Week 18 Pitching Planner

We go around baseball's pitching staffs and Fantasy's two-start pitcher options every Sunday of the season in the weekly Pitching Planner.

Staff reflections

Arizona Diamondbacks: Micah Owings returns to the rotation for a two-start week. He and Doug Davis each see favorable two starts at the Padres and Dodgers. Consider them sleepers in deeper leagues. ... Dan Haren , Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson are one-start pitchers in the seven-game week.

Atlanta Braves: Struggling Jo-Jo Reyes was going to be an option as a two-start pitcher, but the Braves used him in relief after a rain delay Sunday and likely will demote him to the minors. Chuck James is not going to be ready to start Monday, but Charlie Morton could get recalled for a two-start week, but only if someone is placed on the DL by the Braves -- a hamstrung Chipper Jones , perhaps? ... Hudson is a potential two-start ace, but a balky elbow affected him in his last start. He expects to make his start Tuesday, but there is no certainty he is completely healthy. Also, the sinking Braves might wind up being cautious with him, since he means so much to their team next year. Consider him a risk worth taking in deeper leagues. ... Jair Jurrjens , Mike Hampton and Jorge Campillo are one-start pitchers in the seven-game week. ... Hampton returned unspectacularly Saturday, but he will try to prove healthy and effective down the stretch, which makes him a sleeper for deeper leagues.

Baltimore Orioles: Jeremy Guthrie is the team's lone two-start pitcher, although a Thursday offday could allow Daniel Cabrera to go Tuesday and Sunday if the O's decide to skip or remove struggling young arms Radhames Liz or Garrett Olson before next weekend in Seattle. Cabrera is only slightly more intriguing in deeper leagues, because that first start comes at the red-hot Yankees. ... Brian Burres , Liz and Olson are tenatively slated to be one-start pitchers at this point, though.

Top 10 Pitchers Added
Player % Change
1. Joel Hanrahan , RP, WAS 31
2. Fernando Rodney , RP, DET 28
3. Roberto Hernandez , SP, CLE 24
4. Troy Percival , RP, TB 22
5. Chris Carpenter , SP, STL 21
6. J.J. Putz , RP, SEA 20
7. Shaun Marcum , SP, TOR 18
8. Ubaldo Jimenez , SP, COL 18
9. Carlos Marmol , RP, CHC 15
10. Tyler Yates , RP, PIT 11

Boston Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka is the team's lone two-start pitcher. ... Clay Buchholz , Josh Beckett , Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester follow as one-start options in the six-game week. ... With Justin Masterson not necessarily taking to a relief role, we could see a change in gears in Boston with Buchholz and Masterson switching roles in August, if the Red Sox don't add a potential setup man at the trade deadline. This is merely speculation, but Masterson and Buchholz are much better pitchers than they have shown lately.

Chicago Cubs: Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano are two-start pitchers at Milwaukee and vs. Pittsburgh. ... Ryan Dempster , Rich Harden and Jason Marquis follow as one-start options in the seven-game week. ... Kerry Wood (blister) could return later this week, but is not expected to be ready for the early week Brewers series. ... Jeff Samardzija had an eye-popping debut in relief, but his real Fantasy value lies in spring 2009 at this point. If he sticks around, it will be as a reliever down the stretch. There is a chance the Cubs can slot the former start Notre Dame wide receiver in Marquis' rotation spot, but a pennant race is a tough time to test a rookie arm when you have a high-priced veteran option. That is the significant difference between Samardzija's status and that of the Rays' David Price .

Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle is an advisable two-start pitcher, but we cannot say the same about Clayton Richard , who is slated to start Tuesday but could be replaced next Sunday by Jose Contreras . Consider Richard and Contreras high-risk options in Fantasy Week 18 (July 29-Aug. 3). ... Gavin Floyd , John Danks and Javier Vazquez figure to be one-start options in the seven-game week.

Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Cueto is an advistable two-start pitcher at Houston and Washington, two of the worst teams in the league. ... Bronson Arroyo , Edinson Volquez , Homer Bailey and Josh Fogg are tentatively slated to follow as one-start options in the six-game week. ... Arroyo actually could pick up a second start if the Reds choose to skip the struggling Bailey or Fogg after Thursday's day off. Consider Arroyo a more intriguing one-start pitcher this week than you normally would, because that second start at Washington is a very favorable one. ... Aaron Harang (elbow) is up in the air at this point and it is uncertain when the Reds will slot him back in the rotation. Because he has been out this long, it makes a rehab start likely, but Harang could replace Bailey and/or Fogg next weekend at Washington. So, one could be skipped and the other could be replaced by Harang at this point. Consider Harang, Fogg and Bailey too risky to use in Fantasy Week 18 (July 29-Aug. 3).

