FLB: Spring Training Notebook 3/23

Updated: March 23, 2007, 2:09 PM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

Rafael Furcal had to be carted off the field during an exhibition game on Thursday after he collided with Jason Repko running down a pop fly. According to the Baltimore Sun, the Dodgers believe Furcal suffered an ankle sprain, but headed to the hospital for X-rays (which initial reports indicate were negative for a break). He did, however, look to be in a heck of a lot of pain. If Furcal has to miss time, Wilson Betemit could move over from third base to shortstop, allowing Andy LaRoche or James Loney to make the big-league team. (If Loney's the choice, Nomar Garciaparra moves over to play third.) Wilson Valdez would probably be the other option at short. This would also settle the issue of what to do with Juan Pierre in the Dodger lineup, as he'd clearly become the team's leadoff hitter.

• ESPN's Erin Andrews reported Thursday that the Red Sox have decided Jonathan Papelbon will be moved from the rotation back to the bullpen. On the one hand, this isn't a shock, considering the other relief options the Red Sox have. On the other hand, it's surprising the club has been so invested in stretching Papelbon out without any other viable closing option. If Boston sticks to this plan, it seems that Julian Tavarez will jump from the bullpen to the fifth spot in the rotation, with the caveat that Jon Lester would probably come back to the majors once he's ready.

• That collective moan you heard coming from Fantasy Nation on Thursday emanated from Chone Figgins owners, when they discovered Figgins suffered a chip fracture at the tip of his right middle finger. Figgins told the Angels' Web site that he thought he could still be ready for Opening Day, but I think someone in the L.A. organization will inject some sense into the equation between now and then. Maicer Izturis figures to gather any third-base starts that Figgins misses, and if Figgins goes on the DL, Erick Aybar is likely to make the big-league team out of camp.

• The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Thursday that Joe Mauer has been diagnosed with a "stress reaction" in his left leg. The paper says that Mauer "will be treated with a bone stimulator and physical therapy and will be re-evaluated on Sunday." The paper also reports, "A stress reaction is considered a precursor to a stress fracture. The Twins say they are optimistic that the condition was diagnosed early enough to keep it from becoming a serious long-term problem." Yeah, but it still makes you really think about investing an early pick in Mauer.

• Hey, Jon Lieber. You know that conversation we just had about how you suck and don't belong in our rotation? Yeah, uh, about that. See, Freddy Garcia has a "biceps problem" according to the Delaware News Journal. Garcia had to leave Wednesday night's game against the Blue Jays after the first inning, and now it turns out his "velocity has been lagging all spring." Actually, the truth is that the Phillies Web site reports that Garcia "felt better" the day after feeling weakness in his arm, and while the team will shut him down for at least a few days and let the medical staff evaluate him, the expectation is that he'll be ready for the season. Still, Mr. Lieber, please don't put away your starting pitcher's cleats just yet.

• The L.A. Times reports Mike Scioscia said Wednesday that Jered Weaver is now expected to miss two turns through the Angels' rotation, and not one. Dustin Moseley is expected to pitch in Weaver's place both times.

Stephen Drew may see some time hitting leadoff for the Diamondbacks after all, according to the Arizona Republic. This past winter, it was widely believed that Drew would bat atop the D-Back lineup. Once spring training began, however, the club maintained it mostly planned on using some combination of Chris B. Young and Eric Byrnes. Drew's value goes up a little bit if he does hit in the top spot.

• The Globe and Mail reports that John Thomson, who was well on his way to being released, has a sore shoulder. GM J.P. Ricciardi said the team plans on shutting Thomson down for a week, which equates to two spring starts, and scheduling an MRI on his pitching shoulder. Thomson is reportedly set to earn a $1 million bonus if he's active on the opening day roster, which almost certainly isn't going to happen. The best Thomson can hope for in Toronto at this point is starting the year on the DL, and a trade or outright release are still possibilities.

• The Kansas City Star reports that the Royals might be interested in trading for Clint Barmes as an alternative to Angel Berroa, who's struggling again this spring (14 strikeouts in 38 ABs). Neither Alex Gonzalez nor Andres Blanco appear to be capable options at this point. The Star also lists John McDonald as a possible acquisition candidate.

Jose Reyes of the Mets stole three bases on Wednesday, and is now 10-for-11 this spring. He's also somehow walked six times (and struck out only twice). This just in: he's good.

• That fountain of Devil Rays speculation, the St. Petersburg Times, reports that manager Joe Maddon announced he plans on sitting Akinori Iwamura against "tough lefthanders" this year. That's interesting because it means Iwamura won't play every single day. The more telling aspect of Maddon's assertion is that it sounds like Iwamura has pretty much won the third-base job despite a crummy spring.

• Meanwhile, the Tampa Tribune reports that the Rays' fifth-starter job will come down to a battle between Edwin Jackson and J.P. Howell. Considering the Times reported Howell was all set to be sent down, somebody's wires may be crossed here. Jackson will make the team no matter what, and if he's sent to the bullpen, he could emerge at some point later in the year as a super dark horse closer candidate.

• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Rich Aurilia had to come out of Wednesday's exhibition game because of a strained groin and not because of any injuries he suffered in a car accident on the way to the ballpark Tuesday. Manager Bruce Bochy said Aurilia will miss at least one week, casting doubt on his readiness for Opening Day.

Brandon Webb's neck is fine. He pitched six scoreless innings against Aurilia's Giants on Thursday. Panic averted.

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

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