Fantasy Camp Notes: Beckett, Kazmir updates
• Red Sox ace Josh Beckett (my pick to win the 2008 AL Cy Young Award) was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday because of back spasms, according to the Baltimore Sun. Manny Delcarmen replaced Beckett for the start. (Delcarmen has become an intriguing name in AL-only leagues in his own right because manager Terry Francona has, according to The Boston Globe, named Delcarmen his eighth-inning right-handed setup man.) Beckett told reporters he didn't think he'd need an MRI, and that he simply lost his footing while warming up. Stay tuned.
• Jacoby Ellsbury, another hot name out of Boston this spring, finally broke out of his terrible slump by going 3-for-5, including a homer, against the Marlins on Saturday. Before that game, he had been 1-for-16. With Coco Crisp missing a few games because of a strained groin (and grousing to reporters about the center field situation in Beantown), this effort comes at a good time for Ellsbury.
• Rounding out our Sox news, shortstop Julio Lugo has missed nearly a week because of a sore back and was scratched from both Friday's and Saturday's games. He won't play until Monday at the earliest.• The Tampa Tribune reports that Scott Kazmir threw long toss Friday and had no discomfort in his elbow. Kazmir will throw a bullpen session either Monday or Tuesday and could pitch in a game as soon as Friday. He told reporters he still expects to pitch for the Rays on Opening Day.AP Photo/Al BehrmanScott Kazmir (elbow) is already throwing again, and he says he'll be ready to go Opening Day.
• Shawn Hill has been something of a fashionable sleeper in NL-only leagues because of his 3.42 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .235 batting-average against in '07. Unfortunately, Hill hasn't been able to stay healthy often in his career, and The Washington Post reports that on Saturday he had to cut short a long-toss session because of discomfort in his right forearm, the same area on which he had surgery last fall. Opening Day availability is sounding less and less likely for Hill.
• Ubaldo Jimenez pitched well Saturday against a split-squad Angels team, shutting them out for four innings, striking out three, walking none and allowing three hits. Jimenez looked very strong, though most of Los Angeles' better players were playing the Giants. He'll be the Rockies' third starter and is well worth the risk in NL-only leagues.
• In other Rockies rotation news, Aaron Cook was scratched from his Friday start because of a sore shoulder, according to The Denver Post. Cook told reporters he didn't think the soreness was a major issue, and that he and the team's trainers were just "playing it safe." Cook is the Rockies' second starter, but I'd be a lot more interested in Jimenez.
• Mets right fielder Ryan Church missed more than a week with post-concussion symptoms after colliding with Marlon Anderson, but he returned Saturday to go 2-for-2 before being lifted for a pinch hitter. Given Moises Alou's hernia surgery, which will cost the ancient outfielder at least a month, Church needs to be healthy for the Mets to feel comfortable about their outfield. Don't rule out a trade, though. The New York Daily News reports that the team has been scouting Juan Rivera of the Angels, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Mets were also interested in Xavier Nady.
• Speaking of players who might've come in handy in the Mets' outfield, Lastings Milledge continues his scintillating spring for Washington. On Saturday, he went 2-for-2 with three walks and stole two bases. On the spring, Milledge is hitting .346 with four steals in five attempts, doing nothing to cause concern about failing to inherit the Nationals' No. 2 spot in the batting order. He continues to be a very interesting sleeper.
• Chase Headley, considered one of the most majors-ready hitting prospects around, drilled a two-run homer in the Padres' victory over the Rangers on Saturday. For the spring, Headley is 8-for-16 with two doubles, a triple, two homers and eight RBIs. With Jim Edmonds questionable to start the season in center, and Scott Hairston a possible replacement for Edmonds, Headley's looking more and more like your starting left fielder. A bad defensive left fielder, for sure, but it might be too difficult to sit his bat.• Rich Harden got drilled Saturday, allowing seven hits and four runs in three innings against a split-squad Cubs team. Harden went three innings for the second straight spring outing, which bodes well for his health, but, of course, he hasn't pitched very effectively either time. At this point, though, you'd have to say health is more important than results.AP Photo/Ben MargotHe hasn't been pitching well, but at least Rich Harden is pitching.
• The A's official Web site reports that first baseman Daric Barton, who has missed seven straight games because of a sore hand that he injured in a collision at Triple-A last season, will take batting practice today and may play in a game Monday. With Jack Cust supposedly set to play in the outfield and Dan Johnson or Mike Sweeney at designated hitter, the field is clean for Barton to be Oakland's full-time first baseman. Of course, that'll last as long as Cust doesn't kill the team in the field, which might not be very long.
• Who'll be the fifth starter in Philadelphia? Adam Eaton has a bad back that required an MRI and CAT scan on Saturday morning, according to the team's official Web site. Rule V pick Travis Blackley got creamed Saturday, to the tune of five runs, four walks and four hits in just 1 2/3 innings. And both J.D. Durbin and Chad Durbin have ERAs over 7.00 in their two appearances apiece. Clearly, this is a situation to stay far away from, even in NL-only leagues. Maybe Kris Benson winds up being the guy; The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Benson hit 88 on the radar gun Saturday.
• Jay Bruce missed six days' worth of games with a strained quad but returned Saturday, going 0-for-3 as a DH in the Reds' win over the Braves. Reading the tea leaves, there's little reason to believe Bruce is leading in his bid to become the team's starting center fielder.
• The Diamondbacks batted Micah Owings seventh in their spring lineup Saturday, assuming it would ensure him of an at-bat. Oops. Owings didn't last long enough to get a plate appearance, throwing 1 2/3 innings and allowing four runs. Owings had missed his previous start with a sore shoulder.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.
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