Cleveland Indians: Paul Byrd and Matt Ginter are two-start pitchers against AL Central contenders Tigers and Twins. We would advise staying away from those two this week. ... Cliff Lee , Roberto Hernandez and Jeremy Sowers follow as one-start pitchers in the seven-game week. ... Carmona was bad off the DL and faces a potent Tigers offense, so keep him reserved if you can. ... Lee is the only trustworthy Indians starter right now, especially since they don't project to score many runs at this point.

Colorado Rockies: They have a TBD right now for Monday night, which would be a two-start pitcher's spot. MLB.com reports Jason Hirsh is in line for a call-up from Triple-A, but he should be considered a high-risk option at this point. There is long-term potential here, but he hasn't been all that spectacular in Triple-A. ... Glendon Rusch , Aaron Cook and likely Jeff Francis (shoulder) are likely to follow as one-start options in the seven-game week. ... Francis struck out eight in his last rehab start and will likely take Jorge De La Rosa rotation turn Thursday. Consider Francis a sleeper in the second-half. He is a Fantasy ace when healthy.

Detroit Tigers: Kenny Rogers and Armando Galarraga are two-start pitchers at Cleveland and Tampa Bay. ... Nate Robertson , Justin Verlander and Zach Miner are slated to follow as one-start pitchers in the seven-game week.

Florida Marlins: Ricky Nolasco and Scott Olsen are two-start pitchers, albeit against top offenses of the Mets and Rockies. ... Anibal Sanchez was going to return early in the week, but Nolasco, Olsen and Josh Johnson are listed as the starters against the Mets. Sanchez could return next Sunday vs. the Rockies instead, which would take the second start from Olsen. Sanchez is too risky to use in any Fantasy leagues at this point, but he is a great sleeper in any format come August. ... Johnson, Chris Volstad and Rick VandenHurk are slated to be one-start pitchers in the seven-game week.

Houston Astros: Roy Oswalt (hip/back) is slated to return Monday and be a two-start pitcher. Use him with confidence in deeper leagues this week. ... Brian Moehler , Wandy Rodriguez , Brandon Backe and Randy Wolf are one-start pitchers in the six-game week.

Kansas City Royals: Zack Greinke is a two-start pitcher at the A's and vs. the White Sox. ... Gil Meche , Brian Bannister , Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies follow as one-start options in the six-game week.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jered Weaver (back) and John Lackey are two-start pitchers with tough matchups at the Red Sox and Yankees. Weaver's stiff back certainly adds to the difficulty in trusting him, while Lackey is too good to sit in any matchups in most leagues. ... Joe Saunders , Jon Garland and Ervin Santana follow as one-start pitchers in the seven-game week.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Hiroki Kuroda and Jason M. Johnson are slated to be two-start pitchers vs. the Giants and D-Backs. Kuroda is someone to trust, while the journeyman Johnson is not. ... Johnson is likely to only make two starts in the rotation at this point -- and he could even be replaced Sunday by a trade-deadline acquisition. ... Brad Penny might be made ready to return around the time the Dodgers open a three-game series in St. Louis Aug. 5, according to MLB.com. Don't use Penny in Fantasy Week 18 (July 29-Aug. 3), but he could return as a two-start pitcher thereafter. ... Chad Billingsley , Derek Lowe and Clayton Kershaw will be one-start pitchers in the seven-game week.

Milwaukee Brewers: CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets are must-start, two-start pitchers in all leagues, despite the relatively tough matchups vs. the Cubs and at the Braves. ... Manny Parra , Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan follow as one-start pitchers in the seven-game week. ... Defacto No. 6 starter Seth McClung , who platoons with Dave Bush in the No. 5 starter's spot, won't start this week at home, because he is slated for road starts. McClung likely next gets a start in Cincy on Aug. 5.

Minnesota Twins: Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins are slated to be two-start pitchers vs. the White Sox and Indians. ... Livan Hernandez , Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn figure to follow as one-start pitchers in the seven-game week. ... Where is Francisco Liriano you ask? Well, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports Liriano's Triple-A start Sunday night could be his last. There were reports he was a candidate to be pulled from that start to be called up to join the rotation. He could still make a start in Fantasy Week 18 (July 29-Aug. 3), especially if the Twins rotation doesn't show well in the early week series against the first-place White Sox. Stay tuned, and consider Liriano a high-risk start this week.

