Alex Rodriguez- NYY- Injury- ARod may end up not playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic after all. No, the Dominican doesn’t have a policy barring admitted steroid users from playing for them. An MRI this past weekend revealed a cyst in ARod’s hip and his paying employers, the Yankees, will probably encourage him to bypass the international tournament. ARod was getting examined yesterday by a doctor in Colorado and there have been no indications that the condition will impact his start to the 2009 season. Manager Joe Girardi said that ARod has been felling little pain and that is encouraging. We’ll keep an eye on the situation.
Justin Duchscherer- OAK- Inj Update- Duchscherer’s MRI showed no structural damage in his sore elbow, but he has been advised to rest it for a week. He will be going for a second opinion and it is becoming increasingly likely that he will not be available when the 2009 season begins. "His opening day start is definitely in jeopardy," A's manager Bob Geren said. It’s looking like Oakland will have to go to Plan B. What Plan B is exactly isn’t known yet.
Manny Ramirez- LAD- Spring Training- The daily Manny Watch is over. The names are on the dotted lines and he is officially signed for 2 years and $45 million. Manager Joe Torre said it would take about a week for Manny to be back in game shape. That should give us a few “Manny-free” days in our reports unless he does something newsworthy (read “outrageous”). Manny would never do that, would he?
Alex Gonzalez- CIN- Spring Training- After missing all of 2008 with a knee fracture, Gonzalez was in the lineup last night for the Reds, going 1-for-2 in the DH slot against the Netherlands. He will DH again today against the Pirates. Gonzalez’ knee is better and he should be the starting SS for Cincinnati on Opening Day. Known for his glove, Gonzalez can also provide some pop, hitting 16 homers in 393 ABs in 2007 and batting .272. Playing at the Great American Ballpark undoubtedly helps, but he hit the same number of homers at home and on the road in his last season played. Gonzalez could be a sleeper worth picking up if your other league members have forgotten about him after his missing year.
Jose Contreras- CHW- Inj Update- Contreras had no problems with his surgically repaired Achilles tendon during a 45-pitch side session, his first such activity since going under the knife six months ago. At this point, it looks like Contreras will be ready to pitch in a game by the middle of the month and will be able to start the regular season with a spot in the rotation. This was unimaginable when he went down last year and was expected, at best, to be able to return in the middle of the 2009 season but more likely to miss the entire season. Put Contreras on your radar as a possible cheap addition on draft day who could be quite a bargain.
Brandon Webb- ARI- Spring training- Webb wasn’t able to go in a scheduled outing due to tightness in his forearm. He was pain free in a side session Sunday and then made a start yesterday against Mexico. Webb once again experienced no physical pain, but the outing was painful to watch as he was tagged for 6 runs (5 earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks in 40 pitches that covered 1-2/3 IP. He wasn’t fazed, though, as Webb was happy to get through the outing feeling well. It’s just spring, so no need to worry about the performance yet.
Miguel Tejada- HOU- Spring Training- With ARod possibly being sidelined, Tejada took over the hot corner for the Dominican team. He won’t be playing his usual SS position, with Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes also on the team. Whether Tejada will be seeing much major league time at all depends on the outcome of his sentencing for lying to Congress about performance enhancement use. He still faces possible prison time and/or deportation, so his 2009 season has a big cloud hanging over it.
John Smoltz- BOS- Spring training- Although Smoltz’ surgically repaired shoulder is in much better shape than expected at this point, the Red Sox are not deviating from the plan to have Smoltz ready to pitch for them for real no earlier than June 1st. He will not be doing any throwing for another month and will just be continuing to follow his rehab regimen. Smoltz’ role with Boston is hard to pin down right now, as he is really looked at as insurance for either the rotation or bullpen and will get plugged in wherever he is needed at the time. As such, it’s going to be tough to project any fantasy value and it’s probably prudent to pass unless you have a roster spot that you have absolutely no use for during the first two months of the season and can afford to take a real deep flyer.
Ken Griffey, Jr.- SEA- Spring Training- Griffey made his first game appearance in his encore with the Mariners by going 0-for-1, walking and flying out in two plate appearances against Australia. The most important part of his 2009 spring debut was that Griffey showed no signs of physical problems.
Kelvim Escobar- LAA- Spring Training- Escobar, looking to return from a torn labrum after missing all of last season, threw 35 fastballs in a side session and reported no discomfort. He will up his pitch count to 45 in his next session on Saturday as he works towards pitching to live batters in BP, after he can throw 60 pitches. The Angels have not given any timetable for him to make it back to the majors, but it looks like he won’t be ready on Opening Day. Escobar is one to keep on your radar as a possible value pick who might be had cheap as others overlook him due to a lost season.
