Fantasy Camp Notes: Eastern Bias
Here's some of the latest news from around spring training, and what it means from a fantasy point of view:
• It was the rare case where even though nobody won, everybody won. The Dodgers and the Padres played to a 3-3 tie in China, this morning, but made many new baseball fans in the process, according to the Dodgers' official website. "To see this ... takes my breath away," Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said before the game. "If we do as well as I think, people will say this is how it all started." From a fantasy standpoint, though, there's not much to report. Many of the names in the lineups for the two teams were as unfamiliar to fantasy owners as they were to the 12,224 fans in attendance. However, Chan Ho Park did get the start for the Dodgers and threw five innings of one-run, one-hit ball and may have done enough this spring to claim the fifth spot in the Dodgers' rotation.
• Have no fear, Dice-K is here! Josh Beckett looks like he's not going to be able to go to Japan for the season's opening series, but Daisuke Matsuzaka says he needs one more start this spring and he'll be ready to go. The Red Sox' team website quoted Matsuzaka as saying, through a translator, "In terms of the four games that I've pitched so far, I feel that things are coming along well. As I've said before, I'm a slow starter." Indeed that seemed to be the case on Friday, as Dice-K threw 25 pitches in the first inning, before settling down for four innings, giving up only four hits, two runs, no walks and striking out two. Manny Ramirez also appeared ready for the games to start counting, crushing a 400-foot-plus home run to help Boston beat Baltimore 7-4.
Not all of Boston's roster is ready to go full speed ahead. The Red Sox' Web site also reports that Coco Crisp still isn't anywhere near ready to play. "The last three days have been good," Crisp said. "Solid progress. Before that, it was going slow. For some reason, I don't know, it sped up the last few days. I was able to jog around. I started batting practice in the cage and going outside, and I had a full workout today." Jogging may be progress, but Crisp is still unable to sprint, and a brisk jog is only going to get you thrown out when attempting to run the bases, so I think it's safe to say he's still a ways off. That not only gives us the confidence to declare Jacoby Ellsbury as the winner in the center field competition, but also likely means Crisp will start the season in a Boston uniform. Without a chance to showcase Crisp this spring, it's hard to imagine they'll find anyone willing to part with too much in return for him.
• Rich Harden looked much more like the 2005 version of himself in Friday's start against the White Sox, according to the Oakland Athletics' team website. After giving up six runs in six innings in his first two spring outings, Harden held Chicago hitless for 4-2/3 innings, before leaving the game after the fifth having given up only one run on one hit. Harden faced a lineup primarily filled with the White Sox expected everyday lineup, including Jim Thome, Nick Swisher, Paul Konerko and Josh Fields. Although Harden did walk four batters, including Jermaine Dye twice, it certainly was a huge leap forward from his previous outings.
• The hammer of justice dropped quickly for those involved in the Rays-Yankees bench-clearing incident earlier this week. The Yankees' team website reports that Yankees first baseman Shelley Duncan and center fielder Melky Cabrera were suspended for three games and Tampa Bay outfielder Jonny Gomes two games for their roles in the fracas. The suspensions would begin at the start of the regular season, but of course, that wouldn't be true if they're appealed. So while such a minimal suspension won't have any effect on these players' fantasy values, if you do draft them, don't simply assume they're missing these games at the start of the season. The worst thing you could do is to leave them out of your first week's lineup, only to have them file an appeal and knock the cover off the ball while you have them on your bench. Even worse, after you put them into your lineup the following week, the suspensions may actually kick in, and you pay the price again. Again, not telling you to avoid them based on this news, just alerting you to the fact you're going to have to pay extra close attention.
• Part of the reason the day was indeed so rough was Reds' outfielder Corey Patterson who went 3-for-4 to raise his spring batting average to .462. Patterson is making it very easy for Dusty Baker to give him a starting outfield job over both Ryan Freel and Jay Bruce. Neither Bruce nor Freel are going down without a fight however, as both players had two hits against Pittsburgh in a split-squad lineup in Bradenton. Bruce and Freel are each hitting better than .300 this spring. Still, with Baker's penchant for going with veterans over unproven youngsters, and his comment to the Chicago Tribune earlier this week that "(Patterson) hasn't scratched the surface of his abilities and he is one of the fastest runners in baseball," I think we all know how this is going to shake out.
AJ Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.