It is, without a doubt, nearing the best time of year. Sure, kids are out of school, but that is not what is important. A month from today, baseball will celebrate another class being inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
While there will be many that argue the merits of Jim Rice, even yours truly as a Red Sox fan, no one can dispute Rickey Henderson's impact on the game. Rice likely gets in after the fall out with the performance-enhancing drugs scandal. Henderson had no such wait.
Every baseball fan needs to make the trip up to see this ceremony once. Last year, more than 50 living Hall of Fame players gathered to celebrate Goose Gossage and Dick Williams. They wander the streets of the village, take pictures with fans, and eat at some of the same places. It is truly just a baseball weekend.
The museum itself is worth the trip. There is simply just more to being there this weekend than any other. Atmosphere's can be hard to describe, but the stories that can come out of a weekend like this are endless.
With the crop of players coming due for induction over the next few years, plan a trip. You will not regret the journey to the Mecca of Baseball.
On to the notes.
- Brad Lidge has announced that he is ready to return to the Phillies bullpen. Lidge pitched a scoreless inning down in Florida, and feels that the knee injury that has bothered him since the spring can take the return to the mound. Do not expect an immediate return to the back of the bullpen. The Phillies could ease him in based on how well Ryan Madson has pitched. Within a week to two weeks, he should be recording all saves.
- Matt Lindstrom was placed on the disabled list last night by the Marlins. Lindstrom is expected to have to rest his elbow for a full four weeks before he can begin throwing. It is likely to take another two weeks beyond that. Look for Leo Nunez to grab saves in the short run for the Marlins.
- Nelson Cruz received a routine day off yesterday. The Rangers outfielder had played in the last 33 straight games, and had struggled dramatically in his last 12. Posting an average under .150, getting a breather was not going to hurt him. Look for Cruz to be back in the lineup tonight without issue.
- Matt Kemp continues to bat ninth in American League parks. Kemp hit ninth the last two nights, despite hitting in the seven spot when Manny Ramirez was in the lineup for the Dodgers. The situation should be watched when Ramirez does return, simply because we could see an adjustment in the approach Joe Torre is taking. Still, regardless of how you slice it, Kemp is not traditional nine hitter.
- After going 5-for-13 against Toronto, it looked like Jimmy Rollins was ready to come out of his slump. Unfortunately, Rollins has gone hitless since the Blue Jays have left town. That stretch puts him without a hit in his last 19 at-bats, and only hitting .130 in the last week. Cutting the cord borders on impossible in leagues that employ a no-cut list, but Rollins is tough to even consider buying at rock-bottom.
- How 'bout that Ricky Nolasco kid? No doubt, there was a good chance he was going to get better than he was in April and May, but his change has come from the manner he locates his pitches. It was seen against Boston, and the Orioles saw it last night. Nolasco worked seven innings and did not allow an earned run. He scattered seven hits and struck out seven more. He now has 25 strikeouts in his 25 innings since returning. Jump back on the bandwagon.
- This was a game of contact for Carl Pavano. The Indians pitcher gave up 11 hits and eight runs, yet only one hit went for extra bases. Still, Pavano has struggled drastically since his nice run to start the season. It is all about doing what is best for your roster, and that makes Pavano a spot starter, especially if he struggles to get the Pirates out.
- Now, this is more like what owners have come to expect from Matt Garza. The Rays starter worked through eight innings, after not being able to get through six in his last three starts. His command of the zone was much better, and that meant fewer hits and fewer walks. He did give up a home run, but nothing that meant much based on the score of the game. Great rebound after the Colorado start.
- Need a little power boost to your game? Adam LaRocheis still available in about 25 percent of leagues, and should be making owners take notice with his June numbers. For the month, LaRoche is hitting .357 with four home runs and 14 RBI. The Pirates do have problems on offense, but the addition of some youth is helping the cause. LaRoche will still hit 20-27 home runs this season, and he has raised his average to .267. That is up 20 points over his last ten games.
- The Reds have struggled against left-handed pitching this season, posting an average in the lower-third of the league at .251. Total runs and hits also fall into this bracket for the team, making Brett Cecil a decent start at home for the Blue Jays. While Cecil still is walking close to two batters every nine innings, he has shown good command at home.
