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Pitching Planner: Contenders offer value at back end of rotations


Fantasy owners love following the hot hand. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. You see a pitcher going well, you jump on board -- regardless of which team he pitches for.

But fantasy owners are still best served following the big money, like the IRS. Ignore those still smoke-and-mirrors Pirates arms. Go with the back-end, fill-in guys from the blockbuster clubs.

It should be an interesting few weeks for the two biggest money franchises, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, at the all-important starting pitcher position. Mid-June tends to be the beginning of the trade season, and both of these high-rollers could use some starting pitching. They might even be competing for the same commodities on the trade market.

Heck, the Yankees look desperate right now, resorting to the likes of Brian Gordon. His story is similar to that of Red Sox farmhand Andrew Miller; yet, still very different (if that's possible).

Gordon, a 32-year-old journeyman, opted out of his Phillies contract after posting a 1.14 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 56 strikeouts to seven walks in 55 1/3 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season. So, he gets released from his Triple-A team and immediately gets signed to start for the Yankees, who lost another retread in Bartolo Colon (hamstring) to the DL.

Gordon is a great story, but Miller, 26, is the real potential prize for fantasy owners. The former No. 1 overall pick has righted his command issues in Triple-A and will be making a start early next week for the Red Sox -- against the offensively putrid Padres, no less. Good ... no ... great timing.

Like Gordon, Miller had a mid-June opt-out clause in his contract if he didn't get a call-up. Unlike the Phillies, the Red Sox weren't going to let a potential talent like Miller get away.

Miller has posted a 2.47 ERA in his 65 2/3 innings with Pawtucket, allowing just two homers and a measly .181 batting-average against. Sure, the 35 walks portend more command issues, but he has struck out 22 and walked just one in his past three starts (18 1/3 innings).

It is unclear what the Red Sox are going to do after Miller makes his start Monday. Usher him to the bullpen? Deal him for a marquee name?

But that one start is enough to add Miller in any fantasy league. Gordon, if only because he is getting starts for the Yankees, might be worth a look, too.

They hold at least as much fantasy value immediately as any of those surprising Pirates starters.

Now, on to the rest of our weekly report that breaks down all of the two-start pitcher options and outlines some of the fringy one-start matchups to take advantage of:

Outside of the obvious pitchers, here are some matchups to capitalize on this week and some to avoid, with the pitcher in question identified in italics.

Monday, June 20

Matchup to exploit: Carlos Zambrano, CHC (5-4, 4.59) at Gavin Floyd, CHW (6-6, 3.94)

Big Z has given up a lot of runs in his past two outings, but he has a bone to pick with the White Sox. It was against this team last season that started his downward spiral that got him ushered to the bullpen. Big Z doesn't have great numbers against the White Sox in his career (5-4, 4.97), but the hunch here is he kicks his slump and levies some payback. Don't sit Big Z with so few two-start pitcher options available to us this week.

Matchup to avoid: J.A. Happ, HOU (3-8, 4.95) at Derek Holland, TEX (5-2, 4.78)

You shouldn't need a good reason to sit Happ this week, but this first matchup against the Rangers in Arlington is a deal-breaker. Happ is 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA in his past three starts and hasn't won a game in over a month. That Astros offense won't promise to get him much support either.

Tuesday, June 21

Matchup to exploit: Josh Outman, OAK (2-1, 3.14) at Dillon Gee, NYM (7-0, 2.86)

The Gee-whiz show continues in New York. He draws a one-start week with a home matchup against the punchless A's. This doesn't sound like a time he will be in much of a danger of picking up his first loss. Gee isn't this good as a rookie starter, but clearly there should be said for his success the first time around the league. The A's have never faced him either, of course.

Matchup to avoid: Brian Gordon, NYY at Travis Wood, CIN (5-4, 5.11)

We said all spring anyone getting starts for the Yankees will hold fantasy value. It had worked swimmingly with Bartolo Colon and moderately with the likes of Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova. Well, we cannot hold the same level of confidence with a called-up starter that was recently released -- not traded -- by his former club. Gordon is merely holding this rotation spot warm until Phil Hughes picks up stamina.

Wednesday, June 22

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Matchup to exploit: Erik Bedard, SEA (4-4, 3.16) at John Lannan, WAS (4-5, 3.60)

We have tried to get you to trade Bedard before he reaches his 15-start, 80-plus innings threshold. It would be a good time to wait one more week. He draws the offensively weak Nationals here and looks like a must-start in all formats -- particularly with so few two-start pitcher options. Bedard was great his last time out against the Angels, and this Nationals start will merely be start No. 14.

