Commentary

Fantasy Camp Notes: Owings gets time as DH

Updated: March 3, 2008, 1:31 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

• Though the Angels are doing their best to not panic, but it's now looking possible that John Lackey will miss his scheduled Opening Day start. According to the Orange County Register, Lackey had a bullpen session pushed back from Sunday to Monday in order to give his sore elbow an extra day's rest. He's unlikely to make his spring training debut until at least Friday and might require two bullpen sessions before being ready to pitch in a game. Not that you should drop Lackey significantly on your draft sheets, but he's somewhat of a risk now, enough so that he'll tumble a few dollars or perhaps a round. In other words, he might not be a top-10 starting pitcher.

• The news is even less promising regarding Chad Tracy, who admits there's a chance he'll miss Opening Day due to his recovery from September's microfracture surgery on his right knee. "It's going to be close," he told the team's official Web site. "There are a bunch of steps between now and then." Tracy did some agility drills on Sunday and ran on a treadmill, but from the sound of it, he's 50/50 at best to be ready for the regular season. Mark Reynolds appears the favorite to start at third base for the Diamondbacks; the experts seem to agree. In Sunday's League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) NL-only auction, Reynolds cost $17, Tracy $6 (the latter my bid). That's a deep league (13 teams), folks, helping demonstrate how risky Tracy appears heading into 2008.

Micah Owings, perhaps baseball's best-hitting pitcher, served as the designated hitter and went 1-for-5 in Sunday's spring game. That might not seem particularly relevant to fantasy owners, with pitchers' hitting stats rarely included in the scoring, but this could have a bit of an effect on his value. Owings batted eighth, and he'll hit seventh in the order when he starts on Monday, a sign that the Diamondbacks are seriously considering hitting him higher in the order on days he pitches. In addition, it might be an indication that the Diamondbacks are reconsidering the idea of getting Owings into the lineup even on days he doesn't pitch, like slotting him as the DH during interleague games or perhaps even trying him at first base. That might help the team from an offensive perspective, but the added work, particularly between starts, might serve to fatigue him more quickly. Why all the fuss? Owings hit .333 with a .683 slugging percentage in 60 at-bats in 2007.

Luke Hochevar tossed two more scoreless innings on Sunday, allowing one hit while striking out two. Of course, he worked the seventh and eighth, well after the Rangers had begun lifting their regulars, but with four scoreless frames so far this spring, Hochevar perhaps will get a look in a more prominent role in the next few days. The Royals are reportedly considering him as either a rotation or bullpen candidate -- though the latter seems their preference right now -- so keep him in mind as an AL-only sleeper.

• Things are looking good on the rehabilitation front for Yovani Gallardo, recovering from arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage from his left knee. Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Gallardo should be able to resume throwing off a mound by the end of the week. That would keep him on schedule to return to game action sometime in mid-March, giving him a chance to be ready for Opening Day. It still looks likely Gallardo will miss no more than one or two regular-season starts, if that, so don't be afraid to treat him as a top-25 starter.

• As reported by The Associated Press in Sunday's spring training blog, Hanley Ramirez dodged a scare Sunday when he collided with the Cardinals' Yadier Molina trying to score from first base. He remained on the ground for several minutes before limping off, yet was able to remain in the game for six innings and a 2-for-4 performance. Ramirez will apparently be fine, and this might actually be a positive thing for his fantasy owners; there had been some mild concerns about his left shoulder, which was surgically repaired in October. That he lacked any concern for the joint after the collision suggests it's fully healthy.

Jason Jennings' spring debut was a positive one; he tossed two scoreless innings in his start against the Royals on Sunday. He's recovering from surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow and has yet to suffer any setbacks this spring. Remember the buzz surrounding Jennings a year ago, when he had initially escaped Coors Field? Not that the Rangers' ballpark will be much friendlier to him than Coors was, but Jennings has the talent to be, at worst, a matchups type or decent late-round AL-only pick.

• We might be only a matter of days from seeing Francisco Liriano's first game action since Sept. 13, 2006, before he underwent Tommy John surgery. According to the Twins' official Web site, the left-hander threw his first batting practice session of the spring on Sunday and could make his spring training debut on either Thursday or Friday. "He was better there than he's been in the bullpens and doing his other work," manager Ron Gardenhire said. Though Liriano might strike you as a somewhat risky selection coming off such a serious operation, reports on his rehabilitation this winter have been nothing short of glowing. He's actually top-40 worthy among starting pitchers, and there's a real chance he'll crack the top 25 in the best-case scenario.

• It's looking like Tom Gorzelanny's sore shoulder isn't any big thing after all. According to the AP, the left-hander made his game debut on Sunday, tossing a shutout inning and allowing only one hit. "I threw all my pitches and I felt good," he said. "I threw some breaking balls, not necessarily all of them well, but it was important because they put a certain amount of strain on your arm -- but I threw them without feeling anything." Gorzelanny might not be a big winner for the Pirates this season, but he did notch a respectable 14 wins for the 2007 squad, and he's a useful enough source of ERA and K's to be a late-round mixed selection or solid NL-only starter.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.