New York Mets: John Maine is slated to be the team's lone two-start pitcher at Florida and Houston. We say stick with the disappointing right-hander. He is much better than he has shown this season and could be due for a huge second half. ... Oliver Perez , Mike Pelfrey , Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana are expected to follow as one-start pitchers in the six-game week. ... Martinez is expected to return to the rotation Friday, but a Thursday offday (and another offday the following Monday) could allow the Mets to stick with a four-man rotation until Aug. 9 vs. Florida. Consider Martinez, amid his struggles, health issues (shoulder and groin) and dealing with his father's death, a risky play this week -- especially since the Mets won't need to use him. The only prevailing factor to expect Martinez to start Friday is that Santana finally pitched a complete game Sunday, needing 115 pitches to do it. He likely could use the extra day's rest at this point.

New York Yankees: Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner are two-start pitchers vs. the O's and Angels. ... A trade-deadline acquisition for the rotation is likely to bump Rasner from the rotation at this point, though. ... Joba Chamberlain , Andy Pettitte and Sidney Ponson follow as one-start options in the seven-game week. ... The Yankees might not trade for a Jarrod Washburn if Phil Hughes (back) and/or Carl Pavano (Tommy John surgery) prove effective at the start of their respective rehab assignments Monday and Tuesday. Each is slated to work just two innings in the Gulf Coast League, meaning they will need at least a few weeks to build up to a potential recall to the majors. Hughes is the much better bet for mid-August at this point, while Pavano might merely return as a long reliever.

Oakland Athletics: Dallas Braden is slated to be a two-start pitcher. ... Greg Smith , Sean Gallagher , Justin Duchscherer and Dana Eveland are slated to follow as one-start options in the six-game week. ... Gio Gonzalez is not a candidate for the rotation at this point, especially since he was pulled after just one inning last Tuesday.

Philadelphia Phillies: Brett Myers is a two-start pitcher to use in deeper leagues, especially since his two starts come at the lowly Nationals and at the struggling Cardinals. ... Jamie Moyer , Kyle Kendrick , Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton are one-start pitchers in the six-game week. If the Phillies add a starting pitcher at the trade deadline ( A.J. Burnett ?), Kendrick figures to be the odd man out of the rotation. Blanton could take his Thursday turn anyway after pitching just two innings before a rain delay Sunday.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Ian Snell is a risky two-start pitcher vs. the Rockies and at the Cubs. ... Yoslan Herrera , Zach Duke , recently acquired Jeff Karstens and staff ace Paul Maholm are expected to follow as one-start pitchers in the six-game week. ... Daniel McCutchen , a key piece in the Xavier Nady - Damaso Marte blockbuster, could get a September look at this point.

San Diego Padres: Greg Maddux is tentatively slated to be a two-start pitcher, but he could be traded after his first start Monday vs. the D-Backs. ... Chris Young (nose) is slated to return Tuesday and could be a potential two-start pitcher if Maddux is dealt. We do expect Maddux to be dealt before Thursday's trade deadline, but also, a Thursday offday could allow the Padres to skip Josh Banks turn Friday, giving Young another way to start twice Tuesday-Sunday. Consider Young slightly more intriguing in deeper leagues, since he could be a two-starter.

San Francisco Giants: Kevin Correia is a two-start pitcher at the Dodgers and Padres. A Thursday offday could allow the Giants to skip Correia's turn, but we don't see a reason for that at this point, especially since ace Tim Lincecum could use the extra day of rest after a 13-strikeout performance. ... Matt Cain would move up for a second start if Correia has to be skipped, but we think he will make just that one start against the Dodgers. ... Jonathan Sanchez , Lincecum and Barry Zito are one-start pitchers in the six-game week.

Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva are slated to be two-start pitchers at Texas and vs. Baltimore. Hernandez is the only one to trust in any Fantasy league at this point. ... Miguel Batista , R.A. Dickey and Jarrod Washburn are slated to be one-start options, but the trade deadline makes Washburn someone to watch. His next turn is Aug. 1, but he could be making his next start with a new team in Fantasy Week 18 (July 29-Aug. 3). Anyone the Mariners slot in the rotation in Washburn's spot this week would not be worth considering in any league. ... Erik Bedard (shoulder) won't be ready for more than a week at this point.

