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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

News and notes from Week 1

If you drafted Cliff Lee, you have issues. But it could be worse: You, like me, could have drafted Lee, Roy Oswalt and Francisco Liriano on the same team.

Let's take a spin around the horn with some news and notes from the first week of the season.

It's time to start worrying about Lee. The frustrating part is we can't do anything but bench him (his trade value couldn't be lower). It's way too soon to panic, but if your starting rotation is deep, I would consider sitting Lee next week, when he'll likely face CC Sabathia and the Yankees in the debut of their new stadium on Thursday.

Lee is 0-2 with a 9.90 ERA in his first two starts. Worse, he's allowed 17 hits (good for an opponents' batting average of .423) and walked five. His 2.20 WHIP is almost double his 2008 norm of 1.11.

More troubling stats: Lee didn't allow 11 runs in a two-game span all last season (it took him a week to accomplish the feat this April), he is coming off a terrible spring that has carried over to the regular season, and he didn't exactly close 2008 on the best of terms (Lee was 1-1 with a 4.98 ERA and 30 hits allowed in 21 2/3 innings in his final three starts).

Again, we have to wait this out. But you could say I'm not as optimistic about the Indians lefty as I was a week ago.

Keep Brandon Webb in your lineup. Yes, he was terrible in his first start (six runs allowed in four innings) Monday. Yes, he has a sore shoulder. But Webb expects to make his next start Friday at San Francisco, and an MRI of the shoulder concluded the problem is muscular, not structural, which is encouraging.

If you have a deep rotation and can afford to sit Webb, go for it. If you don't have much of a bench, keep him in your lineup.

Give Pronk a look. Tribe designated hitter Travis Hafner has two home runs and four RBI in four games. Pronk is batting .313 and seems to have some pop back in his bat after an injury-ruined 2008. Considering he had five homers in 198 at-bats last season, his early power surge would be enough for me to at least hope he was reverting to past form and insert him into my Week 2 lineup. The Indians play seven games next week, and three are against the Royals.

Free-agent fliers of the week: Marco Scutaro and Hank Blalock. The former is a one-time Tribe minor-leaguer who has never hit more than nine homers or driven in 61 runs. The latter is a former All-Star who has gone the way of Pronk the last two seasons.

Of the two, I would target Blalock first. The Rangers' designated hitter is eligible at both first and third base in ESPN leagues, and he's hit two homers and driven in five runs in his first 14 at-bats this season. Blalock was limited to 208 and 258 at-bats in 2007 and 2008, respectively, but he did total 22 homers and 71 RBI in the limited duty.

Blalock is only 28, and his numbers from 2003-05 (a combined 86 homers and 292 RBI, including a 32-homer, 110-RBI 2004 season) might at least fool us into believing he can mash again. He's owned in just 31 percent of the leagues on, but he's worthy of a starting spot in deeper leagues.

Scutaro, meanwhile, is an intriguing choice strictly because of his versatility (he's eligible at second base, shortstop and third base in ESPN leagues) and his surprising start. The 33-year-old is a career .263 hitter who has never reached double figures in homers, has only 21 stolen bases in 702 career games and tallied a career-high 60 RBI with the Blue Jays last season.

Call me optimist, but Scutaro's production (nine runs scored, two homers and five RBI in six games) is at least worth a look. In deeper leagues in which you need help in the middle of the infield, put in a waiver claim.

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