Matchup to avoid: Brett Myers, HOU (2-6, 5.03) at Colby Lewis, TEX (5-7, 4.97)

Myers has had a disastrous campaign after enjoying a renaissance a season ago. It figures to get worse before it gets better. Like Happ above, a one-start week against the Rangers in Arlington is one big "No thank you" for fantasy owners.

Thursday, June 23

Matchup to exploit: Michael Pineda, SEA (6-4, 2.72) at Jason Marquis, WAS (7-2, 3.67)

Clearly, no one has given Marquis enough credit for his revival this season. His season hasn't slowed down as he is 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his past three starts. Sure, he has to oppose the irrepressible rookie Pineda, but he gets to do it facing that weak Mariners lineup at home in a pitcher's park. Marquis is valuable in mixed leagues now, we are longer afraid to admit.

Matchup to avoid: Daniel Hudson, ARI (7-5, 3.82) at Felipe Paulino, KC (0-4, 3.79)

Paulino hasn't lost a start yet and has a 1.62 ERA in his past three, but we still cannot hold enough confidence him in to advise you use him against the D'backs this week. As well as he has pitched, there is still a very good (bad?) reason he has yet to win a start. The Royals aren't going to support him and he won't pitch deep enough into the game.

Friday, June 24

Matchup to exploit: Dan Haren, ANA (6-4, 2.54) at Rubby De La Rosa, LA (3-0, 3.00)

De La Rosa came up with little fantasy fanfare because he came up in middle relief initially. He looks legit as a starter now, both short and long term. The Angels aren't playing good baseball, and De La Rosa can shut down this offense in their home pitcher's park behind this young flamethrower. De La Rosa looks like a solid addition in any mixed leagues, if he is still available. He is still owned in less than 20 percent of leagues, amazingly. Pick him up, pronto.

Matchup to avoid: Trevor Cahill, OAK (6-5, 3.42) at Cole Hamels, PHI (9-2, 2.49)

It hurts for this writer to say this, because we have been such staunch believers in Cahill, but this is a bad, bad time to be starting the struggling A's ace. Cahill is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in his past three starts and hasn't been any good since his torrid stretch through May. Cahill isn't a candidate to cut, like some fantasy advisors have suggested, but he shouldn't be starting against the potent Phillies on the road in that bandbox either.

Saturday, June 25

Matchup to exploit: John Lackey, BOS (4-5, 7.41) at Jeff Karstens, PIT (4-4, 2.66)

You might not be completely impressed with Lackey's pair of victories coming off the DL, but he is throwing around 93 mph and was able to run his pitch count up in his past start. That bodes well for his short-term returns, assuming his elbow soreness doesn't overtake him like they did for Daisuke Matsuzaka. A one-start week for Lackey at Pittsburgh looks favorable enough to own him and start him in any league.

Matchup to avoid: Lackey, BOS (4-5, 7.41) at Karstens, PIT (4-4, 2.66)

Let's stick with the same game here. Karstens has three consecutive quality starts and a season ERA well under 3.00. That doesn't make him trustworthy enough to use him in mixed formats against the offensively potent Red Sox, though. Karstens might have finally earned a full-time spot in a big-league rotation, but he remains on the fringe for fantasy leaguers. Fringe starters shouldn't be used against a team like the Red Sox if you can avoid it.

Sunday, June 26

Matchup to exploit: Carl Pavano, MIN (4-5, 4.20) at Chris Narveson, MIL (4-4, 4.48)

Don't look now -- actually, do take notice -- but Pavano is on a roll. He tossed his second complete-game victory in three starts Wednesday night and has a 1.44 ERA in that span. He is pitching deep into games and the Twins should have Joe Mauer (legs) in the lineup -- if not Justin Morneau (wrist). Pavano is a nice buy-low, two-start sleeper.

Matchup to avoid: Livan Hernandez, WAS (4-8, 3.77) at Gavin Floyd, CHW (6-6, 3.94)

Just when you think you have Hernandez figured out as a fraud, he goes and pitches a complete-game shutout Wednesday night. Well, he did it going into a two-start week. You'll peg him in your lineup for it and he then proceeds to get hammered and go 0-2. Leave Hernandez on the waiver wire. You'll wind up getting burned more than scoring in the long run. And you never can know which Hernandez you're going to get.

Eric Mack helps you plan your pitching staff every Friday at You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice on Twitter @EricMackFantasy. Hit him up. He honestly has nothing better to do with his free time.