- John Smoltzwill take the ball for the first time in a Red Sox uniform on Thursday against the Nationals. Smoltz has looked good in rehab outings, but this should be a find more for AL-only leagues until there is something proven. Keep him in your back pocket, and just remember that even a good result was only against the Nationals.
- Scott Baker has looked much better in June than he did early in the season. His last four starts show him with a 2-0 record, and he has not allowed an opponent to record more than three earned runs in those starts. Baker has done a good job against lefties all season, holding them under .200.
- This would be a good day for the Yankees to get Johnny Damon back. The outfielder is a .455 hitter against Derek Lowe in his career. Unfortunately, Hideki Matsui is limited to pinch-hitting duty because of his injuries and lack of mobility in the outfield. Matsui has hit over .500 against Lowe, so if healthy enough, he could see a start.
- Do not be shocked if David Ross gets a start behind the plate for Atlanta. He is 4-for-12 against Andy Pettitte. Keep Garrett Anderson and Chipper Jones in your lineups, as well. Both have hit the Yankees starter very well in the past. Pettitte has struggled in June, but has put up decent numbers on the road. Still, avoid him if you can.
- Avoid Jon Garland against the Rangers today. As a team, the Rangers are hitting over .300 against the Arizona starter, led by all their regulars. While Ian Kinsler is just 3-for-15 against Garland, no other Rangers starter will be a concern. Chris Davis is 3-for-5 with two home runs against Garland and Hank Blalock is 10-for-33. Garland has struggled at home this season, going 2-4 with a 7.23 ERA.
- Brian Bannister has posted two strong outings in a row against National League opponents. While his road numbers look rough, it is largely due to one bad outing where he allowed eight earned runs to the Rays. Take that out, and Bannister has been quite effective away from home. He has allowed just three earned runs in his last 21 innings pitched. Good spot start today.
- Clayton Richard will get the start for the White Sox against the Dodgers. That's not a good thing for the lefty, mainly because the Dodgers have just raked against left-handed pitching this season. Their .293 team average is one of the best in baseball. Look to stack the lineup with your Dodgers in this one.
- Ted Lilly has enjoyed tremendous success across the month of June, and has stymied the Tigers hitters that he has faced in the past. Teams do have a better shot at Lilly on the road, but his .241 BAA suggests that it is not much better. Look to avoid many of your Tigers today, especially lefties. They hit just .219 against Lilly.
- Spot Start: Jarrod Washburn, Smoltz, and Cecil (Bannister as an outside)
- Look to avoid Brian McCann and Chipper Jones against Josh Beckett on Friday. Beckett has owned both, holding McCann to 3-for-14 and Jones to 5-for-28 in their careers. Garrett Anderson is 9-for-20 against Beckett, and remains a good option in this one.
- Alfonso Soriano has gone 5-for-8 against Jose Contreras, including three home runs. After his day off on Monday, Soriano has looked better at the plate in the last few games. Do not worry about the fact his coaches are looking for him to be more patient. This zebra is not going to change stripes.
- Keep riding Wandy Rodriguez at home. The Astros starter, despite a bad outing at home against the Rockies, has a 2.15 ERA at Minute Maid in seven starts. Batters hit just .219 against him at home. This sets up a solid strikeout duel with Justin Verlander. Expect a low scoring affair in this one.
- Glen Perkins is a solid pitcher if he can get out of the first inning. After his three runs allowed in the first last time out, his ERA in that inning jumped over 11.00. The Twins starter is usually an intriguing spot play, but not so much on the road, especially against the Cardinals. Keep him reserved in this one, despite the temptation.
- CC Sabathia is on track for his start against the Mets. He threw a bullpen session and said that he felt good. This could certainly all change in the next 24 hours, but should it not, there are no major red flags against him in the Mets lineup. Gary Sheffield has the best numbers, and he has only hit .278 against Sabathia. The Mets are likely to score, especially if Sabathia is not 100 percent. Do not be surprised with a limited outing of five innings and three runs allowed.
- Spot Starts: Brad Bergesen, Randy Wells, Ricky Romero