Commentary

Fantasy Camp Notes: Opening Day rosters firm up

Updated: March 28, 2008, 4:29 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Trot Nixon failed to crack the Diamondbacks' Opening Day roster, according to The Arizona Republic, missing out in favor of outfielder Alex Romero. Not that Nixon is any great loss in fantasy, but it's good news for Conor Jackson and Justin Upton owners. Nixon served as a potential threat to their playing time.

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• The Tigers cut Freddy Guzman on Thursday, and that, coupled with Tuesday's Detroit News report that Ryan Raburn is out of consideration for the Opening Day center field role, indicates it's safe to assume Brandon Inge will start there. He'll get in two-plus weeks while Curtis Granderson heals, and is a fine short-term fill-in.

• Rule 5 pick Brian Barton made the Cardinals, thanks in part to his .351 batting average and 11 RBIs this spring. According to the team's official Web site, his specific role is unknown, but with the Cardinals sporting three left-handed hitting starting outfielders -- Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan and Skip Schumaker -- there will assuredly be spot starts in Barton's future, at the very least. Deep NL-only owners, take a look at him.

Carlos Gomez, who suffered a left hamstring cramp on Wednesday, was scratched on Thursday due to residual soreness in his left leg, according to the Twins' official Web site. He remains day-to-day and the team continues to stress his absence is merely precautionary, but this is something that bears watching as you prepare your Week 1 lineups. Speedsters with hamstring issues don't make strong starters.

• Pencil in John Smoltz for an April 6 regular-season debut, as the right-hander reported no discomfort in his right shoulder following a Thursday morning bullpen session. According to the Braves' official Web site, he'll likely be placed on the 15-day disabled list backdated nine days before the start of the regular season, keeping him eligible to start the first time the team needs a fifth starter, on April 6, yet allowing the team to carry an extra pitcher until then. Smoltz will start a minor league game early next week, but all indications are he shouldn't miss any more than one trip through the Braves' rotation.

Scott Rolen
J. Meric/Getty ImagesThe oft-injured Scott Rolen will begin his Blue Jays tenure on the disabled list.
• We've finally got a timetable on Scott Rolen's recovery from a non-displaced fracture in his right middle finger: Late April/early May, so says hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, who inserted a pin into the third baseman's finger to aid in healing.

"He gave a four-to-six week window from the time of surgery," said Rolen, according to the Blue Jays' official Web site. "We'll all hopefully be optimistic and cut that down as much as we can in the right way -- the smart way."

Expect a more specific return date to come sometime after April 7, the day Rolen will have the pin removed from his finger. He'll probably need a week from then to resume full baseball activities. If your league has yet to draft, the safest estimate should have Rolen out for all of April, so price him accordingly.

Mark Prior, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list on Wednesday, threw 25 pitches off a mound to live hitters on Thursday, the first time he has done so since he had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder last April.

"I thought he looked good," manager Bud Black told the Padres' official Web site. "He threw free and easy; his delivery looked good; the ball was coming out of his hand great. It was very encouraging. It was another step in the progression, and he's answered them all."

Prior's 60-day DL status means he won't be eligible to return to the active roster before May 15, according to the Associated Press, though he noted a personal goal of a June 1 return to the rotation. That'd still allow for four months, or perhaps 20-22 starts, plenty for him to make an impact in deeper leagues. Keep him stashed on your DL, and check back on his status about a month from now.

• It's official, Jason Kendall will bat ninth for the Brewers to begin the season. Manager Ned Yost told the team's official Web site that the only lineup spots yet to be determined are Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 7. J.J. Hardy and suspended starter Mike Cameron's center field fill-in, perhaps Tony Gwynn Jr., are the candidates for the No. 2 spot, with the loser slated to bat seventh. Bill Hall and Corey Hart will duke it out to see who bats fifth or sixth. Obviously Hardy and Hart lose the most appeal if they hit in those lower lineup spots, but Kendall is the hitter in the worst situation. Batting ninth behind the pitcher, the veteran catcher might be one of the weakest RBI sources in all of baseball. Then again, considering he did nothing of value for fantasy in 2007, will any of us really notice?

Jose Guillen
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJose Guillen may make his Royals debut sooner than expected.
• It looks like Jose Guillen, suspended for 15 days to start the season for violating the league's drug treatment and prevention program, might get a reprieve. According to the Associated Press, Major League Baseball and the Players Association are nearing an agreement on a tougher drug policy, part of which would eliminate the 15-day suspensions imposed upon Guillen and the Orioles' Jay Gibbons. The report indicated an announcement might be coming as early as Sunday, the scheduled first day for each of their suspensions. Keep tabs on the news over the weekend, as it appears Guillen might be available to you in Week 1 after all. Gibbons, though, isn't too fantasy-relevant.

• Marlins breakout candidate Jeremy Hermida, battling a tight left hamstring, played in a minor league game on Thursday, according to the team's official Web site. He'll also play games in Jupiter, Fla., on Friday and Saturday before joining the Marlins for a scheduled Sunday workout at Dolphin Stadium. By keeping him restricted to minor league games, Hermida remains eligible for a backdated DL assignment, and all indications according to the team are that he'll indeed begin the year on the DL. The current plan has him appearing in two more games in Jupiter, Fla., on April 3 and 4, before being eligible to return to the Marlins' lineup on April 5. Expect Luis Gonzalez to start each of the Marlins' first four regular-season games in right field.

Matt Stairs is battling a sore hip that has sidelined him since Sunday, according to the Blue Jays' official Web site. Still, the team maintains it hasn't considered the possibility of placing him on the DL. Stairs appeared in a minor league game on Thursday, which, like Hermida, keeps him eligible for a backdated DL assignment if needed. All plans currently are for him to begin the year as Shannon Stewart's platoon mate in left field and the No. 2 spot in the lineup. As the left-handed portion of such a platoon, Stairs would be the more appealing one to AL-only owners.

• Continuing with the "minor league game guys," Freddy Sanchez appeared as the second baseman on Thursday, the first time he has manned the position since March 21. According to the Pirates' official Web site, the team has every intention of getting him onto the Opening Day roster, barring a significant setback, even if it's only as a pinch hitter. Sanchez might kick off the year slowly due to his ongoing recovery from shoulder surgery, so don't read too much into his April numbers.

• Blue Jays coach Brad Arnsberg told the team's official Web site that he believes B.J. Ryan will be able to rejoin the team sometime during the April 11-13 series at Texas. Ryan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw a bullpen session Thursday without any problems. He'll begin the year on the DL and will throw three more mound sessions, between each of which he'll have two days of rest. If all goes well from there, Ryan will then transition to an every-other-day schedule, though that'd still keep him short of being ready to pitch on back-to-back nights initially. Call it good news that Ryan might be back in action by mid-April, but it'd be no surprise if he's worked back in slowly, not taking over fully as closer until sometime in May.

Chris Capuano won't have a second Tommy John surgery after all. Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist who performed the first operation, instead recommended rehabilitating the injured elbow for three to four weeks. According to the Brewers' official Web site, Capuano will be placed on the disabled list and will return to Maryvale, Ariz., for rehab, which is said to have a success rate of only 20-25 percent. It's hardly good news, since it's a long shot recovery process and delayed surgery can cut into his 2009.

"If, after [the three to four weeks], he is still experiencing discomfort, [Andrews] would recommend at the very least exploratory surgery," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash wrote in an e-mail.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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