St. Louis Cardinals: Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer are two-start pitchers with tough matchups at Atlanta and vs. Philadelphia. ... Chris Carpenter returns from the DL on Wednesday, while Joel Pineiro and Kyle Lohse follow in the rotation. Carpenter is not a real good option in Fantasy Week 18 (July 29-Aug. 3), because he isn't expected to go deep into games at this point and has a tough matchup at Atlanta and opposing Rookie of the Year candidate Jair Jurrjens . The Cardinals are sliding and pushing the panic button on their former ace, but his return can prove noteworthy in all Fantasy leagues in the season's final two months. Before his latest Tommy John procedure, Carpenter was arguably the best pitcher in Fantasy Baseball. Two brief rehab starts are never enough for a Tommy John returnee, but the Cardinals are rushing him back on the eve of the trade deadline because it is pretty clear they will need his return to cover up the fact they cannot add a Harden (Cubs) or Sabathia (Brewers) like their chief rivals in the NL Central.

Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields is an advisable two-start pitcher at Toronto and vs. the Tigers. ... Matt Garza , Edwin Jackson , Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnanstine follow as one-start options in the six-game week. ... It should be noted David Price likely makes his next start in Double-A on Monday or Tuesday, which puts him conveniently close to working on Sonnanstine or Jackson's days come August. His arrival is not imminent yet, but if the race tightens up on the Rays in August as we expect, the temptation to use the elite lefty in a pennant race could be great. Sonnanstine or Jackson are Price's only real paths to the rotation, barring an injury.

Texas Rangers: Scott Feldman and Luis Mendoza are slated to be two-start pitchers, albeit risky ones best left for deeper leagues. ... Vicente Padilla , Matt Harrison and Eric Hurley are slated to follow as one-start options. ... Brandon McCarthy (elbow) and Kevin Millwood (groin) are not expected back until mid-August.

Toronto Blue Jays: A.J. Burnett is tentatively scheduled to be a two-start pitcher, but he is a candidate to be dealt before the trade deadline. He could make one start for Toronto and a second for a potential new team Saturday or Sunday. ... Roy Halladay would be a two-start pitcher if the Blue Jays need to skip Burnett's turn after a trade. Halladay is a must-start in all leagues regardless of the second start. ... John Parrish , David Purcey and Shaun Marcum are one-start options in the six-game week. ... Purcey will stick in the rotation for the rest of the year after Dustin McGowan had season-ending shoulder surgery. ... Jesse Litsch is the likely replacement down the stretch for Burnett if the Blue Jays decide to deal the veteran.

Washington Nationals: Collin Balester is a two-start pitcher to avoid, because of his matchup vs. the Phillies and Reds. ... Tim Redding , John Lannan , Odalis Perez and Jason Bergmann follow as one-start pitchers in the six-game week.

Fantasy Week 18 (July 29-Aug. 3)

This week's potential two-start pitchers
Must-start options
Pitcher Start No. 1 Start No. 2
CC Sabathia vs CHC Lilly at ATL Morton?
Ben Sheets vs CHC Zambrano at ATL Hudson
Carlos Zambrano at MIL Sheets vs PIT Snell
Daisuke Matsuzaka vs LAA Weaver vs OAK Braden
James Shields at TOR Burnett vs DET Galarraga
Felix Hernandez at TEX Feldman vs BAL Olson
John Lackey at BOS Buchholz at NYY Rasner
Mike Mussina vs BAL Guthrie vs LAA Weaver
John Maine at FLA Nolasco at HOU Oswalt
Mark Buehrle at MIN Slowey at KC Davies
Advisable options
Pitcher Start No. 1 Start No. 2
A.J. Burnett vs TB Shields at TEX Mendoza
Ted Lilly at MIL Sabathia vs PIT Maholm
Tim Hudson vs STL Wellemeyer vs MIL Sheets
Johnny Cueto at HOU Oswalt at WAS Balester
Roy Oswalt vs CIN Cueto vs NYM Maine
Brett Myers at WAS Balester at STL Wellemeyer
Questionable options
Pitcher Start No. 1 Start No. 2
Jered Weaver at BOS Matsuzaka at NYY Mussina
Ricky Nolasco vs NYM Maine vs COL Hirsh?
Zack Greinke at OAK Braden vs CHW Richard
Jeremy Guthrie at NYY Mussina at SEA Silva
Armando Galarraga at CLE Ginter at TB Shields
Todd Wellemeyer at ATL Hudson vs PHI Myers
Hiroki Kuroda vs SF Correia vs ARI Owings
Greg Maddux vs ARI Owings vs SF Correia
Kenny Rogers at CLE Byrd at TB Sonnanstine
Scott Olsen vs NYM Perez vs COL Rusch
Glen Perkins vs CHW Richard vs CLE Ginter
Braden Looper at ATL Morton? vs PHI Blanton
Kevin Slowey vs CHW Buehrle vs CLE Byrd
Micah Owings at SD Maddux at LAD Kuroda
Doug Davis at SD Young at LAD Johnson?
Darrell Rasner vs BAL Cabrera vs LAA Lackey
Ian Snell vs COL Hirsh at CHC Zambrano
Dallas Braden vs KC Greinke at BOS Matsuzaka
High-risk options
Pitcher Start No. 1 Start No. 2
Paul Byrd vs DET Rogers at MIN Slowey
Glendon Rusch at PIT Herrera at FLA Olsen
Carlos Silva at TEX Mendoza vs BAL Guthrie
Charlie Morton ? vs STL Looper vs MIL Sabathia
Kevin Correia at LAD Kuroda at SD Maddux
Clayton Richard at MIN Perkins at KC Greinke
Matt Ginter vs DET Galarraga at MIN Perkins?
Luis Mendoza vs SEA Silva vs TOR Burnett
Scott Feldman vs SEA Hernandez vs TOR Marcum
Collin Balester vs PHI Myers vs CIN Cueto
Jason M. Johnson vs SF Cain vs ARI Davis
Jason Hirsh ? at PIT Snell at FLA Nolasco

