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Return of the Jedi

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The All-Star game is behind us and we're down to around 12 weeks between now and the end of the season. That's just enough time for some of fantasy baseball's stars to get back on the field and help out your team.

The Mets' Jose Reyes (ADP 24), who has been other-worldly through the first three months, is expected to be back in the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Marlins. The best shortstop in New York, and everywhere else for that matter, has been a huge bargain this season, regaining the form that made him a first-round fantasy pick from 2006-2008. He's batting a league-leading .354 with 65 runs scored, 30 stolen bases and 32 RBIs in 80 games. That's top-five production from a third-round pick.

The Mets have another fantasy star about to return - David Wright. Wright is expected back on Friday. Though he's been nothing short of a disaster so far, he's a guy who can hit 25 homers and steal 25 bases in a season. A dozen of each over the final three months would certainly be of help, wouldn't it?

As if the hot Boston Red Sox needed more offense, they are about to see the return of their highest-priced, off-season acquisition - Carl Crawford. Crawford has done almost nothing to give you your money's worth on that late first-round pick you used to get him. That will continue. Manager Terry Francona is not going to break up the top of his lineup for Crawford, so he's not going to produce the numbers he did last season. In non-keeper leagues, I'd put him on the trading block right after he returns to see if I could get some value out of the pick.

Those Ryan Braun owners, who were afraid they were going to lose their star outfielder for a couple of weeks to the disabled list, should be happy that he pinch hit on Sunday and is expected to be in the lineup on Monday after missing the last few games.

On the mound, Josh Beckett started Sunday night's game after missing his spot in the rotation with a knee problem. Apparently it didn't effect his game as the hurler went eight innings, yielded just one infield hit, no walks and struck out six. His ERA is now down to a stellar 2.12 and his WHIP a league- leading 0.891. Beckett ranks third in the American League behind only Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver according to the TSN Starting Pitcher Evaluator (SSRD360) - not bad for a pitcher selected in the 14th round (ADP 163) on Draft Day.

The Red Sox are also expected to see the return of John Lester (left lat strain) a week from tomorrow (July 26). Lester has had a solid season, going 10-4 with an ERA of 3.31 and a WHIP of 1.207 before the injury. Be sure to get him back in the lineup for his first start.

For those fantasy owners who like to gamble, think Phil Hughes. Hughes, who missed 11 weeks due to an arm injury, improved on his first start back, going six innings in his last outing yielding two runs and striking out five. More importantly, his fastball has some velocity to it. His ERA is "down" to 8.44, but before you laugh, remember it was 13.94 when he went on the disabled list.

Ryan Madson returned to the mound on Friday, but not in the closer's role. That will eventually come, but the team is easing him back into the job. By the end of the month the Phillies may have Brad Lidge back as well, which could cloud the picture. Madson should be the team's closer, but Antonio Bastardo pitched well in the role and might still get a closing opportunity down the stretch if the situation calls for a lefthander.

Finally, Joe Nathan has returned to the closer's role in Minnesota. If he hasn't been picked up in your league and you need help in the saves category, you should put in a claim for him immediately. Nathan saved games on Saturday and Sunday, going one inning each day, allowing just one base runner. When healthy, as he finally appears to be, Nathan is a top-five fantasy closer.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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