Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals: Carpenter said he felt fine after Wednesday's first start following a 15-month absence due to Tommy John surgery. "I feel fine," he told reporters. "I came out of it like I hoped to. Everything is on track." He might not be back all the way until 2009, though.
Yusmeiro Petit, Arizona Diamondbacks: Petit, 23, will take Micah Owings' spot in the rotation for now and might be worth a pickup in NL-only leagues. He has given up just two runs in 11 innings in two spot starts this season and a 2.55 ERA with an 18/5 K/BB ratio in 25 innings overall. "I've been able to consistently pitch down in the zone and throw strikes," Petit said. "Every year I've been able to improve more and more at being consistent with every pitch and working down in the zone." He posted a 4.58 ERA in 57 innings last year.
Anibal Sanchez, Florida Marlins: Sanchez, coming back from shoulder surgery, made his first start in 13 months going 5 2/3 innings. He gave up just two runs and six hits -- all singles. The 24-year old went 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA in five rehab starts after missing most of last season following shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Watch him, but be cautious. He also might not be back all the way until '9.
Jeff Karstens, Pittsburgh Pirates: Karstens, obtained from the Yankees last week, will finish the season as the fourth starter. The 25-year old was 3-5 with a 5.65 ERA in 15 appearances with the Yankees in '06-07. "He's a strike-thrower," manager John Russell said. "He has a couple different breaking balls, a nice changeup. He's always been able to command the ball. His first start for us, I'm not expecting him to go out and throw eight shutout innings. I'll be looking for the action on his pitches, how he competes, his mound presence, things like that."
Fernando Rodney has three blown saves lately for the Tigers, so newly acquired Kyle Farnsworth, could inherit the job by default. The 32-year-old veteran no longer throws 100 mph but he has 43 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings with only 17 walks and a 3.65 ERA. JoelZumaya is the closer of the future.
Joey Devine, 24, seems to be finally coming into his own this year (1.23 ERA in 22 innings with a 28/7 K/BB ratio) and could inherit the A's closer's role if Huston Street is traded. He's always had the stuff (mid-90s fastball, nasty slider) and demeanor to close with plenty of strikeouts and finally improved his control. He is currently rehabbing a minor elbow injury.
The Pirates closing situation is still up in the air. Tyler Yates, 30, pitched a 1-2-3 inning for his first save Tuesday night. He has a 4.05 ERA in 53 innings this year but with a 38/34 K/BB ratio and has been very inconsistent in the past (career 5.15 ERA in three previous seasons). John Grabow, unless traded, is still the favorite for saves. He has a 3.08 ERA in 50 innings. Denny Bautista and Craig Hansen, just acquired from Boston, are in the mix as well. The 24-year old posted a 5.58 ERA with a 25/23 K/BB ratio in 30 2/3 innings for the Red Sox. He has a pretty good fastball and slider but his command still needs a lot of improvement.
St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan said that Jason Isringhausen would resume closing as Ryan Franklin moves back into a setup role. He says he's seen "improvement in the way Izzy's throwing the ball. If I didn't think he could go out there and get the save, I certainly wouldn't agree." Some think that Adam Wainwright could be a closing candidate if he ever gets off the DL.
Houston's Chris Sampson has pitched well enough lately to give them confidence to possibly use him later in games. "The message was starting pitching and somebody to give Brocail some support in the eighth inning," GM Ed Wade told reporters. "With that said, we can't walk past the fact that Chris Sampson, Geary and some of the other guys have done really good jobs. The guy that has really stepped up recently is Chris."
Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox: Bay, 29, will be the everyday left fielder. He is batting .247-22-64. He has been in a slump, batting average-wise the last year and a half because he is being less patient at the plate. Still, Fenway Park's positive hitting factors help him.
Emiliano Bonifacio, Washington Nationals: Bonifacio, 23, was recalled to play second base and is worth considering in NL-only 4x4 leagues only for his speed. He was hitting .302 with 17 steals for AAA Tucson and went 14-for-31 for AAA Columbus after the trade to Washington. But he does not have any power and his OBP is too pedestrian for a leadoff hitter. He's hit just .200 in 35 major league at-bats. He stole 41 bases in the minors last year.
Josh Fields, Chicago White Sox: Fields, 25, replaces the injured Joe Crede just like he did last year. And while he hits for good power, he still strikes out a lot and struggles on defense. AL-only leagues should grab him for the homers but beware of a low batting average. He was hitting just .248-9-30 for AAA Charlotte while missing a few weeks with a knee injury. The tendinitis in his right knee could be a recurring problem. He is also still rumored to be on the trade block. He is worth a pickup for the power. He hit .244 with 23 homers for the Sox last year.
Casey Kotchman, Atlanta Braves: Kotchman, 25, was batting .287-12-54 with 24 doubles and has stayed healthy this year but has been terribly injury-prone in the past.
Andy LaRoche, Pittsburgh Pirates: LaRoche, 24, will play third base the rest of the way after he was obtained from the Dodgers. He played 27 games with the Dodgers this season, hitting .203 with two home runs. He has power but beware low batting average.
Andy Marte, Cleveland Indians: Marte, 24, will likely play third base the rest of the season with Casey Blake gone. He has some power but is just an average defensive player and strikes out a lot, keeping his average way down. He is batting .262 this month but .189 overall.
Brandon Moss, Pittsburgh Pirates: Moss, 24, will play left field over the last few months of the season after he was obtained from the Dodgers. He has a little pop from the left side. He batted .282 with 16 homers at AAA Pawtucket last year and could have some value in NL-only leagues. He hit .295 with two homers in 78 at-bats earlier in the year and .282 in 163 at-bats for Pawtucket. Denny Bautista could platoon with him vs. left-handers.
Steve Pearce, Pittsburgh Pirates: Pearce, 25, will play right field the rest of the way. He makes contact and has some power and should be able to keep his average up around the .280 level in the majors. Good pickup for the future as well.
Ramon Vazquez, Texas Rangers: Vazquez, 31, will play third base with Hank Blalock (shoulder) out for a while. He is batting .309-5-31 in 220 at-bats this year. He won't keep that up but he has been amazingly steady all season (He batted .230 last year).