This week in fantasy baseball


There has been a steady parade of players coming up from the minors to join the Orioles in the past month - Jeff Fiorentino, Ramon Nivar and Napoleon Calzado, to name a few. None of them warranted more than a passing fantasy interest.

Unlike those players, who were brought in to fill an immediate need created by an injury, Baltimore's latest call-up, relief pitcher Chris Ray, is in Baltimore based almost exclusively on merit. Fantasy owners should take notice.

Ray, a third-round pick out of William & Mary in 2003, was mowing down Double-A hitters as Bowie's closer. At the time of his call-up, he had converted 15 consecutive save opportunities, struck out 37 batters in 32 2/3 innings and had a 1.10 ERA.

A converted starter, Ray throws a mid-90s fastball and a slider. He's got a powerful, herky-jerky delivery that allows him to hide the ball well until he releases it, not unlike the delivery of closer B.J. Ryan.

The Orioles plan to use Ray, 23, in low-pressure situations right now, until he gets comfortable. But he could find himself pitching in the late innings soon, especially considering the struggles of some of the O's top setup men - Steve Kline, Steve Reed and, more recently, Jorge Julio.

In deeper leagues that value strong middle relievers, Ray would be a nice addition. He also has the look of a closer-in-waiting. Didn't take Huston Street long, did it? With Ryan's contract up after this season, it's not a stretch to think that Ray could be finishing games for the Orioles a year from now.

And now a look around the rest of the majors:

Who's hot

Hee Seop Choi, Dodgers: A Twin killer, Choi had six home runs in three games against Minnesota over the weekend and had homered seven times in five games before Wednesday.

Carlos Lee, Brewers: Co-NL leader in RBIs (56) entering Tuesday's games is batting .409 with four home runs, 12 RBIs in 12 games this month. Giddy-up.

D.J. Carrasco, Royals: That's right, a Royals pitcher is hot. This probably isn't going to last, but Carrasco is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA and a matching 0.86 WHIP in three June starts.

Tony Clark, Diamondbacks: Steadily playing his way into the everyday lineup in place of Chad Tracy by batting .436 with five HRs, 11 RBIs in June.

Ervin Santana, Angels: 22-year-old righty has dynamite stuff. He threw a complete-game shutout against the White Sox last month and outpitched Livan Hernandez earlier this week. He'll get an extended look with Kelvim Escobar back on the DL.

Who's not

Tim Hudson, Braves: Facing former AL West foes Anaheim, Texas didn't do much for the ex-A's ace, who has a 7.90 ERA and a WHIP over 2.00 in three starts this month.

Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: Batting .174 in June, .295 for the season, and hasn't had a multi-hit game since May 31. Very un-Ichiro.

Mark Mulder, Cardinals: Has allowed 25 earned runs in 33 2/3 innings over his past six starts and a 10.00 ERA in two June starts.

Geoff Jenkins, Brewers: Stuck in an 0-for-22 rut, and his power numbers are way down - just five extra-base hits in his past 25 games.

Randy Wolf, Phillies: Just as Philly got rolling, the anchor of their rotation is staring at season-ending Tommy John surgery. Oh, woe is the Wolf Pack.

This weekend's matchups


Colorado at Baltimore

Washington at Texas

Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees

Pittsburgh at Boston

Milwaukee at Toronto

St. Louis at Tampa Bay

Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox

San Diego at Minnesota

Arizona at Cleveland

San Francisco at Detroit

Houston at Kansas City

New York Mets at Seattle

Philadelphia at Oakland

Florida at Los Angeles Angels

National League

Atlanta at Cincinnati

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