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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 6

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Much is uncertain about starting pitching for Fantasy Week 6 (May 5-11), but one source of uncertainty heading into Week 5 has been resolved: Clayton Kershaw will be back. Having spent most of the season to date on the disabled list with a back injury, the Dodgers' ace will make his return on Tuesday at the Nationals.

Owners can also be certain that there will be plenty of two-start options beyond Kershaw from which to choose, and some of those who are either on benches or waivers in a large proportion of leagues -- like Homer Bailey, Jonathon Niese and Robbie Ross -- are perfectly good alternatives for Week 6. At present, there are 40 pitchers scheduled to make two starts, and prospect Robbie Ray could join the fun depending on how the Tigers choose to replace Anibal Sanchez (finger). Ray, in fact, is already scheduled to start in Sanchez's place against the Astros on Tuesday, and if all goes well, he could get a second start on Sunday versus the Twins.

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There are several other pitching items of note for Fantasy owners to track between now and Monday's lineup deadline. Chris Sale (elbow), Wandy Rodriguez (knee) and Scott Feldman (biceps) all have a chance to return in Week 6, though the status for each is currently unclear. Doug Fister (lat) is expected to make his season debut Friday at the Athletics. If the Nationals go with a spot starter on Tuesday, that will likely push everyone back and spoil a potential two-start week for Jordan Zimmerman.

Chris Tillman and Jesse Chavez both line up for two-start weeks for now, but days off could allow the Orioles and Athletics to tinker with their rotations and push both pitchers back. Finally, Matt Garza could also lose a two-start week, but not because of a reordering of pitchers in the Brewers' rotation. Garza sustained a thumb injury in his last start, but as of Friday, he appears to be ready to take the mound for his next outing against the Diamondbacks on Monday.

Given all that is yet to be settled over the weekend, we could have a different-looking pitching landscape by the time Monday arrives, but for now, here's how the ranks of two-start pitchers shape up.

Monday update: Owners hoping to have their Sale dilemma resolved over the weekend will have to wait a little longer. He is set to throw a bullpen session Monday, and there may not be a timeline for his return by the time that lineups lock. It's probably best to sit Sale in standard and shallow mixed leagues this week. Though Ervin Santana is having his next start skipped due to a thumb injury, he is safer to start, as he is expected back by this weekend.

Unless Santana has to be skipped again, that will knock Aaron Harang from two-start to one-start status. Due to the expected return of Fister, Zimmermann will indeed make only one start this week. The anticipated return of Feldman could endanger the two-start week for Brett Oberholtzer.

Charlie Morton is currently slated for one start, but if Rodriguez is not ready to return from his rehab stint by Sunday, look for Morton to make a second start against the Cardinals. With the possibility of tacking that on to his existing scheduled start against the Giants, Morton is a reasonable last-resort pickup in standard mixed leagues. Drew Hutchison is a new addition to the two-start pitchers list, and only the potential insertion of Marcus Stroman into the rotation is likely to spoil that. Yusmeiro Petit has a chance at making two starts as well, but with Matt Cain (finger) eligibile to return fronm the DL this Friday, owners should count on only one start.

Tillman, Garza and Tomlin had their two-start status solidified over the weekend. Chavez's was not, but given Tommy Milone's continued struggles, it is highly plausible that the A's will not start him this week, keeping Chavez's two-start week intact.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

9. Homer Bailey, CIN (at BOS, vs. COL)

Bailey's season-to-date stats are still tarnished by his first three starts, when he allowed 13 runs on 24 hits over 14 1/3 innings. In the three starts since, Bailey owns a 3.60 ERA, and both that and his 1.35 WHIP would be lower if not for a .361 BABIP that has the look of bad luck. In short, Bailey is back to looking like the reliable pitcher he became last season, getting ground balls and whiffs fairly consistently. Though Bailey's matchups could give you pause, there's little reason to distrust him this week.

