Another bad break for Luis Matos could lead to a major shakeup in the O's outfield, but it doesn't have to. With Matos expected to miss six weeks, the Orioles could opt to trade for a center fielder, with Colorado's Preston Wilson or Mike Cameron of the New York Mets among the possible targets. But those are both highly unlikely scenarios, in part because both Wilson ($12.5 million in 2005) and Cameron ($7.3 million) come with hefty price tags.

The Orioles shouldn't be too desperate to add to an already adequate outfield rotation. They can make due for now with what they have, opting for some combination of Larry Bigbie, B.J. Surhoff, David Newhan and Jay Gibbons until Sammy Sosa comes off the DL. He's eligible to return on May 20, though the club hasn't indicated how much time it expects him to miss. Geronimo Gil also should get a few more at-bats, with Javy Lopez DHing when Gibbons plays in the outfield.

Newhan and Surhoff are both useful pieces and should be picked up in deep AL leagues. For fantasy purposes, Newhan will do a fair Matos imitation by batting .280-.300 with occasional pop and above-average speed. Pick up Newhan and you'll hardly miss Matos. Surhoff, meanwhile is just beginning to heat up with 11 hits in his past 32 at-bats (.344). As long as he's in the lineup on a semi-regular basis, he'll keep hitting over .300 and provide enough HRs and RBIs to keep his owners satisfied.

Keith Reed and Jeff Fiorentino were called up as insurance, but neither figures to have much of a role, and neither is worth picking up in AL leagues. Reed will likely be used as a late-inning defensive replacement or as an occasional pinch runner, a la Tim Raines Jr. He stole 16 bases two years ago at Double-A Bowie but was caught nine times. Fiorentino is a solid prospect, but he won't stick around long, likely heading back down when Sosa returns. Look for him to be a more permanent part of the O's outfield in, say, 2007.

And now a look around the rest of the majors:

Who's hot

  • Mike Sweeney, Royals: A rare find – a Royal worth owning. Sweeney is batting .485 with seven HRs, 12 RBIs in May; the rest of the Royals are batting .185 with six HRs, 15 RBIs in the same span.

  • Alfonso Soriano, Rangers: Adapting nicely to hitting in the No. 5 spot, Soriano doubled his HR, RBI output during the past week with five homers, 12 runs driven in.

  • Chase Utley, Phillies: Gradually putting platooning in his past. Utley won't spend much time on the bench the way he's going in May – .346 average, three home runs and a couple of steals.

  • Josh Towers, Blue Jays: Just like Baltimore's Bruce Chen, he won't overwhelm you with his stuff, but he's learning how to pitch with it to the tune of a 4-1 record, 3.12 ERA, 1.04 WHIP. Has allowed two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings over his past three starts.

  • Ryan Church, Nationals: Picked a fine time to heat up with Termell Sledge likely out for the year – Church is hitting .520 with two HRs, nine RBIs in his past seven games.

    Who's not

  • Jeff Bagwell, Astros: Considering Bagwell's history of shoulder problems, the 15-day DL looks like wishful thinking. The buzz is this could be the beginning of the end of the road for this Killer B.

  • LaTroy Hawkins, Cubs: Has been tagged with a loss in his past three outings; also lost his closer's job to Ryan Dempster. The Cubs faithful haven't booed one of their own so heartily since Sammy left town.

  • Jason Giambi, Yankees: Last year Giambi had a parasite; now he's become one – for a salary of $13.5 million, New York gets a part-time DH who's batting .195. Maybe he'll fare better at Triple-A.

  • Eric Chavez, A's: Oakland's offensive issues begin with their slumping third baseman, whose .557 OPS ranks among the worst for regulars, just ahead of Cristian Guzman, Ruben Gotay and Wilson Valdez. Not exactly esteemed company.

  • Vincente Padilla, Phillies: One-time All-Star has posted a 6.28 ERA, 1.67 WHIP in 15 starts since returning from elbow tendinitis in 2004.

    This weekend's matchups

    American League

    Baltimore at Chicago White Sox
    New York Yankees at Oakland
    Boston at Seattle
    Toronto at Cleveland
    Tampa Bay at Kansas City
    Texas at Minnesota
    Los Angeles Angels at Detroit

    National League

    Chicago Cubs at Washington
    St. Louis at New York Mets
    Atlanta at Los Angeles Dodgers
    Cincinnati at Philadelphia
    Florida at San Diego
    Milwaukee at Pittsburgh
    San Francisco at Houston
    Arizona at Colorado

    Fantasy mailbag

    Question: I am looking for the most likely AL minor league starting pitcher to be called up in the very near future. I have a decent group of middle men but am getting killed in wins and K's. Brandon McCarthy from the White Sox is already on a team's minor league roster, so it needs to be someone else. Any ideas? Anybody else the Yankees are going to trot out there?

    Answer: If you're looking for a quick fix, consider Texas right-hander Ricardo Rodriguez, who should the call any day to replace Pedro Astacio in the rotation. Rodriguez has a history of injuries and bounced around the Dodgers and Indians organizations before joining the Rangers last season, but he nearly won a rotation spot out of spring training and has gone 4-2 with a 2.30 ERA and 30 Ks in 43 IP at Triple-A Oklahoma of the PCL.

    If it's quality you're after, go with Seattle's Felix Hernandez, rated by Baseball America as the best pitcher in the minors heading into 2005. The Mariners don't have a spot for him right now, but that could change if he continues to put up solid numbers at Triple-A – Hernandez is currently 4-2 with a 2.75 ERA and 31 Ks in 36 IP Tacoma. The Mariners won't rush him – he's only 19, after all – but with no starter on the roster with an ERA under 4.50, they won't wait forever. When he comes up – which could happen in the next few month – you'll want to have him on your team.

    Cleveland's Brian Tallet (2.10 ERA at Triple-A Buffalo) could get the call soon to replace the struggling Scott Elarton, and Oakland could look to Seth Etherton (3.04 ERA at Triple-A Sacramento) if Kirk Saarloos doesn't improve soon.

    Also keep an eye on Toronto's Francisco Rosario (31 Ks in 32 1/3 IP at Triple-A Syracuse) and Minnesota's Boof Bonser (32 Ks in 33 IP at Triple-A Rochester), once a prized prospect in the Giants organization. Both are putting up nice numbers in the minors but don't have a clear path to the big leagues right now.

    Send your fantasy baseball questions to dalexander@baltimoresun.com.
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