Fantasy Camp Notes: Rumble in St. Pete
Here's some of the latest news from around spring training, and what it means from a fantasy point of view:
• Last Saturday, when Elliot Johnson of the Rays broke the wrist of Yankees' catcher, Francisco Cervelli, Joe Girardi was not happy. The Yankees' official website reported Girardi as saying, "He was playing hard. Great that's just not the time to do it." Well, the two teams met again yesterday, and it's obvious Girardi's disappointment rubbed off on his team. The New York Times reports that in the first inning, Yankees starter Heath Phillips hit Evan Longoria with a fastball, and was immediately ejected. While Longoria said he didn't think it was intentional, it's a lot harder to write off what happened next as accidental. In the top of the second, Shelley Duncan slid hard into Rays' second baseman Akinori Iwamura, and both benches emptied. Duncan was ejected, and the game proceeded without further incident, but with the teams scheduled to play six series during the regular season, we probably haven't heard the last of this. Rays right fielder Jonny Gomes, who sprinted in from the outfield to tackle Duncan during the incident and was also sent to the showers by the umpires, agrees. "Hopefully it's under the rug," he said. "But to tell you the truth, I kind of doubt it."
One of the primary reasons that Gomes will be in right field for most of those games against the Yankees is the mysterious illness of Rocco Baldelli. The Rays' website is reporting that Baldelli will begin the season on the disabled list due to "metabolic, and/or mitochondrial abnormalities." The once-promising outfielder says he isn't retiring, but unless doctors can figure some sort of treatment for Baldelli's fatigue, that may be the end result. "I go out there and my body is literally spent after a short amount of time on the field, which makes it extremely frustrating and difficult, but it's something that's kind of a reality right now, and we're dealing with the best we can," Baldelli said. With Baldelli's future very uncertain, and utility man Ben Zobrist also out of commission, John Weber may end up as the team's fourth outfielder, but he's more of a defensive replacement in the late-innings kind of player and has very little fantasy value.
It doesn't seem like he'll be ready to join the team on Opening Day, though the team would love to have him as soon as possible, especially with the concern over Josh Beckett's back spasms. Other pitching options include Clay Buchholz, who actually lowered his spring ERA to 9.35 with 3-2/3 innings of two-run, two-hit ball against the Twins on Wednesday. Spring hasn't been especially kind to Clay, who is trying to win a spot in the Red Sox rotation.
•Joe Mauer hit his first home run of the spring against Boston, and raised his batting average to .412. Mauer is certainly making a case for being in the same conversation as Victor Martinez and Russell Martin when talking about the top fantasy backstops. The Twins' website also reports that Francisco Liriano, making only his second start of the spring, needed 53 pitches to get through two-plus innings and only 28 were strikes. Liriano said he felt better, though confessing he still wasn't at 100 percent. "I'm almost there," he said. "I was trying to let it go. I think I have enough time to stretch out and be ready for the season."
• You never want to hear the name of someone you're considering drafting in the same sentence as Dr. James Andrews. Unfortunately, the Marlins' website reports that Sergio Mitre is going to see Andrews to get a second opinion on the discomfort he's experiencing in his throwing arm. Both Mitre and Scott Olsen, who has left shoulder tendinitis, threw bullpen sessions on Tuesday. But while Olsen felt fine and readies himself to throw again today, Mitre's discomfort was enough to cause him to seek further evaluation. The Marlins staff is in shambles. Mark Hendrickson, who had a 5.21 ERA for the Dodgers in 2007, starts today against Washington, and is currently considered the favorite to get the nod for Opening Day.
You know it's going to be a long season for the Marlins when Gaby Hernandez, who gave up three home runs in three innings against St. Louis on Wednesday, is still being considered favorably for a spot in the rotation. However, maybe the Marlins are merely thinking positively that their offense can simply outscore all-comers. Despite spotting the Cardinals a 6-0 lead on Wednesday, they came back to win easily, 13-7. The Marlins slugged five home runs, including one from Hanley Ramirez, who went 3-for-3 with a walk, and two from hot youngster Cameron Maybin, who is doing all he can to make Florida fans (the ones who are left anyway) forget all about Miguel Cabrera.
A positive attitude is considerably missing from Brandon Inge. The man who used to play third base for the Tigers now finds himself without a home, thanks to the off-season arrival of Miguel Cabrera. To make matters worse, while Tigers manager Jim Leyland played what he said was his projected Opening Day lineup on Wednesday, Inge found himself still on the bench, even after all nine "starters" were taken out of the game. The Detroit News has reported that Inge is on the trading block, and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding, or in this case, the "not putting" Inge into the game at all.
Tigers reliever Fernando Rodney might not be ready for Opening Day as he slowly works his way back from shoulder tendinitis. "I don't know how many innings I have to throw to get ready," he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "I might need to pitch in five or six [exhibition] games." There might not be enough time for Rodney to get ready by Opening Day, which would leave the Tigers' bullpen two men short. Joel Zumaya is still three months away from returning from shoulder surgery. Possible candidates to replace Rodney and Zumaya don't exactly inspire the same sort of confidence: Denny Bautista, with a career 6.93 ERA, and Yorman Bazardo are the best of a fairly unimpressive lot.
• Mike Cameron has been one of the Brewers best players this spring, but there's no chance he'll be in the lineup on Opening Day. Despite a .364 average with two home runs, Cameron must serve a 25-game suspension at the start of the regular season for testing positive for a banned amphetamine. According to the Brewers' website, Cameron wants to be able to take more banned substances with the permission of the league. Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said that Cameron is applying for a therapeutic use exemption that would allow him to take certain substances to combat the effects of post-concussion syndrome. "I'm fine physically," Cameron said. "But mentally, I'm not so sure. It's just little things. Lapses here and there. I may be fine, but it can't hurt. I just want to find out for sure and whether I need anything to help me." Even if he gets the exemption, the 25-game suspension will stand, so remember when you draft Cameron, you're losing around one-sixth of the 2008 season. And if he doesn't get the exemption, those untreated mental lapses could possibly have a negative impact on his performance.
AJ Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.