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Weekly Planner: Fantasy owners, rejoice! Clayton Kershaw returns

Photo: Matt King/Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw is back, and he'll start two games in his first week back in the rotation.

The reigning Best Pitcher on the Planet is back this week, and he treats his owners to two starts. His fellow 2013 Cy Young winner also takes the mound twice. And in Clayton Kershaw's first start, he could face a challenger to his throne. Yeah, this is a great week for pitching aficionados.

Kershaw will make his first start in the U.S. this year on Tuesday when the Dodgers play their second of three games against the Nationals in Washington. He has made one start this year, holding the Diamondbacks to one run on five hits in 6.2 innings way back in their season-opening series in Australia while every other team in the majors was wrapping up spring training. It was after that start that Kershaw developed a back issue that caused him to miss all of April. His return likely means a reshuffling of the deck at the top of the pitcher power rankings, where Adam Wainwright, Jose Fernandez and Johnny Cueto have reigned this season. What's more, the Nationals will be getting a starter of their own back this week, as Doug Fister will come off the DL and likely start Wednesday. With Fister's return, the Nationals have yet to announce their rotation for the coming week, but we could very well get a Kershaw-Stephen Strasburg matchup on Tuesday.

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While he's still the best pitcher in the majors until further notice, Kershaw does not top the starting pitcher rankings for this week. That honor belongs to Max Scherzer, who makes starts against the Astros and Twins at home. Scherzer has again been lights out this year, posting a 2.08 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 1.05 WHIP and 51 strikeouts against 11 walks in 39 innings. And this could be a particularly strong week for the Detroit ace. The Astros have been abysmal at the plate, hitting .216/.290/.365, and the Twins, while posting a solid .341 OBP, are 20th with a .376 slugging percentage.

Scherzer could accomplish something this season that has eluded Kershaw in his career, and could remain out of his grasp after he lost five or six scheduled starts due to injury: winning consecutive Cy Young awards. With the strong performances of Wainwright, Fernandez and Cueto in April, Kershaw would have to potentially be better than he was last year to chase them down. Meanwhile, Scherzer has to be considered a favorite to take home the hardware in the AL right now, along with Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray. No matter what happens at the end of the season, though, both Scherzer and Kershaw are likely to delight their owners this week.

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Roster trends

Most added

Hector Rondon, Cubs -- Rick Renteria has yet to officially name Rondon the Cubs closer, but it's safe to say he's the team's man in the ninth. He saved his third game on Saturday, and now owns a 0.59 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 16/4 K/BB ratio in 15.1 innings. He's also young (26 years old) and cost-controlled, so he's not the type of guy the Cubs will be pressured to move at the trade deadline.

Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays -- Tornoto promoted Stroman to the big league club on Saturday, making him the first major pitching prospect to get the permanent call from Triple-A this year. He may initially pitch out of the bullpen, but chances are strong the Blue Jays will soon get him into the rotation. He had a 1.69 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 36 strikeouts against just seven walks in 26 2/3 innings at Triple-A Buffalo and should be universally owned.

Mark Teixeira, Yankees -- Teixeira is on a bit of a hot streak, having homered four times in his last five games. His season slash is up to .269/.406/.577, and he finally appears to be regaining strength in his troublesome wrist. He can be trusted, for the time being, in most mixed leagues.

Most dropped

Chris Colabello, Twins -- Might we have another Chris Shelton on our hands? The 30-year-old Colabello was one of the best stories of April, but the regression fairy has smacked him in the face of late. After Saturday's 1-for-4, he's just 7-for-45 with 15 strikeouts in his last 10 games.

Sergio Santos, Blue Jays -- Santos was finally put out of his misery and removed from the closer's role in Toronto. Since he doesn't strike many batters out, he no longer carries any value in fantasy leagues.

Adam Eaton, White Sox -- Eaton hit the DL on Saturday with a strained right hamstring. Even owners in shallow leagues probably shouldn't be dropping him, though, unless they're completely strapped for roster space. He's hitting .276/.363/.378, and already has 20 runs on the season thanks to his spot atop what has been an impressive White Sox lineup. He'll be right back in that slot when he returns from the DL.

