Unit hits DL again; Find a long-term replacement now

by Andrew Stewart on July 3, 2007 @ 14:26:55 PDT


Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Randy Johnson (back) has been placed on the 15-day disabled list for the third time this season.

Johnson, who has won the Cy Young award five times in his career, has had a disappointing 2007 season approaching the All-Star break due to his injury problems. The Big Unit started off the season with a couple of poor starts and spent time on the disabled list. However, Johnson turned around his performance in May with five starts, three wins and a 2.93 ERA. On the season, he is 4-3 with a 3.81 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings. Johnson returned to the disabled list in mid-June due to a herniated disc in his back and has made only one start since returning - a three-inning effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers June 28 in which he allowed six hits and four runs (three earned). No timetable has been set for Johnson's return.

Johnson, when healthy, has been dependable since his rocky start of the season. However, fantasy owners that have Johnson on roster have to be concerned with the Big Unit's durability; this marks Johnson's third trip to the disabled list at the season's halfway point. Because of his age and durability concerns, Johnson's trade value will be lower now than ever. If Johnson can rehabilitate his back and return to form, as he showed in May and early June, Johnson is worth stashing on the disabled list - especially in deeper leagues. Fantasy owners are advised to keep checking for updates on Johnson's status; if the Big Unit opts for surgery and/or has an extended stay on the disabled list, it might be better to release Johnson if a better option is available on the waiver wire.

The Diamondbacks recalled pitcher Yusmeiro Petit to start in place of Johnson Tuesday, July 3, against the St. Louis Cardinals. Petit, who is considered to be one of the Diamondbacks' better pitching prospects, has only one start for the Diamondbacks this season, in which he lasted seven innings and allowed four hits and two earned runs. He went 7-4 with a 4.09 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 83 2/3 innings with Triple-A Tucson. Based on those numbers, he isn't worth fantasy consideration at the moment.

Aside from Petit, there are a few other pitchers that are likely available on the wavier wire to use as replacements until Johnson returns. Los Angeles Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, a top pitching prospect for the club, has moved from the bullpen to a mainstay in the rotation. Billingsley has a 5-0 record on the season, with a 3.44 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He also has a great strikeout rate with 53 in 49 2/3 innings pitched. Billingsley is available in over 90 percent of fantasy leagues.

Some other available starting pitchers with more of a track record are Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer. Rogers, who has only two starts on the season, is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 0.58 WHIP since rejoining the team from injury in mid-June. While it is unrealistic to expect Rogers will maintain this pace, Rogers' home games are at pitcher-friendly Comerica Park and Detroit has scored an MLB-high 472 runs this season. Moyer is 7-6 on the year in 17 starts, maintaining a 4.25 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Moyer is available in 93 percent of leagues polled, and Rogers is available in 89 percent of leagues.

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About Andrew Stewart

Andrew Stewart has been a Hot off the Wire Analyst for KFFL since 2007.

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