- AJ Mass, Fantasy
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Opening Day is just around the corner. Here is a small sample of some of the news as teams pack up camp and what it might mean to you from a fantasy perspective:
According to an article in the East Valley Tribune, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Doug Davis has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The newspaper quotes Davis' father as saying the pitcher is planning to make his first two starts of the season, April 3 against Cincinnati and April 8 at Los Angeles, and then have surgery to remove the thyroid. If all goes well, Davis will be out for only a month. Doctors discovered a lump in Davis' throat last week, and a biopsy disclosed cancer. "They said if there is one kind of cancer to have, this is the one, if there is such a thing," Davis' father, Mike, said. Certainly, Davis' health takes a backseat to any fantasy concerns. That said, if he is going to miss only a month, he still could reach double-digit wins for the fifth straight season.
• Owners of Josh Fields, do not abandon hope just yet. Just a day after Fields was demoted to Triple-A and Joe Crede was named the White Sox's starting third baseman, Crede had to leave Thursday's game against Arizona in the fifth inning after fouling a pitch off his left ankle. X-rays taken after the game showed no damage, but Crede sat out Friday's contest against the Rangers. Crede was hopeful to recover in time for Opening Day, as was his manager: "I expect him to be in the Opening Day lineup. That's why I told him to stay in the clubhouse and continue to do the treatment," said Ozzie Guillen, according to the Associated Press. "He was a lot better. I was a little scared. He got hit pretty good." If you're keeping score at home, that's two lives down, seven to go for Crede.
• Francisco Liriano will not be with the Twins on Opening Day after all. In his final spring start, Liriano held the Pirates in check, allowing only one run on three hits, with seven strikeouts and only two walks. Still, according to the Twins' Web site, manager Ron Gardenhire wants Liriano to get a little more work before joining the rotation. "Yes, he could probably go with us [now] and do as good as a lot of pitchers in this league," Gardenhire said. "But another start or two is the right thing. We'll get his pitch count up there close to 100 pitches in a couple starts, and we're going to do everything that's right for him. After those two games, we'll see exactly [where he's at]." Liriano, recovering from Tommy John surgery, seemed surprised by the decision but took it in stride. "I think I'm ready to start in Minnesota," Liriano said. "If they want me to start [in Fort Myers], I will start here. If they feel it's better for me, I don't mind starting here." While he's away, Nick Blackburn will take Liriano's place in the rotation, likely starting the Twins' third game of the season.
• Orlando Hernandez looked a lot more like his old self Friday against the Orioles, using a high leg kick in his second and final start of the spring. Hernandez allowed four hits and a run in five innings and, more importantly, was pain-free in his right foot. He clearly outshined his main competition for the final spot in the Mets' rotation, Mike Pelfrey, who came in to relieve El Duque and gave up three runs in 3.2 innings to take the loss. "I always feel comfortable with El Duque. He's an excellent pitcher. He's been a great pitcher for a long time,'' said manager Willie Randolph, according to the Asbury Park Press. "If he's healthy and strong, then I feel very comfortable with him, yes.'' It certainly seems like Pelfrey might be packing his bags for Triple-A.
• In other Mets' pitching news, the team reluctantly returned Rule 5 pick Steven Register to the Rockies. A report on the team's official Web site said the Mets were hoping to work out a trade so that they could keep Register, but they couldn't work out anything. The Mets also placed Ruben Gotay on waivers, and the Atlanta Braves claimed him to replace injured utility man Omar Infante. The Braves' site quotes Bobby Cox as saying, "He's a good hitter. We needed someone who we could send up there to get a hit off the bench against a righty. He should help us." Gotay's fantasy value as a situational pinch hitter, however, doesn't quite register with us. But what did make a slight impact was the demotion of Scott Thorman to make room for Gotay on the roster. Thorman, stuck behind Mark Teixeira at first base, did hit 11 home runs last season, and although he's a batting-average killer, he could have been a cheap source of power off the free-agent wire if he had stayed with the team.
• With the Dodgers' already without Andy LaRoche and Nomar Garciaparra at third base, Tony Abreu seemed to be the likely replacement. But the Los Angeles Times reports that a strained right groin has forced Abreu to the disabled list. That leaves young Blake DeWitt as the next in line to claim the open spot in the infield. Manager Joe Torre, as expected, didn't say much about the situation, saying, "People keep falling down besides him." People falling down besides DeWitt? What's next? A wacky old man in an orange leisure suit coming in and demanding to know what's going on? I thought Tommy Lasorda left camp already.
• The Rays claimed outfielder Nathan Haynes off waivers from the Angels, according to Tampa Bay's official Web site. Haynes will go be placed on the Tampa Bay roster in place of Rocco Baldelli, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list Friday with a mitochondrial disorder. Haynes has the versatility to play all three outfield positions and provides the Rays with speed on the bases, but we shouldn't expect too much from a former 32nd–overall pick who needed almost a decade to make it to the major leagues. He finally made it last season, hitting .267 in 40 games.
• The Philadelphia Daily News reports the ringing endorsement for the final spot in the rotation that Adam Eaton was expecting to get from his manager might not be coming after all. It looked like a done deal, but after Eaton gave up seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits in 4.2 innings against the Tigers on Thursday, manager Charlie Manuel was not exactly jumping for joy. "I don't know," Manuel said. "We'll see when we get there. We've got plenty of time. [Next] Saturday's a long way off. Hell, I might be dead by then." Even if he makes it to Saturday, perhaps Eaton's performance might make Manuel wish he was dead. Suffice it to say, we're not going to be inserting Mr. Eaton into our starting fantasy rotation anytime soon, regardless.
• Andy Pettitte will be making his scheduled minor league start Sunday, and he felt good after a 25-pitch bullpen session Friday, much to the delight of Joe Girardi. The Yankees' manager told Newsday that he still expects Pettitte to start the fourth or fifth game of the season. Girardi added that he is still considering placing Pettitte on the disabled list retroactively to start the season, but even in doing so, the pitcher would still be able to pitch as early as April 5. Doing this would give Girardi a bit more time to evaluate Kei Igawa and Darrell Rasner for the final spot in the bullpen.
• Hideki Matsui just moved up a few notches ... not on my draft list, but in my admiration. At the start of spring training, Matsui overheard Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu making a wager over which one would get married first. Matsui wanted in on the action, and his teammates happily agreed. Of course, Matsui did not tell them that he was already secretly engaged, and on Thursday the outfielder announced that he had, in fact, gotten married. "Basically, the only people I told about this were the immediate family," Matsui said on the Yankees' official Web site, through an interpreter. "I think that helped." Jeter and Abreu were stunned but will both make good on their bets. "I'll give him the money today," Jeter said. "That's pretty good, though. He's sneaky. I should have known he was up to something." What does any of this have to do with fantasy baseball? Well, with all the turmoil and distractions that run amok in many major league clubhouses, stories like this confirm that whether you like them or hate them, the environment in the Yankees' clubhouse is a healthy one. When in doubt, and two players of relatively equal value are on the table, you go with a Yankee on your fantasy team.
A.J. Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.