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Monday, March 30, 2009
Camp notes: Gardner wins Yankees CF job


• Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced that Brett Gardner has won the center-field competition over Melky Cabrera, and this is a significant fantasy development given Gardner's speed and stolen base potential. He went 13-of-14 in stolen base attempts in just 127 at-bats last season, and has averaged 49 steals per year in his past three seasons of pro ball. He has some on-base ability, and though he won't hit for any pop, Gardner has the potential to be the kind of fantasy contributor like Scott Podsednik was, back when he was playing every day from 2003 to 2006.

As for Cabrera, he'll remain on the roster as a reserve outfielder, with Nick Swisher also around to grab some at-bats. Even playing five times per week, Gardner has the potential to have some mixed-league value if you're desperate for speed, though you might want to be cautious about deploying him in head-to-head leagues.

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Eric Chavez, who has been out for much of the spring while dealing with his surgically repaired shoulder, is expected to play Monday, which would be the first time this spring that he has played in consecutive games. If things go well this week, he could be on the roster when the season opens. Of course, how many at-bats he's going to be able to take before inevitably winding up on the disabled list again is a complete wild card given his checkered injury history, but if he's healthy it means Daric Barton likely will start the season at Triple-A.

Dustin McGowan continues to have discomfort in his own surgically repaired shoulder, and the team Web site quoted manager Cito Gaston as saying, "I don't know when he's going to come back, I really don't. I'm not sure if he's going to come back at all this year." With McGowan still experiencing pain, it's probably safe to remove him from your draft lists in AL leagues.

The Jays are also not expecting Casey Janssen, who was penciled in for one of their rotation spots, to be ready before May, as his progress has slowed from a shoulder injury. He's still just throwing lightly off flat ground.

Stephen Drew's strained abdomen apparently was not too serious, as he returned to action Sunday and had two hits. He should be all set for the start of the season if there are no setbacks this week.

• The Indians' team Web site reports that Victor Martinez will catch anywhere from 90 to 130 games this season, and play first or DH the rest of the time. The bottom line is he will be in the lineup on most days somewhere. What this means is Kelly Shoppach most likely will catch two of out of every five days. At the very least, he will be the personal catcher for Cliff Lee. As expected, Martinez will cut into a good chunk of Ryan Garko's and Travis Hafner's potential playing time.

• The Mariners sent Jeff Clement back to Triple-A to work on his defense; the signing of Ken Griffey hurt Clement's chances of seeing time at DH. Rob Johnson will back up Kenji Johjima for the time being. It's possible Clement may be down for only a month or two, waiting for an injury to open up a spot, but given his defensive woes and his two previous knee surgeries, another position may be in his future.

Matt Lindstrom threw a successful bullpen session Sunday as he recovers from his WBC shoulder injury, and he's expected to face live hitters Tuesday. If all goes well, he'll be on track to be the Marlins' closer on Opening Day, but he's being kept out of games in case the team needs to backdate a short stint on the disabled list.

• The Tigers put both Joel Zumaya (shoulder) and Dontrelle Willis (anxiety disorder) on the disabled list, and don't have a timetable for either to return.

• Though Max Scherzer technically will start the year on the disabled list, it's just a procedural move. He will remain in extended spring training to get ready for his first start on April 14, but set to begin the season.

• Manager Ken Macha put Carlos Villanueva back in the running to close games for the Brewers while Trevor Hoffman is out, after Villanueva pitched better in recent weeks. He also mentioned Todd Coffey as a consideration. Hoffman played catch Sunday and is still expected to miss the first couple of weeks. For now, expect a couple of early saves out of Villanueva.

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Kelvim Escobar was touching 94 mph in a minor league game this weekend in his comeback from shoulder surgery, and the Angels are hopeful they can plug him into their depleted rotation in May. Don't forget about him in AL-only leagues, as he should be available in the endgame.

• Pirates GM Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Andrew McCutchen is "making it tough" to send him back to Triple-A to start the season, but reiterated that Nyjer Morgan is the starting left fielder. McCutchen was eventually reassigned to the minors Sunday. Despite that news, Morgan's hold on that position is extremely tenuous, and he can't afford a slow April.

• Though it is not official yet, it appears that Micah Owings will start the year as the Reds' No. 5 starter, with Homer Bailey a part of the bullpen. Owings will have to get off to a good start to keep his role, but he could be a deep sleeper in NL formats.

Franklin Morales is another deep sleeper for NL formats, especially as it appears he won the Rockies' fifth-starter job by default Sunday when Greg Smith left his spring start with the proverbial "dead arm." That said, the Rockies' schedule gives them three days off in early April, so they won't need a fifth starter for much of the month.

Cha Seung Baek left his Sunday start with a forearm strain, putting his first scheduled start of the season, on April 8, in jeopardy. By all accounts, the strain appears to be mild, so he may just wind up missing one outing at the beginning of the season. Baek is an endgame play in NL leagues given his repertoire and favorable home park, but has to show he can be durable enough to take the ball every fifth day.

• With the Padres trading Chris Burke to the Mariners on Sunday, it means Rule 5 pick Everth Cabrera will make the club in a reserve role, and his speed (73 steals last season), makes him worth a spot on NL-only reserve lists. He's going to have to show that big league pitchers can't knock the bat out of his hands, but his wheels and glove are assets.