Start Bailey over the following one-start pitchers: Jon Lester, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano

10. Nate Eovaldi, MIA (vs. NYM, at SD)

Must start two-start options
1. Max Scherzer vs. HOU, vs. MIN
2. Clayton Kershaw at WAS, vs. SF
3. Zack Greinke at WAS, vs. SF
4. Cole Hamels vs. TOR, at NYM
5. Scott Kazmir vs. SEA, vs. WAS
6. Yordano Ventura at SD, at SEA
7. Chris Archer vs. BAL, vs. CLE
8. Jered Weaver vs. NYY, at TOR

Towards the end of last season, Eovaldi started making modest strides, finishing with a 2.53 ERA and 34 strikeouts over 42 2/3 innings in his last seven starts. No longer is Eovaldi's progress happening in small increments. He has busted out this year with a 1.02 WHIP, 35 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings and five quality starts to go along with a 2.58 ERA in six starts. Eovaldi has always thrown hard, but now he is doing it with far more deception and control. Detractors can point to a schedule that has included the Braves, Phillies, Padres and Mariners, all of whom have struggled to score, so if you're looking for reassurance, Eovaldi has nice matchups yet again with the Mets and Padres (again).

Start Eovaldi over the following one-start pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, C.J. Wilson

11. Jesse Chavez, OAK (vs. SEA, vs. WAS)

Chavez began to remake himself two season ago when he started throwing a cutter, and it's been effective for getting whiffs and grounders. In terms of runs above average per 100 pitches thrown, Chavez's cutter ranks 10th-best in the majors this season, according to the pitch value data on FanGraphs.com. The credentials that Chavez has established so far this season (1.89 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 50 percent ground ball rate) have the look of those for a must-start pitcher, but his lack of experience as a starter keeps him from that realm for now. It was reassuring, though, to see Chavez bounce back from a sub-quality start at the Astros to have his best start of the season at the Rangers on Wednesday.

Start Chavez over the following one-start pitchers: C.J. Wilson, Marco Estrada, Justin Masterson

12. Tim Hudson, SF (at PIT, at LAD)

Hudson has been an efficient innings-eater for some time now, but let this sink in for a moment: he has not pitched fewer than seven innings in any of his six starts this season and has not issued a walk in five of those. He's still not a strikeout pitcher, but Hudson is throwing strikes at a rate (69.4 percent) that no qualifying starter, save for Cliff Lee, surpassed a season ago. With all of the grounders that Hudson gets and all of the innings he pitches, owners shouldn't mind if he allows his fair share of contact, especially in a two-start week.

Start Hudson over the following one-start pitchers: Justin Masterson, Andrew Cashner, A.J. Burnett

13. Jeff Samardzija, CHC (vs. CHW, at ATL)

Having stranded 86 percent of his baserunners to date, Samardzija hasn't been all that his 1.98 ERA makes him out to be, but he is also likely better than the 3.83 ERA pitcher that xFIP would have us believe he is. In two of his six starts, Samardzija allowed a lot of contact (three swinging strikes against the Pirates, four swinging strikes against the Cardinals), but otherwise, he's been harder to hit. He has also been pitching with better control than he did last season, and perhaps best of all, he has limited opposing hitters to a puny .099 Isolated Power. Samardzija should do his part to provide strikeouts with a low ERA and WHIP; all we have to worry about is whether the Cubs will be start to provide him with some run support.

Start Samardzija over the following one-start pitchers: Andrew Cashner, A.J. Burnett, Dan Haren

14. Jonathon Niese, NYM (at MIA, vs. PHI)

Going back to last season, Niese has notched quality starts in eight of his last nine outings, and he has accomplished that by being stingy with walks and extra-base hits. Niese doesn't overpower opponents, but unless he's facing lineups that are especially selective, he should do a good enough job of keeping runners off the basepaths and runs from scoring. The Phillies have not been potent offensively, and while the Marlins have been, they also strike out a lot. Particularly with these matchups, Niese should not be much less productive than Hudson, as his success is based on a similar formula. Though he may allow more walks and flyballs, he actually presents a little more strikeout potential.