Texas Rangers- TEX- Spring Training- The Rangers’ rotation is still in a state of flux. On the plus side, Kevin Millwood had a healthy outing, throwing 3 scoreless innings while striking out 2 and allowing 2 hits and a walk. He now has 5 scoreless innings in the Cactus League. Even healthy (which is a big hurdle to cross for the entire season), Millwood has trouble dealing with the bandbox that is Whatever-They-Are-Calling-It- This-Year Park in Arlington. That seriously depresses his fantasy value. In the bad news ledger, Brandon McCarthy has been scratched from a scheduled start tomorrow due to tightness in his shoulder. McCarthy was the key player obtained in the trade where John Danks went to the White Sox. That’s one the Rangers probably wish they had back. Back to the plus side, McCarthy’s replacement on the mound against the Royals could be top prospect Neftali Feliz. Despite being only 20 last year, he posted a 2.98 ERA with 47 Ks in 45 IP with AA Frisco and cemented his place as the #1 pitching prospect in the Rangers’ organization and, according to some, #2 in all of baseball. Feliz can probably use some more minor league seasoning at the AAA level to refine some of his offspeed pitches, he is viewed as a future first line star and bears some attention in keeper leagues and may even provide some help this season.
Texas Rangers- TEX- Spring Training- The Rangers have handed the SS job to highly touted rookie Elvis Andrus, moving All Star Michael Young to 3B. Andrus was a key acquisition in the Mark Teixeira trade in 2007 and continued his rocketing through the minors. Last season Andrus hit .295 with 54 steals at AA Frisco. He is only 20 years old and a major league debut seems to be rushed. Defensively, while Andrus has the tools he seems to lose attention at times, resulting in 32 errors last year. It’s going to be tough for an already glove-challenged Texas team to swallow that kind of performance in the field, particularly if Andrus starts slow with the bat. He is 3-for-13 with no steals in his 7 Cactus League games so far, so the jury is out on whether he can handle big league pitching. The Rangers brought in veteran SS Omar Vizquel to act as a mentor to Andrus, but Vizquel has not decided whether he wants to have a slot as a utility infielder or retire. If Andrus does not immediately catch fire, the likely Plan B is Joaquin Arias, who was a top prospect in the system until suffering a shoulder injury early in 2007. Arias bounced back last season, hitting .296 at AAA and .291 in 110 ABs filling in with Texas. Arias has shown a consistent ability to hit at all levels and is probably more solid with the glove at this point than Andrus, although Andrus has the higher ceiling. Keep a watch on the situation and look at Arias as a possible late round bargain pick if the stars seem to be aligning.
Koji Uehara- BAL- Spring Training- Uehara was signed by the Orioles, a team that is, well, “desperate” is probably too weak a word, for quality starting pitching. He comes with a certain pedigree, being a two-time winner of the Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young. Uehara will be attempting to pull off a John Smoltz-like feat of returning to starting after spending time closing. Unlike Smoltz, however, he will be coming off a subpar season. In 2008 Uehara, who turns 34 on April 3rd, only appeared in 26 games for the Yomiuri Giants, pitching 89-2/3 innings and posting 1 3.81 ERA, spending some time in the minors and with the Japanese Olympic team. Initial results in the Grapefruit League have been positive, with Uehara throwing 5 scoreless innings so far, including 3 against the Domincan team yesterday. He had 23 strikes in his 36 pitches and gave up just 2 hits. Uehara will have a prominent place in the Baltimore rotation and has a shot at being one of the pitchers who can provide decent numbers for a low cost on draft day. Given that the Orioles are in the tough AL East, wins probably won’t be a plus regardless of how well Uehara pitches.
Adam Eaton- BAL- Spring Training- Eaton, a cheap pickup after the Phillies released him this spring, has an inside track on one of the final 3 spots in the Orioles rotation. One reason is that he comes cheap. Another is that he is breathing. Yet another is that if he is on the mound, Baltimore won’t be rushing one of their prospects and risking long term problems with potentially more valuable arms. And did I mention that Eaton comes cheap? The Orioles are likely not expecting much from Eaton, just hopping that he will eat some innings whenever his turn comes around. With his recent injury problems (fewer than 20 starts in 2 of the last 3 years) that may be problematic, but healthy or not he is not a good idea for a fantasy pickup.
Gaby Sanchez- FLA- Spring Training- The Marlins traded Mike Jacobs to the Royals in the offseason in order to move some salary and clear space for Sanchez at 1B. They are hoping that the reigning Southern League MVP is ready to make the jump from AA to the majors. An 0-for-9 in his first 3 Grapefruit League games is not an auspicious start, but there is plenty of time to turn that around, for the .314 hitter for Carolina in 2008. From a fantasy perspective, even a successful leap in levels by Sanchez will leave him a less attractive option at 1B. He lacks the power traditionally associated with the position, his 17 homers last season a career high. It is Sanchez’ glove that has the Marlins (only the Rangers and Nationals made more errors last season) interested in giving him a place in the lineup as they seek to improve their defense. This, though, does nothing for your fantasy team, even if he wins the Gold Glove. If Sanchez ends up needing more seasoning, then Dallas McPherson, Jorge Cantu, Logan Morrison or John Lindsey could end up at 1B. None of them really gets the blood moving when thinking of fantasy options at that position.
Josh Johnson- FLA- Spring training- The Marlins are banking on strong performances from their relatively young rotation and Johnson is one of the key pieces of that group. Coming back from a second consecutive injury-plagued year, he pitched well yesterday. Johnson threw 38 of his 51 pitches for strikes, lasting 4 IP and allowing 1 run on 3 hits, walking none and striking out 4. Johnson’s health requires careful watching but, when he is healthy, he has the potential for very strong performance.