Know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em

A wise man once sang, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em.”

That man was Kenny Rogers — not the former big league pitcher, but the country music singing-songwriting icon and the genius who brought us Kenny Rogers Roasters. And while his famed lyrics from “The Gambler” are about a poker player, they can easily be applied to fantasy baseball.

In our game, timing is everything. You’ve got to know when to hold on to a player and when to deal him away while his value is at its highest point. So do Kenny proud and follow his advice with these guys:

n Trevor Hoffman is having an amazing season at age 41. In fact, it’s about as good as you could possibly ask from a closer: Hoffman’s 14-for-14 in save opportunities with a 0.00 ERA. I don’t doubt that baseball’s all-time saves leader can stay close to this level of excellence all season long. But sometimes fantasy owners tend to overvalue saves, and you might be able to get quite a haul in a trade for Hoffman. Just hype up that ERA, which I personally guarantee will rise before season’s end.

n Juan Pierre is exceeding all expectations as Manny Ramirez’s replacement for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sure, we know he’s a speed demon (13 steals so far) and a career .302 hitter, but he’s currently batting .367. That’s going to come down, either when Pierre’s bat cools off or when the dreadlocked one returns from his 50-game suspension next month. Maybe you can ship Pierre off to someone in your league who’s looking for a short-term investment before he is relegated to fourth-outfielder status in L.A.

n Kevin Millwood is one of several Texas Rangers pitchers who’ve been pleasant surprises this year. The veteran is 5-4 with a 2.96 ERA. Not bad. Problem is, Millwood hasn’t posted an ERA lower than 4.52 in his three years in Texas. He’s also holding batters to an abnormally low .254 batting average on balls put in play, which suggests a good amount of luck. As the temperatures begin to rise in Arlington this summer, so should Millwood’s ratios, and since he’s not a particularly high strikeout guy, we could soon see his value plummet.

n Chris Carpenter’s on a ridiculous run this season — 4-0, 0.71 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 31 strikeouts and just five walks. We know that’s what he’s capable of when healthy — the Tommy John patient played sparingly the past two seasons and also missed a month this year with a strained rib cage. You’re reaping the rewards if you took a chance on Carpenter late in this year’s draft, and maybe he’ll keep this up, or at least something reasonably close to it. But if you can trade him now for an elite hitter, someone who comes without the same injury risk, I’d go for it.

n Miguel Tejada is doing his best (or his worst) to put allegations of performance-enhancing drug use behind him by having a career renaissance at age 35. The Houston Astros shortstop is batting .350 with a .376 on-base percentage and .525 slugging — all well above his career marks (.288, .342, .472). You may have gotten him on the cheap this year thanks to his cameo in the Mitchell Report, and he’s paid off so far, but I foresee a dropoff in his future.

Jason Bartolone, can be reached at 745-7016.