FLB: Spring Training Notebook 3/19

Updated: March 19, 2007, 1:09 PM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

• Rockies starter Jeff Francis was suspended five games and manager Clint Hurdle was suspended one game for their involvement in an incident in a March 13 exhibition game, in which Francis intentionally threw at a batter. Hurdle will serve his suspension the second game of the regular season, while the Denver Post reports Francis is likely to appeal, so he'd be able to make his first turn in the rotation.

• Mariners closer J.J. Putz, who's struggled with a sore pitching elbow through much of spring training, threw a bullpen session Thursday, but felt pretty bad afterward, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He underwent an MRI over the weekend, which showed nothing structurally wrong. Putz told the paper he had questions about whether he'd be ready to begin the season, though manager Mike Hargrove seemed a little less concerned. Remember that Chris Reitsma is on board the Seattle express this season, so he might be the choice for saves if Putz's problems linger.

Greg Maddux was sufficiently recovered from his abdominal strain to throw 58 pitches over four scoreless innings in a minor league game Saturday. Maddux struck out eight hitters. He's peachy.

• The Diamondbacks' official Web site reports Carlos Quentin was scratched from Saturday's exhibition game because of an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, and that he'll have to miss a couple more games, too. The East Valley Tribune reports Quentin hit his third homer of the spring on Friday, but had to leave that same game with a "twinge." He'll have an MRI on the injured shoulder Monday or Tuesday.

Jason Simontacchi appears to be well on his way to earning the Nationals' third spot in their rotation, according to the Washington Post. John Patterson will be the Opening Day starter, and Shawn Hill (gulp) appears to be the second starter. It's worth noting that Simontacchi, who underwent major shoulder surgery in the fall of 2004, hasn't pitched in the bigs since then, and hasn't started a game since he pitched for the Cardinals in 2003.

• The Braves' official Web site reports that Chipper Jones had to be scratched from Friday's exhibition game because of a "sore right oblique muscle." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the Braves consider the injury "a spring training tweak." Past Chipper owners know the third baseman had two DL stints because of oblique problems in '06, so while Atlanta claims that this is nothing serious, we'd all do well to monitor it.

• The New York Daily News reports that Bobby Abreu faced live pitching for the first time since his strained oblique. Abreu reportedly saw 55 pitches Friday, and swung without pain. "It was fine," he said. "I feel great. I didn't hurt at all."

Gavin Floyd outpitched John Danks on Sunday, meaning their competition for the White Sox' fifth-starter role is still wide open. Danks allowed six runs in 3.2 IP, while Floyd relieved Danks and threw 4.1 innings and allowed a single run.

Jered Weaver threw 30 pitches of batting practice Saturday, according to the L.A. Times, and felt no ill effects from his biceps tendinitis. However, Weaver didn't throw any breaking stuff -- only fastballs and changeups. He'll throw again this week, at which time the Angels will decide whether he'll begin the year on the disabled list.

• Now Jim Edmonds tells reporters he thinks he might not miss Opening Day because of his surgically repaired right shoulder. The St. Louis Post-Intelligencer quotes Edmonds saying, "I feel like I need to be ready for Opening Day if I can," after he took another round of batting practice Friday. "I don't care what anybody else wants; I'm trying to get ready for my teammates."

Chan Ho Park got absolutely bombed Saturday, allowing three homers and seven total runs to the Nationals. It was his second straight bad spring outing, and now the New York Daily News speculates about whether Park really will win the Mets' No. 5 starter job. If Park doesn't, it'll be Mike Pelfrey. Manager Willie Randolph said Park might be put in the bullpen if he doesn't make the rotation, though one wonders why.

• The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Lou Piniella says Wade Miller is the leading candidate to be the Cubs' No. 5 starter coming out of spring training. No decision has been reached, but Piniella expects to announce the winner of this battle sometime this week. The other leading candidate, Angel Guzman, got lit up Friday, allowing five runs and seven hits in 3.1 IP. I'd still stay away from Miller, whose velocity will probably never come close to his old days with the Astros.

Casey Blake continues to be an undervalued player in this spring's fantasy drafts. Indians manager Eric Wedge told the Akron Beacon Journal this weekend that Blake will be his No. 5 hitter this year, right behind Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner. That, friends, is a happy place for a hitter to be.

• The Angels' official web site reports that Casey Kotchman is winning manager Mike Scioscia's confidence at first base with a strong spring. Kotchman is hitting .306 with three homers, and offers better defense than any of the alternatives. Kotchman may wind up platooning with Robb Quinlan, while Kendry Morales may either begin the year at Triple-A, or help fill in a reserve outfield role because of the extended absence of Juan Rivera.

• The North County Times reports that one of my favorite midround outfielders this year, Mike Cameron, is expected to hit third against left-handed pitchers this season, and fifth against righties. As I mentioned last week, another 20-20 season for Cameron is very much a possibility.

• The Boston Herald reports that Mike Timlin was able to play some catch on Friday, and manager Terry Francona said, "He felt very good. He reported no stiffness, no soreness." Still, it sounds like it will be several days before Timlin will be ready to pitch in a spring training game. Last year, Timlin wore down, possibly because of his participation in the World Baseball Classic; this year, at least it stands to reason he'll be a bit fresher.

• In related news, the Brewers' official Web site reports that the Red Sox had a scout watching Derrick Turnbow pitch in an exhibition game Friday. However, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin says he hasn't spoken to Boston about Turnbow at all yet.

• With Randy Johnson all but certain to begin the season on the disabled list, both Enrique Gonzalez and Edgar Gonzalez are expected to begin the year in the Diamondbacks' rotation, according to the Arizona Republic. When the Big Unit returns, it'll be a caged death match to see which Gonzalez stays.

• The Rangers' official Web site reports Jamey Wright and Kameron Loe are the co-favorites to fill the final spot in the Texas rotation. To which I say: Ew.

Christopher Harris covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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