Week 1 Pitching Planner
Our Eric Mack gets your rotation in order with his first official Fantasy Pitching Planner of the 2008 season.
We go around baseball's pitching staffs and Fantasy's two-start pitcher options every Sunday of the season in the weekly Pitching Planner.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Doug Davis (thyroid cancer surgery) is slated to start the third game of the season after Brandon Webb and Dan Haren . Davis will then have surgery and be out at least six weeks and perhaps for the season. Webb will be a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues, albeit in tough parks at Cincy and Colorado. Micah Owings and Edgar Gonzalez will follow as one-start options for deeper leagues. Randy Johnson starts the season on the 15-day DL but he is hoping to be ready for Davis' second turn in the rotation, April 8 vs. the L.A. Dodgers. Reserve the Big Unit in all leagues for Fantasy Week 1. Gonzalez was going to be a spot starter, but he will be full-time with Unit out now and Davis out after his one start.
Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz (shoulder) opens the season on the DL but expects to be ready to return Sunday, April 6 vs. the Mets. Tim Hudson will start on opening day and be a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Tom Glavine starts the home opener against Pittsburgh, followed by No. 5 starter Jair Jurrjens and Mike Hampton .
Baltimore Orioles: Jeremy Guthrie is the opening day starter, while the rest of the rotation rolls out Daniel Cabrera , Steve Trachsel and Adam Loewen to follow. Brian Burres beat out Matt Albers for the No. 5 spot and will debut Sunday after Guthrie gets his second start. Guthrie is an advisable two-start pitcher for deeper leagues, but the O's don't figure to give any of their starters a great chance to be a .500 pitcher for Fantasy owners.
Boston Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester started the two games in Japan and will start the first two games in Oakland. Josh Beckett (back) could be a candidate to start Sunday, April 6 in Toronto or he could be held out until the home opener April 8. If your league counts the two Japan games, Dice-K has a chance to be a three-start pitcher, also taking Beckett's turn in the last game in Toronto on April 6. Beckett is too risky to start in most leagues in Fantasy Week 1. Tim Wakefield will start the first game in Toronto, followed by Clay Buchholz . Bartolo Colon is currently in the minors and won't be a candidate until mid-April at the earliest.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Ted Lilly , Rich Hill , Ryan Dempster and Jason Marquis . Jon Lieber opens the year in the bullpen. Sean Marshall begins teh year in Triple-A. Manager Lou Piniella said the No. 5 starter would not be skipped for the Cubs, because he wants to "find out who our top three starters are."
Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle starts opening day, making him a two-start pitcher useful in deeper leagues. Javier Vazquez , John Danks , Jose Contreras and Gavin Floyd follow. Everyone except Buehrle will be a one-start pitcher and Vazquez is the only one you should really trust in a mixed league.
Cincinnati Reds: Aaron Harang is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Bronson Arroyo , a one-start pitcher. Dominican Dandys Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez also made the rotation, while Josh Fogg will slot between them. Matt Belisle (shoulder) opens on the DL and Homer Bailey opens in Triple-A.
Cleveland Indians: CC Sabathia is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Roberto Hernandez , Jake Westbrook , Paul Byrd and Cliff Lee follow -- although Lee won't be used until Sunday, April 6 after Sabathia makes his second start. Lee beat out prospects Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers for the No. 5 spot. Because the Indians are a top contender with a great offense, all five starters are worth considering in mixed leagues.
Colorado Rockies: Jeff Francis is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Aaron Cook , Ubaldo Jimenez , Mark Redman and Franklin Morales . Kip Wells opens in the bullpen; Josh Towers was cut and Jason Hirsh opens the year on the DL.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Kenny Rogers , Jeremy Bonderman , Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis , who would have to be the best No. 5 starter in baseball. With that lineup, all Tigers starters are solid options in all leagues on a regular basis.
Florida Marlins: Mark Hendrickson gets the opening-day nod and the Marlins will go with a four-man rotation until the No. 5 starter ( Ricky Nolasco ) is needed April 13. Rick VandenHurk , Andrew Miller and Scott Olsen follow. Consider Hendrickson and VandenHurk high-risk two-start pitchers for Fantasy Week 1.
Houston Astros: Roy Oswalt is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Brandon Backe , Wandy Rodriguez , Shawn Chacon and Chris Sampson . Veteran Woody Williams was cut and decided to retire this weekend. Oswalt is the only Astros starter who can be trusted in mixed leagues to start the season.