Two-start pitchers

(* indicates stream recommendation)

1. Max Scherzer
2. Clayton Kershaw
3. Zack Greinke
4. Jeff Samardzija
5. Cole Hamels
6. Jordan Zimmermann
7. Matt Cain
8. Yordano Ventura
9. Tim Hudson
10. Homer Bailey
11. Scott Kazmir
12. Jose Quintana
13. Chris Archer
14. Jered Weaver
15. Shelby Miller
16. Nathan Eovaldi
17. Matt Garza
18. Martin Perez
19. Chris Tillman
20. Aaron Harang
21. Jonathon Niese*
22. Zach McAllister*
23. Drew Hutchison*
24. Roenis Elias*
25. Henderson Alvarez
26. Jarred Cosart
27. Jeremy Guthrie
28. Robbie Ross
29. Eric Stults
30. Kyle Gibson
31. J.A. Happ
32. Josh Tomlin
33. Edwin Jackson
34. David Phelps
35. Juan Nicasio
36. Robbie Erlin
37. Chris Young
38. Kyle Kendrick
39. Brett Olberholtzer
40. Samuel Deduno
41. Jordan Lyles
42. Matt Bolsinger

Teams playing seven games

White Sox

Cubs

Indians

Rockies

Tigers

Astros

Royals

Dodgers

Marlins

Twins

A's (doubleheader with Seattle Wednesday)

Phillies

Padres

Giants

Rangers

Blue Jays

Teams playing five games

Red Sox

Reds

Teams playing eight games

Mariners (doubleheader with Oakland Wednesday)

Weekday day games

(all times Eastern)

Wednesday

Giants @ Pirates, 12:35

Mets @ Marlins, 12:40

Dodgers @ Nationals, 1:05

Diamondbacks @ Brewers, 1:10

Mariners @ A's, 3:35

Royals @ Padres, 3:40

Thursday

Twins @ Indians, 12:05

Astros @ Tigers, 1:08

Favorable matchups

Angels (vs. New York Yankees, @ Toronto) -- The Angels start the week at home, hosting the Yankees for a three-game set where Masahiro Tanaka doesn't take the hill. After an off-day Thursday, they travel to the hitter's paradise that is the Rogers Centre for four games, though only the first three count for this week.

Indians (vs. Minnesota, @ Tampa Bay) -- The Twins have allowed the third-most runs per game this year, and own the third-highest ERA and fourth-highest WHIP. Any team that gets to play them four times in a week is going to have a favorable hitting schedule. The Indians also avoid David Price in their weekend trip to Tampa Bay.

Rockies (vs. Texas, @ Texas, @ Cincinnati) -- The Rockies play a pair of two-game series with the Rangers this week, with the first set coming in Colorado and the second in Texas. They wrap up the week with a three-game series in Cincinnati. That means they'll spend the entire week in hitter's parks, and despite playing four games with the Rangers, they will not face Yu Darvish.

Mets (@ Miami, vs. Philadelphia) -- A team could wind up in the unfavorable section playing these very same teams, but the schedule smiles on the Mets this week. They will not face Jose Fernandez, Cliff Lee or A.J. Burnett. They do start the week with Nathan Eovaldi and end it with Cole Hamels, but the four games in between make this a good week for Mets hitters.

Rangers (@ Colorado, vs. Colorado, vs. Boston) -- Like the Rockies, the Rangers benefit from the teams' home-and-home sets to start the week. The Rangers remain in Arlington over the weekend, hosting the Red Sox. They will face Jon Lester and John Lackey in that series, but playing two games at Coors Field and five at Globe Life Park should make their lives a bit easier.

Unfavorable

Dodgers (@ Washington, vs. San Francisco) -- The Nationals and Giants rank sixth and fifth, respectively, in ERA, and the Nats are second in FIP. The Dodgers will see Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Tim Hudson this week. That's about as challenging as a slate gets.

Pirates (vs. San Francisco, vs. St. Louis) -- Pittsburgh has struggled mightily this season, and it doesn't appear to get any easier for them this week. They start off with games against Matt Cain and Tim Hudson, then get the trio of Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller over the weekend. That's not quite as brutal as what the Dodgers get this week, but it's still a rough schedule.

Padres (vs. Kansas City, vs. Miami) -- First of all, the Padres spend the entire week at Petco Park. Secondly, they'll face Yordano Ventura, James Shields, Jose Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi in four of their seven games. That's bad news for an offense that has been arguably the worst in the majors this year.

Cardinals (@ Atlanta, @ Pittsburgh) -- After boasting one of the best offenses in the league last year, St. Louis is hitting just .243/.310/.364 this season. They've got a tough week of matchups ahead, as they'll get Mike Minor, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and the suddenly reborn Edinson Volquez.

Nationals (vs. Dodgers, @ A's) -- The Nationals have the unfortunate luck of facing Clayton Kershaw in his return from the DL, and they'll also have to see Zack Greinke in their three-game set with the Dodgers. They head to Oakland for the weekend, where they'll go up against Sonny Gray on Saturday and Scott Kazmir on Sunday.

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