Notes from around the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues...
Michael Kirkman- TEX- RP- Kirkman is finally going to assume the prominent role in the Texas bullpen that he was expected to last spring. A diagnosis of skin cancer and subsequent treatments threw that plan off. Although a lefty, Kirkman is more than a LOOGY. In both of his relatively brief major league stints he has held righthanded hitters to a lower average than lefties. In leagues that value holds, expect Kirkman to have some value as a setup man for closer Joe Nathan.
Craig Gentry- TEX- OF- The centerfield battle in Texas between Gentry and Leonys Martin may end up as a draw. Although Gentry is hitting .333 in the spring, Martin is hitting .394. Last season Gentry batted .343 against southpaws. The possibility of a platoon was a strong one coming into spring training. With neither candidate taking a significant one over the other yet it is becoming more likely as spring training continues.
Nick Markakis- BAL- OF- The news is a little less positive on Markakis herniated disk, but the Orioles are being optimistic. After seeing a spine specialist following his MRI Markakis was told he needs 2-3 weeks of rest and medication to get the inflammation and pain down. He is a week into the rest part so Opening Day isn't out of the question but is more in doubt. Markakis was also told it could be 8-12 weeks before his symptoms are completely gone so even if he does return to play at the start of the season he might not be at 100%.
Brian Matusz- BAL- P- Matusz is being looked at as a fifth starter for the Orioles. He certainly didn't hurt his cause yesterday as he threw 4 no-hit innings, striking out 7. Last season Matusz ended up in the bullpen where he was far more effective in his 13.1 IP of relief work than he was in 84.2 IP as a starter. A lot of that could be attributed to a .167 BABIP in a small sample size of relief IP but he also had a higher velocity on his fastball. Manager Buck Showalter isn't sure yet what role the lefty will have but he is looking like a lock for a roster spot in Baltimore this year.
Yovani Gallardo- MIL- P- Gallardo has become the ace of the staff almost by default. With the departures of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, Gallardo is the closest thing Milwaukee has to an elite pitcher. In the strikeout category he certainly has that status. An average of a strikeout per inning is a given and Gallardo will probably pitch more than 200 innings. With the strikeouts can come some wildness, however, which will inflate his WHIP. A tendency to give up the long ball will do the same to his ERA. A projected ERA of 3.68 and WHIP of 1.27 is not bad enough to outweigh the boost in Ks he gives.
Hunter Morris- MIL- 1B- Morris is officially out of the 1B derby in Milwaukee. He was sent to AAA Nashville yesterday to get some time at that level instead of skipping from AA straight to the majors. If Morris had gotten off to a better start than his 3-for-25 in Cactus League play he might have made the leap. The Brewers aren't going to rush their 2012 Minor League Player of the Year before they feel he is ready, however. He still figures into their future plans.
Zack Greinke- LAN- P- Greinke will receive a Platelet Rich Plasma injection in his inflamed elbow along with anti-inflammatories. Chad Billingsley has a similar treatment last year when he had a partially torn elbow ligament and didn't need Tommy John surgery. Keep a close watch on Greinke. Billingsley was also diagnosed with elbow inflammation at first and his ligament tear wasn't discovered until the inflammation went down. It is possible that he could start throwing tomorrow and if he does it is a better sign that he isn't following the same path as Billingsley.
Andy Pettitte- NYY- P- After throwing two simulated games Pettitte made his first appearance in a real fake game, tossing 3 IP against the Phillies. He allowed a run on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 3. Pettitte's command wasn't superb, throwing 36 of 58 pitches for strikes but there wasn't anything that raised true concern. Pettitte pitched well last season in an injury curtailed comeback campaign. His K/9 of 8.24 was his best since 2004 and his FIP of 3.48 indicated there is still something left in his tank.
Derek Jeter- NYA- SS- Jeter played in the field for the first time this spring and fielded a routine grounder. That is progress as he comes back from a broken ankle. Jeter should be playing in consecutive games before too long and is on track to be fully ready by Opening Day.
Andrew Taylor- LAA- RP- Taylor was diagnosed with a slight labrum tear. It won't require surgery but he will be shut down to let it heal and won't challenge for a LOOGY role with the Angels. After walking 71 batters in 112 IP at AA in 2011 he seemed to get his control in place with a return trip to that level last year. Taylor gave up 14 BBs in 41 IP with Arkansas before getting promoted to AAA. The control demons resurfaced as he walked 11 in 18 IP with Salt Lake and then 4 in 2 IP with the Angels in 3 appearances as a September callup. Taylor had walked 3 in 1.2 IP this spring so his odds of making the team were already long before the injury.
Kris Medlen- ATL- P- Medlen left yesterday's game after being hit by a liner for the second time. In the 4th he took one off his foot and in the 5th off his arm. He was sore afterwards but said that he should still be making his next start. Medlen will be in the rotation full time this season and is looking to repeat an impressive comeback year after missing 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. Medlen's numbers are hard to project but Fantistics looks for him to post 13 wins, a 3.44 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 7.93 K/9.
Starlin Castro- CHN- SS- Castro saw his first game action since February 27th, testing his tight hamstring. He walked and singled at the plate as well as fielding all three outs in the 2nd inning against the Rockies. Castro was extremely durable last year, playing in all 162 games and is looking to repeat that. With a projected average of .292 this year and 18 projected homers Castro's ability to play every day increases his value.
Brennan Boesch- DET- OF- Boesch was given his unconditional release by the Tigers yesterday. With the signing of Torii Hunter and the emergence of Andy Dirks, there wasn't room for Boesch any more. Expect him to be picked up soon and get a chance at a more prominent role. Houston and the Yankees are leading contenders to take a look at him.
Randall Delgado- ARI- P- Delgado threw 4 shutout IP against the Brewers yesterday as he makes a bid for the 5th rotation spot with the D-backs. He came over from Atlanta in the Justin Upton trade and needs to show improvement in his control. Delgado had a 4.12 BB/9 in 17 games as a starter in Atlanta last year before posting a 4.26 in 8 starts after being sent to AAA. So far this spring he has only walked 1 in 7 IP.
Chris Perez- CLE- RP- Perez played catch again yesterday. His shoulder strain is still limiting him but the Indians are holding out some hope that he could be back for Opening Day.
Stephen Strasburg- WAS- P- In a move nowhere near as surprising as the election of an Argentinian Pope, manager Davey Johnson named Strasburg as the Nationals' Opening Day starter. Unlike last season an early start to the season won't mean an early end due to an innings limit. Strasburg is at full strength and shooting for 200 IP of elite production beginning with Game 1.