Cole Hamels- PHI- Inj Update- No structural damage was found in Hamels’ elbow. He got an anti-inflammatory injection and should be cleared to throw again tomorrow. Even with that, he is still not a guarantee to be ready on Opening Day. The Phillies are going to keep him under a microscope and call season-opening availability for Hamels “a long shot.” He has had elbow inflammation that has forced him to miss significant time in the past, losing almost the entire 2004 season in the minors, so this is a legitimate concern.
Sidney Ponson- KC- Preseason- Sir Sidney pitched well enough for the Netherlands in the WBC for the Royals to sign him to a minor league contract. He is now in a mix with Brian Bannister, Horacio Ramirez and Luke Hochevar for the final two slots in the Kansas City rotation. Given the non-playing issues he has had and the fact that he hasn’t posted a sub-5.00 ERA since there were only 2 Star Wars prequels, making Sidney even a sleeper candidate would be a stretch.
Trevor Hoffman- MIL- Injury- I know this is going to come as a shock, but Hoffman is down with a strain in his side. Brewers manager Ken Macha says that the training staff doesn’t consider it serious. Hoffman is a tough one to gauge heading into 2009. He had a very impressive second half turnaround last year. However, he allowed 7 homers in 29 IP at Petco Park, a huge number. This year, Hoffman is pitching in Miller Park, which is very friendly to lefthanded hitters homer-wise. The righthanded reliever gave up 5 long balls in 79 ABs to lefty hitters last year. Age is also a factor, with Hoffman now 41 years old. If this iinjury causes Hoffman to miss any significant time, consider him suspect.
Oakland A’s- OAK- Preseason- The A’s released Robb Bowen and are going with rookie Landon Powell as their backup catcher, behind Kurt Suzuki. Powell has made slow progress through the minors after being a first round pick in 2004. Injuries, particularly knee problems, have held him back. Powell has not had more than 367 ABs in a pro season and that was back in 2006, his only season of more than 300 ABs. Powell has some power potential, slugging 15 homers in 300 ABs last year, when he also drew 63 walks. On the downside his strikeout total increased from 44 in 236 ABs in 2007 to 85 last year, a prime factor in a drop in average from .292 at AA Midland to .230 at AAA Sacramento. Powell also struggles with his weight, which has played a role in his knee troubles. If he stays healthy, which is a big if, he could provide more homers than the usual backup catcher, but that isn’t enough to justify a flyer on the 27-year-old.
Johan Santana- NYM- Preseason- Santana threw 40 of his 56 pitches for strikes in a 4 inning outing against Mets minor leaguers yesterday. In all, Santana allowed 6 hits, 2 runs, no walks, and struck out 5. He used all of his pitches and felt good. It was a positive outing and seems like Santana is on track for the start of the regular season.
Manny Ramirez- LAN- Injury update- Manny’s hamstring pull is going to keep him out of action for at least the rest of this week. He’s still cracking jokes, so hopefully it’s not really serious. Manager Joe Torre has him limited to BP and throwing- no running or fielding. When Manny does see game action again, it will be as a DH for a few games before testing the hammy out in the field. The projection is still for him to be ready to go on Opening Day.
Julio Lugo- BOS- Injury Update- Lugo’s knee was scoped yesterday and the results were about as favorable as could be expected under the circumstances (it being classified by spokesmen as “minor surgery,” the definition of that being “surgery that’s not happening to me.”) The injury was confirmed to be a torn meniscus, which was repaired. This means that Lugo will be out for a total of 3-4 weeks. He should be ready to play at the end of that time, which is going to end up being a short spell as starter for Jed Lowrie.
Pedro Martinez- FA- Preseason- If it were up to Pedro, he would return to the Dodgers and finish his career where it started. In his performance at the WBC Martinez looked like he would be just as serviceable as any of the other LA fifth starter candidates. Plus he would bring some experience that would be a plus in tutoring some of the young pitchers on the Dodgers. Right now the major sticking point seems to be money. Pedro wants to be paid like John Smoltz is by the Red Sox- base salary of $5.5 million with incentives that could add another $5 million. The Dodgers want to shell out fifth start money because Pedro would be, well, a fifth starter. That’s a big gap that might get bridged a bit if Pedro has no other options and the stable of candidates listed for you yesterday here doesn’t make a quick and dramatic turnaround in the Cactus League. The odds are at this point Pedro will end up as a Dodger but not be worth much on a fantasy team.
Carlos Zambrano- CHN- Preseason- Zambrano shone at the plate and on the mound yesterday, going 2-for-3 with 4 RBIs, a homer and a double and allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 1 in 5 IP. Zambrano started out hot last season, with a 2.83 ERA and 10-3 record before the All Star break. Then he collapsed, with a 5.80 ERA and 4-3 record after and one unimpressive appearance in the postseason, allowing 7 runs (3 earned) in 6-1/3 IP. Zambrano reported to camp 15 lbs. lighter than he ended last season, so maybe that will help avoid a season arc like 2008. Keep a watch on his remaining Cactus League outings.
