News: Ortiz's bat coming alive Views: The troubling part of David Ortiz's slow start is the strikeout rate (55 in 241 plate appearances). When he makes contact, he's still hitting the ball hard. Hardball Times has him with a line drive percentage of 23.1, higher than any season since they started tracking the stat in 2004. This seems to back up the Sox claims that Papi's problems are timing-related rather than a bat speed problem. It's not easy to get over the psychological ramifications of a slump, but it looks like Ortiz still has the physical ability to return to All-Star form. Verdict: You've probably run out of time to buy low on Ortiz. While he's not out of the woods quite yet, Ortiz owners should feel comfortable plugging him back into their active lineups.

News:Escobar heads for the 'pen Views: On its face, this seems like an overreaction by the Angels, as Mike Scioscia says Kelvim Escobar will stay in the bullpen for the rest of 2009. Escobar said he felt strong after a 92-pitch outing in his first appearance since 2007, giving up two runs and striking out five in five innings against the Tigers on Saturday. But there was some discomfort in his surgically repaired shoulder and the Angels aren't taking chances, though it seems the loss of Scot Shields played a role in this. Matt Palmer and his deal-with-the-devil-type line -- 5-0, 4.06 ERA, 1.15 WHIP despite what could charitably be described as back-of-the-rotation ability -- will reclaim a spot in the rotation. The 30-year-old minor league vet has been aided by an absurdly low .221 opponent BABIP through his first eight big league appearances after posting a 4.57 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over 2008 and two '09 starts in the Pacific Coast League. Verdict: If you're an Escobar owner in a re-draft league, you're probably out of luck. There's an outside chance Palmer's inevitable implosion could open a door later in the year for Escobar, but it's hard to picture Scioscia changing course. Escobar might not even see enough appearances out of the 'pen to have value in deeper leagues. As for Palmer, he's the mother of all sell-high candidates right now. If you can get anything of value for him, take it.

News: Shoulder issues for Maine Views: Why not? Everyone else on that roster is injured. According to John Maine, this is more of a dead arm issue than major damage, as he had beer league softball-caliber stuff in Washington last weekend. He'll miss his next two starts at least. Most likely, Fernando Nieve will move from the bullpen to take at least Saturday's start at Yankee Stadium (yikes!), though prospect Jon Niese (not ready) and journeyman Nelson Figueroa (not good at baseball) could be the long-term solutions in the unlikely event that Maine's shoulder problems are serious. Verdict: Maine owners will essentially go without him for a week, and if rest is all his shoulder needs, this could be a blessing. Nieve and Figueroa are only options for the most desperate of owners. If given a chance, Niese could be a productive starter late in the year but is barely worth a flier.

News: Scioscia "going to have to look at some changes." Views: Essentially, this is Mike Scioscia throwing out a series of empty phrases. "We need to get better, We need to play with consistency," etc. But this could be a precursor to the end of infielders Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez pointlessly toiling away in Salt Lake. The pitching staff has been the problem this season, but there's not a whole lot that can be done there. John Lackey and Ervin Santana are struggling coming off of injuries, and Kelvim Escobar has already been sent to the bullpen because of arm problems. With little in the Triple-A cupboard in terms of arms, a trade for a bullpen arm is pretty much the only thing they can do. The offense is top-heavy, with Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar contributing nothing in the bottom third of the order. Now, granted, Scioscia's solution to losing Vlad Guerrero earlier this season was to call up Wood, sit him, and give more at-bats to Maicer Izturis and Gary Matthews Jr. (who would rank seventh and eighth, respectively, in OPS among pitchers). But if Scioscia wants to make a change, getting Wood or Rodriguez into the lineup is the only logical change to make. Verdict: No need to make a move yet unless you have bench room to spare, but anyone desperate for middle infield help should have a finger on the button for Wood and Rodriguez. They likely both qualify at an MI spot in most leagues, and both have good power potential and are tearing up the Pacific Coast League.

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