Start Niese over the following one-start pitchers: A.J. Burnett, Dan Haren, Hisashi Iwakuma

15. Chris Tillman, BAL (at TB, vs. HOU)

Tillman has developed into a decent source of strikeouts, and as a flyball pitcher with fair control, he has the potential to make an impact in WHIP. A 42 percent flyball rate has its downside, too, and we've seen it over Tillman's last three starts, as opponents have slugged .559. That has meant an exit before the end of the sixth inning in each appearance, leaving Tillman with a 7.63 ERA and 2.02 WHIP over that span. A start at Tropicana Field should help to take the bite out of Tillman's flyball tendencies, and the Astros remain a plumb matchup for all pitchers. Tillman is never an entirely safe play, but he would be a reasonable addition to your rotation for the coming week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Tillman: Justin Masterson, Andrew Cashner, A.J. Burnett

16. Drew Hutchison, TOR (at PHI, vs. LAA)

Hutchison's increased velocity has led him to put up a higher strikeout rate, much like the ones he posted in the lower minors. He has also shown good control over his last three starts, issuing only two walks over 18 1/3 innings. As control has not been his strong suit in the past, it's difficult to trust that Hutchison will sustain this trend. He could be a bit of a home run risk as well, given a mediocre 41 percent ground ball rate and a home start against the slugging Angels, who lead the American League in home runs and Isolated Power. Hutchison is still a worthwhile two-start option, but one with some meltdown potential in his latter start.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hutchison: A.J. Burnett, Dan Haren, Hisashi Iwakuma

17. Jose Quintana, CHW (at CHC, vs. ARI)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
21. Robbie Erlin vs. KC, vs. MIA
22. Matt Garza vs. ARI, vs. NYY
23. Henderson Alvarez vs. NYM, at SD
24. Chris Young at OAK, vs. KC
25. Kyle Gibson at CLE, at DET
26. Juan Nicasio vs. TEX, at CIN
27. Roenis Elias at OAK, vs. KC
28. Zach McAllister vs. MIN, at TB
29. Jeremy Guthrie at SD, at SEA
30. Jarred Cosart at DET, at BAL
31. Josh Tomlin vs. MIN. at TB
32. Kyle Kendrick vs. TOR, at NYM
33. David Phelps at LAA, at MIL
34. Jordan Lyles vs. TEX, at CIN
35. Eric Stults vs. KC, vs. MIA
36. Brett Oberholtzer at DET, at BAL
37. J.A. Happ at PHI, vs. LAA
38. Edwin Jackson vs. CHW, at ATL
39. Samuel Deduno at CLE, at DET
40. Mike Bolsinger at MIL, at CHW

After making some gains as a strikeout pitcher in the second half of 2013, Quintana was slow out of the gate this April. Though Quintana was far from awful in his first five starts, his swinging strike rate was a meager six percent and he recorded 22 strikeouts in 30 innings. There's nothing wrong with that rate, as long as a superb walk and/or ground ball rate compensates for it. Quintana hasn't walked many batters -- just 2.3 per nine innings -- and better yet, he got the Tigers to whiff at 16 pitches and strike out 10 times in his most recent start. If he builds on that, Quintana will be worth starting most weeks. His matchups against the Cubs and Diamondbacks alone could make Quintana worth starting this week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Quintana: A.J. Burnett, Dan Haren, Hisashi Iwakuma

18. Martin Perez, TEX (at COL, vs. BOS)

Perez did a little thing called regression after turning in three straight scoreless starts, despite recording only 13 strikeouts over 26 innings. On Tuesday, the A's ripped Perez for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings. It was a highly uncharacteristic start for the lefty, as he allowed nine line drives, five of which resulted in extra-base hits. There could be more trouble ahead, as Perez's average fastball velocity is down from where it was in early April, according to BrooksBaseball.net, and worse yet, he has to make his next start at Colorado. Perez has looked like a no-brainer as a two-start pitcher for most of this young season, and his penchant for grounders still makes him viable, but he's no longer a sure thing.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Perez: Dan Haren, Hisashi Iwakuma, John Lackey

