- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
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• Not a ton of big news coming from the majors on Tuesday, but the Baltimore Orioles did make a few announcements that will turn the fantasy baseball world upside down. First, George Sherrill was officially made the closer. Didn't we know this a month ago? Maybe the Orioles want to announce this once a month so people don't forget, because we might not be able to tell from the lack of accruing saves. Why so negative?
The other big declaration from Orioles camp was this: Steve Trachsel will start Opening Day. How can we get excited about anyone closing for a team in which Trax starts the first game? I think they go hand in hand. It should go without saying that Trachsel isn't draft-worthy, but Sherrill actually is. Even teams that lose 105 games, as this Orioles squad might, get their closers 20-25 saves. I'll take the under for Sherrill saves (18 or so?), but he should get drafted in every league after about 28 or so clear closers, in the same area as Jeremy Accardo and C.J. Wilson, pitchers you hope get saves. Look for the team to next announce Sherrill as closer in three weeks, just to remind you.
• The Major League Baseball Players' Association is investigating the lack of offers for noted free agent Barry Bonds. Unless this results in the disgraced all-time home run champ finding major league work, fantasy owners don't care much, but I actually think this is a good sign. I've gone on record a few times saying Bonds remains relevant in fantasy -- if he plays -- and even drafted him in the last round of a few drafts. If you've already drafted, and Bonds is a free agent, be prepared to sign him as soon as a real team does. With 400 plate appearances as the designated hitter for an AL team, he'd hit at least 25 home runs.
• Eventual Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo threw a simulated game Tuesday and is scheduled to throw a real one Friday. This is big news for the emerging talent, who had left knee surgery exactly a month ago. Gallardo might not be ready for Opening Day, but he wasn't pitching that day anyway. Expect a short DL stint of a week or two, but no real drop in fantasy value. Even with 30 starts, Gallardo remains a top-20 starting pitcher. Remember, Josh Beckett made only 30 starts a season ago, and won 20. Other than one very bad afternoon at Coors Field, Gallardo put up terrific stats as a rookie. In other Brewers news, Chris Capuano has inflammation in his throwing elbow, and will miss his next start. I'll go out on a limb: He's going to miss the next month of scheduled starts, at least. This is unlikely to end well. The Brewers do have options, as colleague Christopher Harris noted Tuesday, in Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva. I wouldn't be shocked to see both in the rotation early on and thrive.
• Joey Votto finally hit his first spring home run, a three-run shot off Pirates lefty Paul Maholm. Then again, if Billy Crystal can make contact off Maholm, Votto better do the same. Anyway, Votto is hitting .158 with two extra-base hits in 38 at-bats, so it's about time he shows off power, and it's a good sign he did against a southpaw. I'm not sure it matters, though. Don't blame Dusty Baker for this, but Votto is likely to join Jay Bruce swatting homers for the fine Louisville Bats team in Triple-A. If Votto wanted to beat out the safe, on-base machine that is Scott Hatteberg, he needed a better spring. Bruce needed a corner outfielder to get hurt or traded. Fantasy owners should be wary of drafting either youngster in one-year leagues, really. Blame Baker if you choose, but this isn't his fault.
• Speaking of blame, it's your fault if you draft Milton Bradley every season and expect him to explode into a fantastic fantasy option. Has this ever happened? Oh yeah, he explodes, but not statistically. The news on Bradley is he'll make his spring debut on Friday, although he's still recovering from last year's ACL injury when he attempted to convince an umpire he was a pacifist. Bradley has never reached 20 home runs in a season, nor 20 stolen bases, and despite getting to play half his games in Texas, I'm skeptical he plays enough games to matter in fantasy. He's still living off 2004, when he appeared in 141 games. Since then, he's averaging 77. Bradley will test his knee this week but start the season on the DL. He should start the season on your fantasy free-agent wire.
• The Nationals' Felipe Lopez isn't pleased, and he doesn't care who knows it. Lopez wants to start, but he's hitting .205 this spring and has been caught on both of his stolen base attempts. Meanwhile, shortstop Cristian Guzman is hitting .356 and leading the team in RBIs, and burly second baseman Ronnie Belliard is batting .459 and leads the team with three home runs. Fantasy owners looking for Lopez to reprise either his 23-homer campaign of 2005 or his 44 steals from the following year are looking at a bench player, unless he gets traded. Even then, there's no guarantee of power or speed. Draft Ryan Theriot instead. At least he's going to play. In more news from your Washington Nationals, Lastings Milledge was listed as out for a few days with a sore toe, then he suddenly appeared in Tuesday's lineup and took Jeremy Bonderman deep. The more we talk about Milledge, the more everyone realizes he's a fantasy sleeper and he probably becomes a bit overrated.
• The Dodgers haven't settled on who will form the back end of the rotation, but here are two names to remember, one who is in, and one who isn't. Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda threw five strong innings against the Marlins on Tuesday, though his rotation spot was assured in the first place. Kuroda lowered his spring ERA to 5.14. He's hittable, a control pitcher who won't walk people, but is worth drafting in fantasy for the team and ballpark around him. Expect double-digit wins. Meanwhile, intriguing pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw, who turns 20 years old today, followed Kuroda on Tuesday with three strong innings of two-hit ball. It could have been no-hit ball, this lefty is still heading to the minor leagues, and likely for the entire season since he's barely pitched above Double-A ball, so avoid him in one-year leagues. Chan Ho Park and Esteban Loaiza are duking it out for the right to be the Dodgers' fifth starter until Jason Schmidt reattaches his right arm.
• Cubs manager Lou Piniella keeps talking a lot, but nothing has really been decided about his lineup, the back end of the rotation, or who the closer will be. You're going to (over)draft Kosuke Fukudome whether he bats second, third or fifth anyway, and the closer race between Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol might not be settled until the team's first April save chance, but the rotation spot should be. One would think Ryan Dempster is most likely to head back to the bullpen, since he has experience there, over Jon Lieber and Jason Marquis, but who really knows what Piniella wants? This is important, seeing as the Cubs could be the best team in the NL Central, and double-digit wins await any capable starter. Note that this problem could be solved if Marquis is included in the proposed Brian Roberts deal with Baltimore. Heck, if that happens Marquis could start Opening Day!
Eric Karabell is a fantasy games senior writer for ESPN.com. He is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association writer of the year, and his blog was recently honored as best series. Send him e-mail here.
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