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|Johan Santana is still the top pitcher being taken in drafts, but it's possible his average draft position could fall slightly.|
• The New York Times reports that Alex Rodriguez might skip the World Baseball Classic due to a hip injury. He is expected to fly to Colorado on Wednesday to see a hip specialist after an MRI exam this past Saturday showed a cyst. A-Rod did play for the Dominican Republic on Tuesday despite the cyst, going 1-for-3, but the Yankees probably wouldn't want him to risk further injury by playing through it in the WBC. It's only a minor issue that shouldn't affect his draft status, especially if he takes that precaution.
• ESPNdeportes.com's Enrique Rojas is reporting that Manny Ramirez has agreed to a deal with the Dodgers. However, neither the team nor Ramirez's agent Scott Boras would confirm the news, although it appears the sides are getting close to a deal. Right now, ESPN fantasy owners aren't too concerned about Ramirez's status, as he has an average draft position of 26.2, a third-round pick, although it could rise slightly when he officially finds a home.
• Braden Looper might be disabled-list bound, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Manager Ken Macha told the paper that the team plans a conservative approach with the right-hander after Looper experienced tightness in his left oblique while warming up in the bullpen this past Saturday. Looper won't throw again for 10-12 days, leaving little wiggle room for him to be ready for Opening Day. Scratch him off your draft lists in all but the deepest NL-only leagues. Seth McClung is expected to stand in for him for now.
• Randy Johnson was up to his old tricks on Tuesday, striking out seven Diamondbacks in three scoreless innings of work. That brings his spring total to nine K's in five innings, allowing one run on three hits total. It's still pretty early in the spring, but keep the "Big Unit" in mind as a potential mixed-league value, realizing that few fantasy owners are going to put much stock in a 45-year-old pitcher. Johnson did finish 2008 the 35th-ranked starting pitcher on our Player Rater, and this year he'll call home a ballpark much more conducive to masking the effects of the aging process.
• Don't read too much into Joe Nathan's withdrawing from the WBC; the shoulder injury that forced him out isn't an issue. He completed a 25-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday and reported no further pain or soreness in his AC joint, according to the Twins' official Web site. Such minor bumps and bruises are somewhat common with pitchers at this early stage of the spring, but it appears Nathan is in the clear.
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• Prospective Trevor Hoffman owners have to be happy to hear that neither Eric Gagne nor David Riske is pitching in live games yet. Riske, coming off surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, will throw batting practice on Thursday, but the news for Gagne is more dire; the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that he has been shut down indefinitely due to a shoulder injury. Hoffman should begin 2009 with about the most job security a closer can hope for, but this news might also elevate Carlos Villanueva's sleeper potential as a "next in line" candidate.
• Justin Duchscherer was scheduled to have his elbow examined with an MRI on Tuesday, though the team's official Web site described it as "precautionary." We'll have to wait to hear whether he'll begin the season on the disabled list, but in the meantime, of interest is that the San Francisco Chronicle lists Edgar Gonzalez the most likely rotation stand-in, with Jerome Williams also a candidate. Neither pitcher seems to be a fantasy option even in AL-only formats, and the team's top three projected starters -- Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher and Dallas Braden -- don't seem all that much more appealing.
Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball, football and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.