This week at fantasy baseball

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Editor's note: On Fridays, Baltimoresun.com will run a weekly column focusing on fantasy baseball during the regular season. Here's an early look at this week's debut column.

WHO'S HOT

  • Dmitri Young, Tigers: Early leader for American League MVP honors homered three times on opening day. Then again, so did Tuffy Rhodes in 1994.

  • Hideki Matsui, Yankees: A trendy sleeper pick for AL MVP, Matsui turned opening night showdown with Red Sox into 'Godzilla Gone Wild' with three-run homer and spectacular grab.

  • Josh Beckett, Marlins: Proved his sub-1.00 spring ERA was no fluke with six shutout innings, six strikeouts against Braves on Tuesday. Florida's ace is still only 24 years old.

  • Ryan Drese, Rangers: Led the AL with a 1.50 spring ERA; Looked sharp in opener and could have won, if not for a couple of bombs by Vlad Guerrero.

  • Xavier Nady, Padres: After the center fielder hit two homers on opening day, San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said he'll find a place for Nady to play. Fantasy owners should do the same.


    WHO'S NOT

  • Mariano Rivera, Yankees: Still pitching like it's last October – and that's not a good thing. Glad to see the Red Sox leave town after blowing two saves in as many days.

  • Javier Vazquez, Diamondbacks: Thinks he might be tipping his pitches after getting shelled in Arizona's opener. Owners hope his problems are that simple.

  • Braden Looper, Mets: New York's closer of the moment blew his first save opportunity without recording an out. A few more like that and he'll be out of a job.

  • Greg Aquino, Diamondbacks: One-time favorite for closer's job is soon to be buried in the Arizona bullpen. Lost ninth-inning role to Brandon Lyon, then allowed four runs in an inning in his first outing of the season.

  • Charles Johnson, Devil Rays: Dumped by Colorado, signed as a backup with Tampa Bay, then took a leave of absence. His fantasy appeal is fading fast.


    ORIOLES CLUBHOUSE

    The loudest cheers on opening day were reserved for Sammy Sosa, but the early returns were equally encouraging for Rodrigo Lopez and Luis Matos, two Orioles whose potential upside makes them interesting fantasy picks.

    Mixed leaguers could do a lot worse than Lopez, whose awful 2003 season is looking more like a hiccup than a downward trend. If his 3.59 ERA and 1.28 WHIP last season didn't get your attention, the six shutout innings he tossed against Oakland on Monday should.

    Matos tore up the Grapefruit League with a .373 average, and he kicked off his season with a home run in his first at bat of the regular season. If he can stay healthy – a big 'if' considering he's made it through a season without injury just once in the past four years – Matos has 20-20 ability.

    Catcher Javy Lopez left the opener after six innings with a sore back, a recurrence of an injury he suffered early in spring training. He returned to the lineup Wednesday, but this is a situation that bears monitoring. Lopez, 34, had 579 at bats last season – 90 more than in any of his previous 10 major league seasons. He could be wearing down a bit.


    THIS WEEKEND'S MATCHUPS

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    Ferguson officer's legal defense fund [Poll]

    As of early afternoon Friday, nearly $230,000 had been raised online from 5,756 donors -- including $1,070 from the Anne Arundel County police union -- for Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed, African American teen Michael Brown, sparking days of protest and unrest. Should the local union have contributed?

    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure

    PHOTO GALLERIES