Commentary

Fantasy Camp Notes: Big start for Liriano

Updated: March 23, 2008, 1:45 PM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

• The Twins will pay special attention to Francisco Liriano when he takes the hill in an exhibition game Sunday, and manager Ron Gardenhire told the team's official Web site that this outing "is going to tell us about what we need to do" with Liriano. The lefty has struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery, and though he maintains that his elbow has felt great all spring, Gardenhire told reporters that he's had communication issues with Liriano in the past and needs to be convinced that the kid really is OK. There's still a chance Liriano could start the year on the DL or in the minors, which could depend on how he throws today.

• The Blue Jays' official Web site reports that closer B.J. Ryan expects to pitch in a game on Monday. Early last week, Ryan complained of soreness in his biceps, and though the team maintained the discomfort was normal, Ryan himself seemed concerned. But on Friday Ryan threw a bullpen session and said he felt great. So this potential disaster may be averted. But if you draft Ryan, please be sure you overpay to get Jeremy Accardo, too.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Wilson
ICON sMIC.J. Wilson may be the best option at closer for Texas.

• Presumptive Rangers closer C.J. Wilson pitched in a game for the first time since Feb. 29 on Saturday. He threw a scoreless inning against the Mariners in which he allowed one hit and struck out two batters. Wilson had missed time because of biceps tendinitis, but the plan still seems to be to use him as the saves guy in Texas, assuming he has no setbacks. Also keep your eye on Joaquin Benoit (who also made his spring debut with a perfect inning Saturday) and Kaz Fukumori.

• The Tampa Tribune reports that Rays manager Joe Maddon won't commit to what he'll do with Evan Longoria yet, and won't make any announcement about his rookie third baseman's roster fate until Monday at the earliest. Lately, speculation has been that the Rays would send Longoria down to delay his arbitration eligibility for a year, but the rook has hit very well this spring (.289 AVG, .440 OBP, 3 HR, 10 RBI) and if money weren't an issue, there's no question he'd start at the hot corner on Opening Day.

Curtis Granderson was drilled on the right hand by a Travis Blackley pitch Saturday, and fractured his middle finger. (We'll make no comment on which finger this extends to those fantasy owners who've already drafted Granderson quite high.) Granderson is already on the 15-day disabled list, and is expected to miss at least the first week of the season, if not more. Remember: Fractured fingers have caused more than a few slow-hitting starts over the past couple of years (Et tu, Chone Figgins?). Tread lightly.

• Lou Piniella will make a final decision about the Cubs' closer situation on Sunday, according to the team's official Web site, after Sweet Lou watches Kerry Wood throw one more time. Wood pitched a perfect inning, striking out two, on Saturday, so today's outing would mark his first back-to-back outings of the spring.

• Freak not about Ryan Braun's Achilles' injury. The slugging third-baseman-turned-outfielder went 1-for-3 with a homer on Friday night after missing several games last week. He's fine.

• The Washington Post reports that Nationals outfielder Wily Mo Pena was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with an injured oblique. The team originally reported that Pena might return in mid-April, but that's sounding less likely now. Elijah Dukes is expected to be the starting left fielder in Washington on Opening Day. The Nats also put their ace, Shawn Hill, on the 15-day DL, but Hill wasn't expected to be ready for Opening Day, so this isn't that scary (at least not yet). He's on his way back from forearm surgery and should pitch the second week of the season.

• The Post also reports that two teams are looking into the availability of Nats middle infielder Felipe Lopez, who has been quoted several times this spring as saying he'll be very unhappy if he's not a starter. The Post confirmed that one of the interested teams is the Cubs, who appear to have failed in their preseason bid to land Brian Roberts.

• Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek played in his first game since March 10 on Saturday and blasted a solo homer. Grudzy had missed time because of a bad back but is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

[+] EnlargeEsteban German
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesIs German the answer for the Dodgers' third-base woes?

• The Kansas City Star reports that the Royals have been engaged in talks with the Dodgers about Esteban German. L.A. will be without both Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche to begin the year, and presumably would use German as the club's stopgap third baseman. The Star reports that the Dodgers have been rumored to be offering (or the Royals have been rumored to be asking for) minor league pitcher Jonathan Meloan, who's a legitimate major league prospect.

Andy Pettitte was scratched from his Saturday start because of back spasms, according to the Associated Press. Pettitte told reporters that his back "locked up on him" while he drove home on Thursday. It's the second start Pettitte has missed this spring.

Jason Isringhausen pitched in back-to-back games for the first time this spring. He tossed a scoreless inning in each game.

• The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers are considering moving Michael Young from his traditional No. 3 spot in the batting order to No. 2, to accommodate the red-hot-hitting Josh Hamilton. If Hamilton does hit third, his value will rise a bit, and Young's value probably doesn't take much of a hit moving up one spot, because he's not likely to be a super-high-RBI producer anyway.

• Starting catcher J.R. Towles made his first game appearance in the past two weeks on Saturday, according to the Astros' official Web site. The rookie had missed time because of a bad hamstring, but barring another setback he's expected to get the nod on Opening Day.

• The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Freddy Sanchez will be examined by Dr. James Andrews on Monday because he's still having pain throwing the ball. The team continues to tell reporters they simply think it's tendinitis.

Manny Ramirez told the Boston Globe that he expects the Red Sox to pick up his two team-option contract years in 2009 and 2010, and that he wants to play four more years after that. He also expressed the desire to stay with the Sox, which is certainly a change. (Then again, for Manny, so is talking to the press.) It's worth noting that Ramirez hired Scott Boras to be his agent this winter. Normally, that might be scary for the team in question, but Boras has had very friendly relations with Boston in the past year. Whether the Sox want to continue to pay top dollar for Manny's services is very much in question.

• I still think Jose Castillo would've been an interesting answer as the Marlins' starting third baseman, but the team put him on waivers a few days ago, clearing the way for Jorge Cantu to be the primary guy (though Alfredo Amezaga could get time there, too). In the meantime, Castillo was claimed off waivers by the Giants yesterday. Kevin Frandsen figures to see his time suffer as a result, as might Dan Ortmeier. I'm not ready to say Castillo is definitely the starter at third (Fransden appears to be the other option), but he'll be in line for at least 400 (relatively mediocre) at-bats on a bad Giants club.

Kyle Lohse pitched in his first game as a Cardinal on Saturday, going five innings and allowing two runs, six hits and a walk while striking out three. It appears certain Lohse will be in the team's Opening Day rotation. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that it expects Anthony Reyes to be sent to Triple-A to begin the year, while Brad Thompson looks like he'll be the team's fifth starter behind Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper, Lohse and Joel Pineiro.

• Braves prospect Brandon Jones was sent down to Triple-A yesterday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, capping a disappointing spring for the 24-year-old, who hit .211. Jones was expected to push Matt Diaz in left field, but Diaz appears set to be a full-time player at least to begin the year, which is good news for his fantasy value in NL-only leagues.

• The New York Daily News reports that Angel Pagan looks like the Mets' starter in left field right now. Pagan has hit .355 this spring, and has beaten out Endy Chavez as the guy who'll get at-bats in place of the herniated Moises Alou. Alou should be out for most of April, at least.

• Some Opening Day news: the Marlins announced that Mark Hendrickson will be their starting pitcher on Opening Day, the Orioles have chosen Jeremy Guthrie to pitch their opener, the Rays have chosen James Shields to be their man, and Odalis Perez will be the No. 1 guy for the Nationals.

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.

ALSO SEE