Pitch a question

Ro, Sunnyvale, Calif.: In need of help for setting up my Week 18 lineup. I just finished off a couple of trades that significantly upgraded my staff, but now I think I should start dealing some more or else I'll be in this situation every Sunday. We have seven spots (five starting pitchers and two relief pitchers) in our points-based league and my must-starts are: Verlander, Volquez, Zambrano and Jonathan Papelbon . That leaves three spots left for Joakim Soria , Chamberlain (RP-eligible), Marcum (RP-eligible), a two-start Greinke (RP-eligible) and a two-start Weaver. Who should I start and who is expendable?

Emack: Chamberlain should be added to your must-start list either as a reliever or starter on a weekly basis. Your weekly decision should be between the reliever Soria or Weaver. Since Weaver has a back issue and is facing the Red Sox and Yankees, go with Soria. The other guys are expendable. You might even want to deal off Soria if so-so two-start pitchers tend to score more points than a closer on a bad team.

Kevin J. LeBlanc, Southbridge, Mass.: I'm in a 10-team, mixed, 5x5 Rotisserie Fantasy Baseball league and I need pitchers. Out of Barry Zito , Nick Blackburn , John Lannan , Doug Davis , Edwin Jackson , Paul Maholm , Brett Myers , Daniel Cabrera , Pedro Martinez , Ubaldo Jimenez , Jason Bergmann or Jorge Campilla, who are the two best overall pitchers to pick up?

Emack: You need potential studs in a 10-team league. Myers could prove to be that in the second half for a Phillies team that will get hot, so maybe he will, too. Jimenez or Pedro Martinez are the only other potentially elite options. Go with Myers and Pedro, but keep Jimenez in mind because the Rockies have a monster offense that can get real hot in the second half and make a big winner out of Jimenez.

Ken Stanley: I'm in a 12-team, NL-only, 5x5 Rotisserie league. My offense is great, but my pitching stinks. I traded for Webb and Sheets, but my other starters (Duke, Randy Johnson , Reyes, Snell and Wolf) seem to continually ruin their good starts, not allowing me to improve my pitching stats. I've got the minimum innings covered. Is it time to dump a few of those starters and pick up some quality WHIP-ERA guys instead? A few that are available are: Chad Gaudin , Saul Rivera , Kyle McClellan , Blaine Boyer , Doug Waechter , Ryan Madson and Mike Lincoln . Any thoughts? Stat-wise I might lose four points in strikeouts, but I'm in last place in WHIP and ninth in ERA.

Emack: Absolutely. Dump Reyes immediately. He is garbage. Duke, Snell and Wolf are on bad teams and at best so-so starters. McClellan is real good to help in deep Rotisserie leagues and you might also consider Madson and Lincoln.

You can e-mail Emack your Fantasy Baseball pitching 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.

Crave freelancer Eric Mack is a writer, radio producer, and podcaster based in Taos, N.M., but he lives in Google+. He's also managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org... Full Bio

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