19. Robbie Ross, TEX (at COL, vs. BOS)

Remember the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry's car gets a bad smell that he can't get rid of? That's what has happened to Ross' WHIP, which now is a putrid 1.44 after the A's pounded him for 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday. A month's worth of good starts might not be enough to remove the stench, but that doesn't mean that he can't help you with WHIP, not to mention ERA, wins and strikeouts, going forward. Even in that disastrous outing, Ross did a good job of getting grounders and throwing strikes, but he was done in by giving up hits on more than half of the balls in play (as well as by poor defense). The only thing preventing Ross from earning a spot in the upper half of this week's "bubble" list is his start at Coors Field, but he may miss enough bats (10 percent whiff rate) and get enough grounders (60 percent ground ball rate) to survive that. He's risky but still worth using, and he's highly available.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Ross: Hisashi Iwakuma, John Lackey, Tyson Ross

20. Shelby Miller, STL (vs. SEA, vs. TB)

Miller had been so effective through late August last season that most owners just became accustomed to leaving him in their rotation week after week. Aside from his first start of this season, Miller has posted a 2.17 ERA, so on the surface, there appears to be little reason to break the habit. A ratio of 26 strikeouts to 21 walks over his 34 1/3 innings in 2014 is a sign that something could be very wrong here. Miller has struggled to throw strikes in each start, and he has not been missing bats consistently enough. Even with a .242 BABIP, Miller's WHIP is an inflated 1.46, and an unsustainable 88 percent strand is what has kept his ERA from ballooning. You could take a flier on starting Miller and hope that he finds his command, but just be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Miller: Tyson Ross, Zack Wheeler, Lance Lynn.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Jayson Werth sits again for Nationals on Wednesday vs. Marlins
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:33 am ET) Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth was not in the starting lineup once again on Wednesday against the Marlins. Werth, who missed the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury, was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game, though no injury is being reported.

Michael Taylor drew the start in left field on Wednesday, batting eighth in the lineup for manager Matt Williams. 


Giants' Bochy on Panik and Crawford: 'It's fun to watch those two'
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:29 am ET) Giants skipper Bruce Bochy is loving what he's getting from shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Joe Panik, both in the field and at the plate. 

"It's fun to watch those two go, how they work together," Bochy said Tuesday, per MLB.com. "Craw is so gifted, and Joe Panik has made so much improvement defensively. They're so solid out there, offensively and defensively. They make the routine plays, and when you need a double play, they turn it as well as anybody."

The two continued their offensive prowess in Tuesday's victory over the Padres. Crawford, who was moved up to the fifth spot in the batting order, reached safely in all four of his plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and two runs scored. This was his third mult-hit performance in his last six games.

Panik, meanwhile, hit a solo home run, his second of the year, in the fifth inning. He went 1-for-4 on the evening. He has hit safely in four of his last five games.

"We have a great relationship," Panik said. "He makes my job easier -- just a great guy to play with. When you first get called up, a lot of emotions are running through you, the typical butterflies. The game tends to beat up on you. Then you look over at Brandon, and everything's fine.


Padres' Black on Derek Norris playing first: 'we're thinking about it'
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:20 am ET) With the Padres' recent call-up of prized catching prospect Austin Hedges, manager Bud Black has offered a potential solution to getting him in the lineup more often, while also playing current catcher Derek Norris. Black said Tuesday that Norris could start taking some groundballs at first base, and might see some time there this season. 

"It would just be against certain left-handed pitchers, we want to keep his bat in the lineup, like for a day game after a night game, or if he's caught consecutive games," Black said, per MLB.com. "Take the load off his feet from catching."

Norris has played just one game at first base during his career, and that was in 2013. But Black expressed confidence that Norris could handle a transition.

"It would be a gradual build-up of reps. We are working through this," Black said. "But he was an amateur third baseman. He has good hands, good feet and a good baseball mind. This will not happen quick, but we're thinking about it."


