- AJ Mass, Fantasy
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Once again, here is some of the latest news from the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues and what they might mean to you from a fantasy point of view:
• Freddy Sanchez is experiencing his own little nightmare, and may be starting the season on the disabled list. According to a story on the Pirates' team Web site, Sanchez felt pain in his surgically repaired right shoulder after playing second base for only the second time this spring. "I was hoping after (Wednesday) that this day would be easier and that I would be able to work through it a little better. But that it kind of seemed like it was worse, kind of gets me concerned," Sanchez said. Manager John Russell was still expecting to start Sanchez in Saturday's game, but Freddy apparently has other ideas. "If you were to ask me now, I'd have to say no," Sanchez said. "I don't feel like I could." This could mean that Luis Rivas, who might not even make the roster if Sanchez were fine, will not only make the team, but start at second base. The former Minnesota Twins' player hit .317 this spring.
• What you talking about Willis? Perhaps he was still shell-shocked from the hammering he suffered at the hands of the Blue Jays, but Dontrelle Willis had some choice words for his lousy performance -- five runs and seven hits with four walks in 3 1/3 innings -- on Friday. "Today I was terrible," Willis was quoted on the Tigers' official Web site. "Today I had no plan of attack as far as where I was throwing the ball." This certainly wasn't lost on Jim Leyland, who seemed flabbergasted that Willis could be so unable to control the location of his fastball. "He didn't have command of the fastball at all," Leyland said. "I can understand sometimes you can't command your breaking ball, but you've got to be able to command your fastball. If you can't do that you're going to have problems. Anybody would." So let's forget all the debate on whether the change in leagues is going to help or hurt Willis' stats in 2008. If he can't get the ball over the plate on a regular basis, it simply won't matter who is holding the bat.
• In my article on the Dodgers' outfield situation earlier this week, I said that I thought Juan Pierre would likely end up starting the season in left field though Joe Torre had yet to make any public statement on what he was going to do with Pierre, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and only two open outfield spots. Perhaps Pierre wanted a little more reassurance than just my speculation, because the Dodger's team Web site reports that he met privately with Joe Torre to discuss the situation. Although Torre was happy to confirm the meeting with reporters, as to what was said, Torre continued to shed absolutely no light on the situation. "He just wants to know my thinking," Torre said of Pierre. "I told him when I know, I would let him know before somebody else does." Thanks, Joe. I'm sure Juan feels much better now.
• Kevin Millar didn't dodge the pitch, but it appears he has dodged a bullet. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles' first baseman suffered a one-inch gash on his left pinkie finger after being struck by a Russ Springer pitch in the fifth inning of Friday's game against the Cardinals. Although he left the game to get X-rays, they revealed no broken bones, and Millar simply received one stitch to close the wound. He is being listed as day-to-day and is quite relieved. "Anytime you get hit in the hand, you always have to worry," Millar said, "You don't know, and there's so many bones. But the good news is there's no break and it will probably be a two-day thing." It's also good news for fantasy owners who won't have to try and extrapolate stats for any lengthy playing time for Scott Moore and his 90 career major league at-bats.
In other Orioles news, Dave Trembley has put off naming his Opening Day starter for at least one more day. The Baltimore Sun reports that Trembley needed to consult pitching coach Rick Kranitz before he decided on whether or not to hand the ball to Steve Trachsel or Jeremy Guthrie. It had appeared that Guthrie was going to get the nod, but after watching him give up four runs and eight hits in 4-2/3 innings on Friday, apparently Trembley got cold feet. "I've got to play this thing out as long as I possibly can," Trembley said, smiling. Trachsel is no gem either, having given up 10 earned runs in 13 innings since signing a minor league contract with the Orioles last month. If these are the best options Baltimore can come up with, then I think it's safe to say that outside of possibly closer George Sherrill, you should look to other staffs for your fantasy pitching needs.
• John Smoltz may start the season on the disabled list, according to a report on the team's Web site, but the team insists there's absolutely nothing to worry about. The team scratched Smoltz from his scheduled start against the Indians on Friday after the veteran said he was experiencing some tightness in his right shoulder. Smoltz had no problems with the team's decision saying, "I'm not worried. It's not worth taking any chances right now. I'm smart enough to realize that you don't pitch through it now. You pitch through it during the season. You don't really pitch through it during Spring Training." Cox said he expects Smoltz to start next Wednesday against the Nationals, but if the stiffness remains, the Braves may decide to put him on the disabled list to start the season. However, that would merely be a procedural move. Because of the team's schedule and the ability to back-date the start of the 15-day disabled stint, Smoltz would still be able to make his first start on April 6 against the Mets.
• Speaking of those Mets, the team finally got a bit of good news. In a spring where seemingly every game brought with it a new injury, the team's Web site reports that Pedro Martinez felt great after a five-inning outing against the Nationals on Friday. The New York Daily News quoted Martinez as saying, "Today I pitched five innings, 71 pitches, felt fresh -- really fresh, like I could go two or three more." But the pitching star of the day was Washington's Matt Chico, who threw scoreless ball into the fifth inning, and made quite the case for claiming the spot in the rotation left vacant by Thursday's surprising cut of John Patterson. A report in The Washington Post said that Manny Acta was hinting before the game that Chico would indeed get the job.
• A job was not in the cards for Bret Boone. The soon-to-be 39-year-old who was attempting to make the Nationals roster has accepted a demotion to Triple-A Columbus. Boone was surprisingly upbeat about the team's decision. "I've come this far. I want to pursue it," Boone told The Washington Post. "I think this is a win-win for everybody, and it lets me get at-bats every day, and lets the Nationals get their team ready right now." Perhaps Boone is hoping that Manny Acta will give the starting second base job to Ronnie Belliard over Felipe Lopez. Lopez, who is hitting only .205 this spring adamantly told The Washington Post that he wants no part of coming off the bench. "Bench? No. I've already said that. [Heck] no. I feel good out there," Lopez said. "The numbers do not show that I'm hitting the ball hard, playing great defense. I feel ... great." Belliard, on the other hand, is hitting .459 with three homers and seven RBI this spring. Perhaps if Lopez is passed over and pouts enough to force the team's hand, Boone may end up back in the major leagues. After a two-year layoff, Boone would probably be thrilled just to be on the team, in whatever capacity.
• A couple of left-handed Brewers, Randy Choate and Chris Capuano both are unlikely to make the team out of spring training due to injury, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Although Ned Yost had said Choate's chances were "as good as anybody's" to make the team, after accidentally striking a teammate's helmet during a rundown drill and fracturing his hand, the team had no choice but to place the reliever on the disabled list. Yost said the door would be open for the pitcher in the future, "I like his deception, his funkiness, if you will." Meanwhile, Capuano had an MRI on his left elbow and will undergo further evaluation on Saturday. Capuano had allowed 21 hits in 11 innings this spring with an ERA of 9.00. While the numbers alone probably were enough to keep him out of the rotation, this injury likely seals the deal. That's one less arm for Manny Parra, Claudio Vargas and Carlos Villanueva to have to compete with for what looks to be the final two spots in the rotation (after Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan and most likely, Dave Bush.)
A.J. Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
AJ Mass has the latest fantasy news from spring training.