Kansas City Royals: Gil Meche is an advisable two-start pitcher in deeper leagues. He will be followed by Brian Bannister , Zack Greinke , John Bale and Brett Tomko . Jorge De La Rosa was cut and Kyle Davies opens in Triple-A. The only Royals you should be counting on in Fantasy are the first three starters, though. They are sleepers in almost any league.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jered Weaver is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues as the Angels' opening-day starter. Jon Garland , Joe Saunders , Ervin Santana and Dustin Moseley follow. Nick Adenhart lost out for the No. 5 spot, while John Lackey (triceps) is out a month and Kelvim Escobar (shoulder) might need season-ending and career-threatening surgery.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Brad Penny is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues, while Derek Lowe could also get a second start if No. 5 starter Esteban Loaiza is skipped. Lowe is likely worthy of starting in all leagues regardless, while Loaiza should be reserved if at all possible. Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda each get one start in Fantasy Week 1 as well. Jason Schmidt (shoulder) opens the season the DL with no timetable for his debut at this point, early May is a best guess.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ben Sheets is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues, while Jeff Suppan is best left for deeper leagues with his one start. Dave Bush , Carlos Villanueva and left-hander Manny Parra follow. Claudio Vargas was released. Yovani Gallardo (knee) is hoping to be ready by mid-April and will bump Parra or Villanueva in a couple of weeks. Chris Capuano (elbow) opted against a second elbow ligament replacement and will try to rehab, but he should be considered out of the season regardless at this point.
Minnesota Twins: Livan Hernandez is a risky two-start pitcher best left for deeper leagues. Francisco Liriano opens the season in the minors, while Boof Bonser , Nick Blackburn , Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker fill out the rotation to start the season. Bonser is a two-start pitching sleeper for Fantasy Week 1, especially as a third-year starting pitcher breakout candidate.
New York Mets: The Mets could open with a four-man rotation, but manager Willie Randolph has said he will use all five. Orlando Hernandez (foot) opens the year on the DL and Mike Pelfrey is the default No. 5 starter to open the season. Johan Santana is a must-start pitcher in all leagues, while Pedro Martinez could pick up a second start if the Mets decide to skip Pelfrey. Oliver Perez and John Maine are one-start pitchers useful in all Fantasy leagues on a regular basis.
New York Yankees: Chien-Ming Wang is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Mike Mussina , Phil Hughes , Ian Kennedy and Andy Pettitte (back). All Yankees starters are worth using in most Fantasy leagues on a regular basis, because of all that run support they should receive.
Oakland Athletics: Joe Blanton and Rich Harden started the two games in Japan and will also start the two games vs. Boston in Oakland this week. This makes Blanton and Harden three-start pitchers (March 25, April 1 and April 6). They are must-starts in all leagues even with just two starts, although your league might not have counted those first two games in Japan. Justin Duchscherer and Dana Eveland are the No. 3 and 4 starters, while the No. 5 spot won't be needed in Fantasy Week 1. Chad Gaudin (hip) hopes to be ready to debut April 12, which is the first date the A's need a No. 5.
Philadelphia Phillies: Brett Myers is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Cole Hamels , Jamie Moyer , Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton follow. Myers might be kept on his regular fifth day Monday and Saturday -- to allow him to pitch in the Mets series to follow -- but Eaton is still expected to get a start by Sunday, April 6.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ian Snell is the opening day starter and an advisable two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by Tom Gorzelanny , Zach Duke , Matt Morris and Paul Maholm . With the exception of Morris, the Pirates rotation is full of third-year starting pitcher breakout candidates.
San Diego Padres: With no days off in the first week, the Padres have a pair of must-start, two-start pitchers in all Fantasy leagues, Jake Peavy and Chris Young . Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf will follow them, while Justin Germano won the No. 5 spot over Shawn Estes , Wil Ledezma and Glendon Rusch . Ledezma and Rusch are in the bullpen, while Estes opens in the minors. Mark Prior (shoulder) is hoping to be ready in early June.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants will likely open the first week with a four-man rotation, so Barry Zito and Matt Cain are advisable two-start pitchers -- although Zito is more of a risk, we admit. Tim Lincecum and Kevin Correia will follow, while Jonathan Sanchez is expected to keep the No. 5 spot warm until Noah Lowry (wrist) is ready in April (best-case scenario). Cain will lose a second start if Sanchez takes a turn in Week 1. That likely isn't reason enough to sit Cain in any league, though.
Seattle Mariners: Erik Bedard is the opening day starter and a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues, despite his awful spring. A day off Thursday in Week 1 could have Felix Hernandez as a two-start pitcher as well, but the Mariners will give all five starters a turn in succession: Hernandez, Carlos Silva , Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista .
St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Following him will be Todd Wellemeyer , Brad Thompson and Braden Looper . Kyle Lohse late signing means he will make his debut April 6 after Wainwright makes his second start. Joel Pineiro (shoulder), Matt Clement (shoulder), Mark Mulder (shoulder) and Chris Carpenter (elbow) all open the season on the DL. Wellemeyer and Thompson are the first ones to be sent to the bullpen when the injured pitchers are ready in mid-April and later. Surprisingly, Anthony Reyes opens the season in the bullpen.
Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. Following him will be Matt Garza , Andy Sonnanstine , Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel . Jeff Niemann is the first of many prospects waiting in the wings, while J.P. Howell has been moved to relief -- perhaps for good. Shields is the only Rays arm we can advise trusting in most Fantasy leagues until Scott Kazmir (elbow) is ready in mid-April at the earliest.
Texas Rangers: Kevin Millwood starts opening day, but he is more of a questionable two-start pitcher best left for deeper leagues. Following him will be Vicente Padilla , Jason Jennings and Kason Gabbard . Luis Mendoza (blister) opens on the DL and hopes to be ready the first time the Rangers need a No. 5 starter April 12. Padilla gets a second start in Week 1 as the Rangers open with a four-man staff. He is a high-risk starter regardless. Brandon McCarthy (elbow, 60-day DL) will be out until at least early June at this point.
Toronto Blue Jays: Roy Halladay is a must-start, two-start pitcher in all Fantasy leagues. He will be followed by A.J. Burnett , Dustin McGowan , Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch . Each of them will get one start. Litsch is the only one we wouldn't really advise using in a standard mixed league.
Washington Nationals: Odalis Perez is the opening day starter, but he is a high-risk option for the deepest of NL-only leagues. He is the worst opening day starter in baseball. Matt Chico , Tim Redding and Jason Bergmann and a TBD follow him. Shawn Hill (elbow) might not be ready for April 6, but John Lannan could get a spot start up from the minors. We advise avoiding all the Nationals starters at this point.
|Two-start pitchers in Fantasy Week 1 (March 25-April 6)|
|Johan Santana||at FLA Hendrickson||at ATL Glavine|
|Jake Peavy||vs. HOU Oswalt||vs. LAD Loaiza|
|Justin Verlander||vs. KC Meche||vs. CHW Buehrle|
|Brandon Webb||at CIN Harang||at COL Redman|
|CC Sabathia||vs. CHW Buehrle||at OAK Blanton|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka ?||at OAK Blanton||at TOR? Litsch|
|Aaron Harang||vs. ARI Webb||vs. PHI Myers|
|Carlos Zambrano||vs. MIL Sheets||vs. HOU Backe|
|Roy Oswalt||at SD Peavy||at CHC Marquis|
|Brad Penny||vs. SF Zito||at SD Peavy|
|Jered Weaver||at MIN Hernandez||vs. TEX Millwood|
|Tim Hudson||at WAS Perez||vs. NYM Pelfrey|
|Roy Halladay||at NYY Wang||vs. BOS Buchholz|
|Chien-Ming Wang||vs. TOR Halladay||vs. TB Shields|
|Brett Myers||vs. WAS Bergmann||at CIN Harang|
|Chris Young||vs. HOU Backe||vs. LAD Penny|
|Jeff Francis||at STL Wainwright||vs. ARI Gonzalez|
|Erik Bedard||vs. TEX Millwood||at BAL Guthrie|
|Ben Sheets||at CHC Zambrano||vs. SF Cain|
|Adam Wainwright||vs. COL Francis||vs. WAS Chico|
|James Shields||at BAL Guthrie||at NYY Wang|
|Ian Snell||at ATL Glavine||at FLA VandenHurk|
|Joe Blanton||vs. BOS Matsuzaka||vs. CLE Sabathia|
|Rich Harden||vs. BOS Lester||vs. CLE Lee|
|Barry Zito||at LAD Penny||at MIL Parra|
|Jon Garland||at MIN Bonser||vs. TEX Padilla|
|Mark Buehrle||at CLE Sabathia||at DET Verlander|
|Gil Meche||at DET Verlander||at MIN Bonser|
|Tom Glavine||vs. PIT Snell||vs. NYM Santana|
|Jeremy Guthrie||vs. TB Shields||vs. SEA Bedard|
|Boof Bonser||vs. LAA Garland||vs. KC Meche|
|Rick VandenHurk||vs. NYM Martinez||vs. PIT Snell|
|Kevin Millwood||at SEA Bedard||at LAA Weaver|
|Livan Hernandez||vs. LAA Weaver||vs. KC Tomko|
|Matt Chico||at PHI Myers||at STL Wainwright|
|Vicente Padilla||at SEA Hernandez||at LAA Garland|
|Brandon Backe||at SD Young||at CHC Zambrano|
|Mark Hendrickson||vs. NYM Santana||vs. PIT Duke|
|Odalis Perez||vs. ATL Hudson||at STL Looper|
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: Pitching Planner in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.
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