FLB: Spring Training Notebook 2/28


• The L.A. Times reports that Mike Scioscia told Jered Weaver "not to rush his recovery" for Opening Day, and that there's a "good chance" Weaver will start the season in extended spring training. That's pretty awful news for fans of the sophomore-to-be, who went 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in his first 123 big-league innings. While the Angels say they're not overly concerned with what actually appears to be wrong with Weaver's shoulder, and that they simply want to give him time to feel completely well before ramping up for the season, you pretty much have to downgrade Weaver the Younger on your draft board, at least a little. If Weaver has to miss starts, the Times says that either Dustin Moseley, Chris Bootcheck or Hector Carrasco would take his place.

• It's not like anyone would tell us otherwise, but Ben Sheets reportedly looked "great" pitching a perfect inning in his first intra-squad game this spring, on Monday. Sheets has been munched on by the injury bug two straight years, and in January reported that his surgically repaired back was still sore. Nevertheless, Milwaukee seems optimistic that Sheets' formerly bulging disc won't be a problem this year, but don't forget: he's also had shoulder problems. He remains a high-risk, near-limitless-reward starter.

• Texas manager Ron Washington told the Rangers' web site that he has "no doubts" that Sammy Sosa will make the Texas roster this spring. "I trust my baseball instincts," said Washington. "If he gets the proper work and with the knowledge he brings, he will perform." Hm. Maybe. And maybe ol' Ron could teach Sammy some English, too.

Eric Wedge told reporters Tuesday that he thought he'd be able to use Travis Hafner at first base once a week during the '07 season. Wedge offered this nugget in connection with questions about Victor Martinez, who played some first last year on days when he wasn't catching. The idea might be to DH V-Mart and left Hafner play in the field on such days, which will last right up until the point when Pronk butchers three grounders in an inning. Still, if it happens, Hafner's renewed fielding eligibility would be nice.

• The East Valley Tribune reports that Randy Johnson threw a second bullpen session this Monday, and that he didn't feel very well. "I threw much better the first time," Johnson said. He won't face live hitters for at least another week, and it still seems unlikely to me the Big Unit pitches in the bigs in April.

• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Rich Aurilia "is the front-runner to bat third ahead of Barry Bonds." ESPN's own Eric Karabell has been trumpeting Aurilia all winter because of exactly this possibility, and if Aurilia really will occupy the three-hole, he's eminently ownable. I remain skeptical. One wonders why Bruce Bochy would be so interested in Ryan Klesko otherwise. If Aurilia occupies this spot all year, he's a fantasy asset. But based on the continuing presence of Klesko and Mark Sweeney, I find that scenario a bit difficult to fathom.

Todd Walker may be released by the Padres prior to March 15, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, an event which might transpire because of the rather ludicrous arbitration win Walker posted a couple weeks back. Walker, who's slated to play perhaps twice a week for San Diego this year, won $3.95 million in arbitration, but the Padres would reportedly only be required to pay $658,000 if they let him go in the next two weeks. The players' union has intimated that it could file a grievance if San Diego tries this cost-cutting maneuver. With Kevin Kouzmanoff pretty well locked in at third (and Russell Branyan ready to catch any scraps), Marcus Giles entrenched at second, and Adrian Gonzalez manning first, there's simply no room for Walker. He's valueless without a trade, and perhaps even with one.

• Another day, another Ozzie Guillen pronouncement about Scott Podsednik. The Chicago Tribune reports that Guillen said, "(Podsednik) is my leadoff guy. ... Podsednik doesn't have to worry about losing his job." Okay. Well, that's not the way I heard it, like, two days ago, but whatever. That's good news for Pods owners, assuming the speedy slap hitter returns in time from his sports hernia. So even if Brian Anderson and Darin Erstad make the White Sox, Scotty Pods is the team's lead candidate for steals. Today.

• Toronto slugging prospect Adam Lind will almost certainly begin the year at Triple-A Syracuse, the Blue Jays' web site reports, which is a shame, but not completely unexpected. Going into '07, Lind is only eligible in most fantasy formats as a utility player, so he's pretty much undraftable unless you're in a deep AL-only league with a fantasy bench. Apparently Matt Stairs is going to be the fourth outfielder on this team, but if someone gets injured for a longer period of time over the course of the season, Lind would probably get a call. Keep his name in mind, though. He's got the potential to be Alex Rios, but better.

• Once-and-never-again Cleveland closer Fausto Carmona will go back to Triple-A Buffalo at the start of the season, and convert back to that team's rotation as a starter. The grand experiment of turning Carmona into a saves machine (after the Tribe dealt Bob Wickman last year) hit a bit of a roadblock when Carmona, like, couldn't get anyone out. He's still got a pretty good fastball, but the 23-year-old isn't ready for prime time yet.

• Why am I a sucker for the Mariners' middle infielders this year? I mentioned yesterday I like Jose Lopez as a fine second-base sleeper, and today I was heartened to hear that shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt will be given instructions this season to be more aggressive stealing bases. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that manager Mike Hargrove said, "He's afraid to make a mistake (on the bases)." Folks don't realize that Betancourt has a lot of speed, and could turn into a decent last-round gamble who could puff you up in that elusive SB category.

• The Miami Herald reports that Josh Johnson, who's been down with an ailing biceps on his pitching arm, still hasn't resumed throwing, and now new manager Fredi Gonzalez (did I mention my mom's name is Fredi? and it's her birthday today!) says he's "doubtful" for Opening Day. It seems pretty likely that Johnson will begin the year on the DL, which could clear up Ricky Nolasco's role (i.e., he might be forced to start).

• Royals manager Buddy Bell told the Kansas City Star that lefty Jorge De la Rosa "would have to be pretty bad (this spring) not to make the rotation." De la Rosa has high-strikeout potential, for sure, but he's also a bases-on-balls machine. He won't be useful pitching for this team unless he significantly improves his control.

• Rockies manager Clint Hurdle told the team's web site on Tuesday that Kazuo Matsui will play second base more often than Jamey Carroll. Considering Matsui had a relatively strong September (.329 BA, .861 OPS, five steals in 82 AB), which corresponded with Carroll's swoon (.220 BA, .549 OPS, two steals in 91 AB), this isn't a shocking decision. Matsui should bat second to begin the year; still, he can only be pondered in NL-only leagues.

Christopher Harris covers fantasy baseball, football and NASCAR for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.