Fantasy Watch: Pitching Woes

Things are looking up for Braves pithing as Mike Hampton is scheduled to return soon, and the signing of veteran Shane Reynolds. What effect will these moves have on your Fantasy Team?

Pitching woes have arrived in Atlanta this season. From a fantasy perspective, patience is the best remedy. Boring? Yes, but for most of the Braves pitchers, patience is the way to go Greg Maddux was eager to get back on the mound and right himself. He pitched six strong innings, only giving up two hits. He left with a stiff neck, which is not expected to be a serious problem. This game suggests a return to normalcy to for the team's ace. It doesn't mean Maddux won't face future struggles, but it is a good start. If for any reason you panicked and benched him, get Maddux active now, and don't panic again!

The other big news of the week is the signing of Shane Reynolds, who was released from the Astros after struggling the last three seasons and coming back from serious back surgery. Reynolds will start Tuesday in Puerto Rico, and I should point out many teams stayed away from him because of lost velocity. You do not want him active this week. Wait and see if he finds a way to pitch effectively again before considering picking him up. Leo Mazzone is a fine pitching coach who has had some great talents to work with over the past decade. But I do not think he is a miracle worker who can turn any pitcher into a Cy Young winner. Reynolds may be a nice surprise, or a big flop. I am leaning towards the big flop side of things.

There have been some suggestions in the media that John Smoltz will be moved from the closer role back to a starter. I find this very unlikely. Smoltz is a dominant closer and one reason he was moved to the position was to reduce the strain on his pitching arm, considering the serious injuries he has endured over his career. The alternatives for closing are few. Roberto Hernandez has the experience, but not the ability. He has pitched terribly this season, primarily giving up too many walks (7 walks in sox innings), and was not all that effective for the Royals though I admit he picked up his saves. I do no think the team is ready to give anyone else but Smoltz the job. A consistent Jason Marquis would be the best alternative to closing, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. Any sort of switch in the closing situation is not going to happen for a while.

Mike Hampton is due back April 19 against the Phillies. If you have him or are considering picking him up, I would wait and see how this start goes (unless like me you are feeling lucky). His calf appears to be fully healed, but it would be a surprise if Hampton is not rusty. I saw the Phillies offense in action over the weekend, and they are a tough lineup to get through. Paul Byrd's surgery went as well as could be expected though he is not slated to return until July. Do not waste a roster spot on Byrd.

Horacio Ramirez got roughed up in his last start but I would still keep him active in NL leagues. However, a couple of more bad starts and we could see Jason Marquis, Trey Hodges or even Jung Bong get a chance. Hodges pitched fine in his emergency start, though he didn't last five innings and was thus unable to pick up a win. He is not worth owning at the moment.

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