Very interesting news out of Atlanta on Wednesday that could also hugely affect any fantasy baseball leagues in which you compete. The Braves lost their best hitter, Freddie Freeman, to a broken wrist on May 17. He was off to an MVP-caliber start and still won't return until after the All-Star break. Atlanta traded for Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams last month basically as a fill-in for Freeman, with Adams then presumably serving as a big bat off the bench or DH in interleague games. However, Adams has been hitting so well that Braves manager Brian Snitker remarked Wednesday that Freeman could shift to third base, a position he hasn't played since high school. He did play five games at third base in 2007 as a 17-year-old in the Rookie Gulf Coast League. If Adams does keep raking, this would make some sense as Atlanta's outfield is pretty much set and Adams certainly can't play third - which has been an offensive black hole for the team. Freeman is a good enough athlete to at least be league-average there defensively. Freeman says he is the one who made the suggestion. You have to appreciate team-first stars like that. Freeman has gotten his cast off and will spend the next couple of weeks re-acquainting himself to taking grounders from the left side of the infield. In fantasy leagues, that would obviously be huge that you could use Freeman as either a 1B or 3B.
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Rangers at Yankees ( -120, 9 )
This game should get boffo ratings in Japan early Saturday morning as it's two of the most popular and successful exports in MLB history on the mound from that country in this series opener. It's Yu Darvish (6-5, 3.35) for the Rangers, and he's a guy the Yankees surely would be interested in trading for and potentially signing this offseason. Darvish has been largely great this year but comes off allowing a season-high five runs in five innings of a loss to Seattle. Only a few Yankees have seen him. Brett Gardner eats Darvish's lunch, going 5-for-11 with four solo homers. Masahiro Tanaka (5-7, 6.34) also can become a free agent but might not opt to because his value is really low at the moment. He had another rough outing Saturday in Oakland, giving up five runs and three homers in four innings, although he did strike out 10. The Rangers' Mike Napoli is 7-for-13 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Rangers are 8-2 in Darvish's past 10 on the road. The "over/under" has gone under in his past five against the Yankees.
Early lean: Rangers and under.
Reds at Nationals (-260, 9)
Many thought the Miami Marlins overpaid in a trade for Cincinnati's Dan Straily this offseason. The highest-rated prospect the Fish gave up was Luis Castillo, and he'll make his major-league debut for the Reds here. They might as well go with a rookie considering their starters' ERA is by far the worst in baseball. Castillo earned the promotion from Double-A by posting a 4-4 record and 2.58 ERA with 81 strikeouts over 80.1 innings. Castillo was hitting 100 mph on the gun this spring with the big club. He will be the sixth rookie pitcher to start a game for the Reds this season and the 11th pitcher overall to start. Only two teams, the Mariners (12) and Mets (11), have used more starters. Washington's Stephen Strasburg (8-2, 3.28) hasn't lasted more than 5.1 innings in his past two starts. He often does that type of thing: dominate for a while, then go into a mini-funk where his control slips for a few starts. The Reds' Scooter Gennett is 2-for-5 with two dingers against him.
Key trends: The Nationals are 11-2 in Strasburg's past 13 series openers. They are 1-4 in his past five vs. Cincinnati. The over is 5-1 in Strasburg's past six against the Reds.
Early lean: Nationals on runline and under.
Angels at Red Sox (-185, 10.5)
MLB Network game. The Halos have lost closer Bud Norris to the disabled list. The journeyman former starter had been shockingly good after being forced into that role due to other injuries in the bullpen. Norris is dealing with knee inflammation. The 32-year-old has a 2.43 ERA with 11 saves over 33 1/3 innings this season. Manager Mike Scioscia likely will decide his closer for now based on matchups. The Halos are set to start Alex Meyer (3-3, 3.52). He comes off his best start of the year, six shutout innings and only two hits vs. Kansas City with nine strikeouts. It's his first career look at Boston. Sox DH Hanley Ramirez and 2B Dustin Pedroia are banged up and have missed some games this week so monitor their status. It's Rick Porcello (3-9, 5.05) on the mound. He has been gashed for 18 runs over his past three starts. That Cy Young is looking more and more like a fluke. L.A.'s Kole Calhoun is 6-for-12 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Angels are 1-4 in their past five in Boston. The over is 5-1 in L.A.'s past six on the road.
Early lean: Red Sox and over.
Astros at Mariners (-118, 8.5)
Seattle surprisingly activated shortstop Jean Segura on Wednesday. I say surprisingly because it was a day or two early. He has been on the 10-day DL since suffering a high ankle sprain on June 1. Segura was 1-for-3 against the Tigers and would be co-leading the AL with a .341 average but he's not qualified now due to the time missed. Meanwhile, ace Felix Hernandez will return from his two-month DL stint with bursitis in his right shoulder.Hernandez was off to a rough start this season, going 2-2 with a 4.73 ERA in five outings before being placed on the DL in late April. He is 0-4 with an 11.15 ERA in four starts vs. Houston dating back to 2015, including an Opening Day loss this year. Jose Altuve is a career .500 hitter against him in 26 at-bats. Houston's Joe Musgrove (4-6, 5.09) lost to Boston in his last start (5.2 IP, 5 ER). He is 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Mariners. Mitch Haniger is 3-for-4 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Astros are 4-0 in Musgrove's past four on the road. The Mariners are 8-2 in Hernandez's past 10 at home. The over is 5-1-1 in Musgrove's past seven on the road.
Early lean: Mariners and over.
Tigers at Padres (+100, 8.5)
The Friars expect good-looking young catcher Austin Hedges to return to the lineup Friday. He suffered a deep bruise on his right thigh in a home-plate collision with Anthony Rizzo in the sixth inning of Monday's game vs. the Cubs. Rizzo technically broke MLB's new rule on collisions but wasn't suspended - San Diego manager Andy Green thought he should have been. It's Luis Perdomo (1-4, 4.97) for the Padres. He comes off a quality start in Milwaukee (6 IP, 2 ER) but was a tough-luck loser. Perdomo has been a bit lucky this year as his BABIP is .328. No Tigers have seen him. Detroit's Michael Fulmer (6-5, 3.45) lost vs. Tampa Bay last time out, allowing three runs over 6.2 innings. He had his previous start skipped due to shoulder bursitis issues. Fulmer has never faced the Padres.
Key trends: The Tigers are 8-2 in Fulmer's past 10 on the road vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 6-2 in his previous eight series openers.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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