Ryan Braun- MIL- Injury- Braun pulled his rib cage in Sunday’s WBC game and it kept him out of last night’s game against Puerto Rico. I am actually writing this during the bottom of the 9th inning of the game, with Puerto Rico up 5-3 but the USA having bases loaded with one out, so I can’t yet say whether Braun will also miss tonight’s game, because I don’t know if there will be a game for Team USA. If there is, Braun won’t be a part of it. The earliest he will be able to play is this weekend. Braun describes the rest as “precautionary.” It has been decided that not even an MRI is necessary, so I guess it really is a minor injury, but ribs are funny things, especially when they experience torque as a player is swinging a bat. Keep a watch on him when he returns for either Team USA or the Brewers. UPDATE: Just as I finished this, Team USA pulled it off, guaranteeing that Braun won’t be playing for them tomorrow, instead of not playing for the Brewers.
Marlon Byrd- TEX- Preseason. It was 90 feet that pretty much sealed Andruw Jones fate as being on the outside of the Rangers outfield picture for 2009. When Byrd cranked up the speed and went to third base instead of stopping at second on a weak David Murphy single yesterday, it allayed the concerns Texas management had about whether Byrd was recovered from his knee surgery after last season. With a starting lineup of Murphy, Josh Hamilton, and Nelson Cruz across the outfield and Hank Blalock at DH, there is no room for Jones with a healthy Byrd being able to provide backup at all of those positions and needing to get at bats.
Matt Harrison- TEX- Preseason- Manager Ron Washington has a goal for his rotation this coming year. He wants to get his starters to get through 7 innings on a regular basis. For veterans like Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla, that is reasonable, if they can stay healthy. Harrison, though, has a major strike against him. That comes from his pattern of usage in 2008. One of the dangers signs for a young pitcher is when he increases his innings by more than 50 from the previous season. In 2007, the 23-year-old Harrison tossed 116-2/3 for AA Mississippi. Between AA Frisco, AAA Oklahoma, and the Rangers last year he tossed 167-2/3. His pitch counts while with Texas were not over the 110-pitch red zone mark, other than one outing where he made 118 pitches. That start was followed by one where he lasted just 3 innings and was charged with 7 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks. That doesn’t bode well for Harrison being a freak of nature who will avoid the injury/ineffectiveness trends. Approach him with even more caution than you would for a pitcher whose home games are in Arlington.
Radhames Liz- BAL- Preseason- The Orioles seem to have all but given up on their 2007 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, putting him in the bullpen to try relieving as a last chance of making the team. Rick Kranitz described the odds of Liz making it as long. "In my mind, he's got to make the team as a reliever," Kranitz said. "We're going to start putting him in situations for that. There's only so many innings and they're really running out on a lot of guys. We've got to make decisions in time for him to get it done in the bullpen. He's not making the team out of the bullpen right now." Liz is looking like the definition of a AAAA pitcher right now. In his minor league career, he went 21-18 with a 3.39 ERA, 523 Ks, 219 walks and 39 homers allowed in 451-1/3 IP. In two stints with the Orioles Liz has pitched 109 innings, posted a 6.77 ERA, 6-8 record, struck out 81, walked 74 and allowed 19 homers. He will turn 26 in June, so has become more suspect than prospect.
Brian Bass- BAL- Preseason- Bass has emerged as a dark horse candidate to take one of the final three spots that are up for grabs in the Baltimore rotation. They used him as a starter 4 times last September after acquiring him from the Twins and he performed adequately, if not spectacularly. Right now, adequately might be the best the Orioles can hope for from that part of the rotation. Bass has pitched well this spring, posting a 2.72 ERA in 5 appearances, with his next outing scheduled for Friday against the Mets. Bass made his major league debut last year after a long road through the minors and did not set the world on fire. The odds are that he won’t do it in Baltimore, either, and is still more likely to end up in the bullpen. However, if he can bring his K/BB numbers closer to the 80/24 he posted in 103 IP in his last full AAA season in 2007, he might be a sleeper candidate in very deep leagues.
Scott Proctor- FLA- Preseason- With closer Matt Lindstrom on the shelf for 7-10 days, an opportunity may exist for Proctor to pick up a few saves at the start of the season. This will only happen if Proctor can overcome his own injury woes. He is recovering from some loose scar tissue floating around his surgically repaired elbow. The plan is for Proctor to start throwing off a mound again by the end of the week. It looks like he will be ready for the start of the season but, as reported here yesterday, Leo Nunez is still in the mix.
Florida- FLA- Preseason- The stadium saga seems to be coming to a resolution here in South Florida. The Marlins, NAACP, and Miami-Dade County agreed to remove a clause in the agreement to require a set portion of the construction be done by minority contractors. The Miami-Dade County attorney said that the provision might run afoul of precedents prohibiting governments from awarding contracts based on race. Although the stadium won’t technically be built by the government, it would have almost certainly led to more litigation, setting the timetable back from the current 2012 target date. The city commission votes on the proposal followed by a county government vote next Monday. That should finally settle the situation that has been ongoing for years and commit the Marlins to Miami for the next few decades. From a fantasy standpoint, it will eliminate the constant distraction of, “Are the Marlins staying?” from the daily routine of the players. Stability is usually a good thing and chaos is not. It’s probably too early to start looking at proposed stadium plans, even in keeper leagues, but they will become more relevant in the next couple of seasons.