Angel Pagan will now share playing time in right field with Jeff Francoeur, while also occasionally spelling Beltran in center. Francoeur is the most likely candidate to lose playing time due to Beltran’s return, due to his lackluster .253 batting average. Pagan is hitting a very respectable .315.
FRIDAY, JULY 16
Mat Latos to the 15-day DL
The 22-year-old right-hander had emerged as the Padres’ best starter (and one of the best in the league) through his first 17 starts of the season. During that stretch, he went 10-4 with an ERA of 2.45, a WHIP of 0.97, and 99 strikeouts in 106-plus innings. Unfortunately, a bizarre incident has landed him on the DL, as he strained a muscle in his side -- apparently while trying to hold back a sneeze -- last Friday in Colorado. The injury isn’t serious, and with the move being made retroactive to July 9, he could be back in the rotation as early as July 24. With the Padres trying to limit his innings to prevent him from getting overworked, this injury may not be such a terrible thing for him or the team. The Padres also lost reliever Mike Adams, who owns a 2.18 ERA through 42 relief appearances, to a strained oblique. They recalled relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri and outfielder Luis Durango to fill the two roster spots.
SATURDAY, JULY 17
Placido Polanco activated from the 15-day DL
Polanco has been about as consistent as a hitter can be during his Major league career. The Phillies third baseman owns a career batting average of .304 and hasn’t finished a season with an average below .280 since 1999. He has also been one of the toughest hitters in baseball to strike out during that time. This season was no exception, as he was hitting .318 with 39 runs scored when he landed on the DL on June 29. Polanco had been hit by a pitch in late April, and had been experiencing soreness in his left elbow since. He aggravated the injury, which resulted in his DL stint. Now that he’s back, fantasy owners can expect more of the same from Polanco – a high batting average, a decent number of runs scored, and little else. The Phillies gave veteran infielder Juan Castro his walking papers upon Polanco’s return, releasing him unconditionally. In 54 games with Philadelphia, he hit just .198, and became expendable due to the presence of Wilson Valdez. At 38 years of age, Castro’s playing days are numbered, but he’ll likely latch on with another team in need of some depth down the stretch.
Edinson Volquez activated from the 60-day DL
With Cincinnati battling the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central, this news couldn’t have come at a better time for the Reds. Volquez had emerged as a solid front-of-the-rotation starter in 2008, but lost most of his 2009 season after injuring his elbow and undergoing reconstructive surgery. More often than not, pitchers who experience these injuries take a while to get back to their previously-established performance levels, meaning that fantasy owners probably shouldn’t expect too much from him at first. However, he did manage to throw six impressive innings upon his return, striking out nine and allowing just one run on three hits against the Rockies on Saturday. Hopefully, this is a sign that his recovery is going better than can usually be expected. Regardless of whether he’s 100 percent or not, a pitcher of his caliber is still worth owning in pretty much all fantasy leagues. The Reds optioned lefty Matt Maloney to Louisville to make room for Volquez. He was 0-2 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts for Cincinnati.
Shaun Marcum activated from the 15-day DL
As expected, the Jays ace missed just over two weeks due to inflammation in his right elbow, and is now ready to continue shutting down his AL opponents. At the time that he went down on July 7, he was 7-4 with an ERA of 3.44 through 17 starts. He missed the entire 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but has shown no ill effects this year. Infielder Nick Green was designated for assignment to free up a roster spot, and Marc Rzepczynski was moved to the bullpen to accommodate Marcum in the rotation. Rzepczynski has since been optioned to Las Vegas.
SUNDAY, JULY 18
Scott Kazmir to the 15-day DL
Kazmir has been an enigma these last couple of years. He got off to a terrible start last season, posting an ERA of 7.11 through 12 starts before the All-Star Break. He then managed to turn things completely around, as he posted an impressive ERA of 3.27 in 14 starts after the All-Star Break and had a 1.73 mark in his six starts after being picked up by the Angels. This year, his pre-All-Star woes resurfaced, as his ERA is a terrible 6.92 and his WHIP is 1.64. He gave up a whopping 13 earned runs in his last start against Oakland before winding up on the disabled list due to shoulder fatigue. That fatigue might explain some of his recent ineffectiveness, but his previous woes suggest that he may have other issues that need to be addressed. Sean O’Sullivan was recalled from Salt Lake to take over Kazmir’s spot in the rotation in the mean time. O’Sullivan is just 22 years of age, and went 5-2 last year with the Angels, despite an ERA of 5.15.
MONDAY, JULY 19
Luke Scott activated from the 15-day DL
Scott has been one of the Orioles most productive players over the past couple of seasons. Last year, his 25 home runs were the most on the team, and he started this year by hitting .274 with 12 home runs and 31 RBIs in 223 at-bats through the first three months of the season. He strained his left hamstring while running the bases on a home run that he hit on June 30, which caused him to miss almost three weeks. Now that he’s back, the Orioles plan to use him exclusively as a designated hitter, and eventually ease him into some playing time in left field and first base. Just how much playing time he’ll get remains to be seen, as he wasn’t an everyday player even before he got injured. However, if the O’s can get him into the lineup fairly regularly, he should have some value. In order to make room on their roster for Scott, Baltimore demoted reliever Frank Mata. He had an ERA of 7.79 in 15 games with the club.
TUESDAY, JULY 20
Andy Pettitte to the 15-day DL
The 38-year-old lefty seemed to have found the fountain of youth this year. After four consecutive seasons in which he finished with an ERA over 4, Pettite was on pace for one of the best seasons of his career when he strained his groin on Sunday. Pettite had an 11-2 record and a 2.88 ERA at the time of the injury, and he is expected to miss four or five weeks. Sergio Mitre will come off the DL to take over Pettite’s turn in the rotation on Saturday, and may stick around unless the Yankees deal for another starter. Mitre was 0-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 12 appearances (two starts) with the Yankees earlier this year before straining a muscle in his left side in mid-June. He owns a career ERA of 5.39, meaning that his chances of being a valuable fantasy contributor are pretty slim. The Yankees recalled reliever Jonathan Albaladejo from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take Pettitte’s roster spot. Albaladejo appeared in 32 games last year for the Yankees and went 5-1 with a 5.24 ERA.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 21
Clay Buchholz activated from the 15-day DL
Boston’s young hurler was so impressive this season that he earned a selection to the All-Star Game. However, he strained his left hamstring during a start on June 26 and ended up having to sit out the Midsummer Classic. The 25-year-old Buchholz was 10-4, with a 2.45 ERA before the injury, but was a little rusty when he made his return against Oakland on Wednesday. During that start, he lasted just four innings and gave up five earned runs on six hits and three walks. He mentioned that the hamstring was not a factor, so hopefully he’ll be able to rebound and turn in a successful 2010 campaign. The Bo-Sox optioned reliever Dustin Richardson to Pawtucket to free up the roster spot for Buchholz. Felix Doubront filled in for Buchholz in the rotation and was sent down on July 17.