Cubs reliever James Russell makes season debut Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:05 am ET) Cubs reliever James Russell allowed one run on two hits in 1 1/3 innings during the team's 7-4 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday. After starting his career with Chicago, he was dealt to the Braves at the trading deadline last season. The Cubs signed him to a minor league contract last month, and brought him up to the team prior to Tuesday's game

"It's comfortable to be back," Russell said, per MLB.com. "It's a good feeling. The culture has kind of changed for the better. It's definitely nice."

Last season with the Cubs and Braves, the left-hander pitched to a 3.51 ERA in 33 1/3 innings. While pitching in Triple-A this season, Russell did not allow an earned run in seven appearances, and posted a 12:0 K:BB ratio.


Report: Diamondbacks could pursue C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:53 am ET) Now that catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has officially been released by the Marlins, teams are starting to do their due-dillegence on the veteran backstop in preparation for making a possible run to sign him. One of those teams could be the Diamondbacks.

"He's a player that we're going to talk a little bit more in-depth about," general manager Dave Stewart said Tuesday, per the Arizona Republic. "I have to see what our scouts are saying and talk to our internal guys, and if it makes sense then we'll make the next step."

Currently, the Diamondbacks have Tuffy Gosewisch as their primary catcher, with Jordan Pacheco as the backup. Neither one has swung the bat all that well this season, though Pacheco has five hits in his last 15 at-bats. 

"Although Tuffy has done a really good job defensively, we still expect a little more offense from him," Stewart said. "He may make those adjustments, but with that being said, we have to at least go through the process internally and see if Saltalamacchia is an option to bring here."


Mariners 2B Robinson Cano collects three hits in loss Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:22 am ET) Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano recorded three hits in five at-bats, including a double, and scored a run in Tuesday's loss to the Angels. Cano, who recently broke an 0-for-18 skid, is now hitting .320 (8 for 25) over his last six games. 

Cano is still trying to get things going in 2015, as the lifetime .309 hitter is batting just .261 on the year with only one home run and seven RBI. 


Tigers CF Anthony Gose records two hits, steals base Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(9:16 am ET) Making his third consecutive start for the Tigers on Tuesday, center fielder Anthony Gose recorded two hits, stole a base and scored a run in the 5-2 loss to the White Sox. Gose, who has mostly been in a platoon with Rajai Davis, has started five of the last seven games for manager Brad Ausmus, and seems to be taking a grasp on the bulk of the playing time.

Gose has been fairly inconsistent in recent games, hitting .259 with 10 strikeouts (to just two walks) over his last eight games played. 


Cubs' Kris Bryant using walks to contribute while searching for power
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(2:07 am ET) Although Kris Bryant hasn't hit any home runs yet, his batting eye remains locked in as he's using the walk to contribute, showcased Monday when he took four free passes, reports the Chicago Tribune.

"I’ve always walked a good amount," Bryant said. "My junior year in college I had a pretty good amount of walks, and I think that made me a better player, just seeing a lot of off-speed pitches, and it made me the player I am today. I'm just taking that same approach."

Bryant has 16 walks in 17 games this season.

Mariners' Logan Morrison reaches base four times, extends streak
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:02 am ET) Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison reached base four times and extended his hit streak to seven games Tuesday night against the Angels.

Morrison doubled in the second, doubled again in the fourth, drew an intentional walk in the sixth and singled in the eighth. He finished 3 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored in a 5-4 victory. Morrison has three games with at least two hits during his streak. He is hitting .500 (13 for 26) with three doubles, one triple, three homers, five RBI and six runs scored over his last seven games.


Angels 1B Albert Pujols uncorks fifth HR of season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:56 am ET) Angels first baseman Albert Pujols launched his fifth home run of the season Tuesday night against the Mariners.

Pujols took Seattle starter James Paxton deep for a two-run home run in the opening frame. He reached base three times and finished 2 for 3 with a walk, a single, a home run, two runs scored and two RBI in a 5-4 victory. He is hitting .239 with 12 RBI and a .314 on-base percentage in 25 games.


 
 
 
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