Bits: Ryan Howard set to return to bigs

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard singled twice and walked twice for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday, then announced he'd start for the big league club Friday night. Howard, who hit .417 over four games for the IronPigs, hasn't played in the majors since tearing his Achilles tendon last October. He's owned in 94 percent of ESPN standard leagues and should provide power, but at a greater risk of re-injury.

Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Michael Fiers allowed two runs over 7 1/3 innings Thursday, striking out nine. Fiers was outdueled by Mark Buehrle, but now boasts a 2.31 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 50 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. Expect some regression, as hitters should get accustomed to his odd delivery, but Fiers is a nice short-term add in deeper leagues.

Chicago White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana seemed a wise sit against the offensive-minded Texas Rangers on Thursday, but he went eight strong innings, allowing one run on two hits, striking out eight. Quintana has made eight starts and permitted more than two runs once. He's not the safest player for the season's second half, but as with Fiers enjoy it while it lasts.

Minnesota Twins outfielder Darin Mastroianni had three hits and three stolen bases Thursday, and he has stolen six bases in the past week. The 26-year-old reserve doesn't have much upside or a path to playing time, but it's possible the Twins will find a way to use him more. Mastroianni has stolen 214 bases over 578 minor league games, but offers no power. If you need speed in AL-only formats, take a chance.

Houston Astros right-hander Bud Norris allowed five hits and two runs over seven innings in Pittsburgh on Thursday, losing his fifth consecutive start. Norris is worth investing in for the strikeouts; he fanned six Pirates and has 88 strikeouts in 86 innings. His ERA and WHIP are inflated, and wins won't be easy to come by, but Norris is likely to keep improving.

Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia smacked a pair of home runs Thursday, giving him 13 on the season to go with his lowly .226 batting average. Arencibia, owned in a quarter of ESPN standard leagues, is on pace for 25 home runs and 80 RBIs, much like his 2011 campaign. In a season with power numbers down, anyone who hits that many home runs is worth considering.