AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Even with Brandon Morrow back at closer, the Mariners' bullpen is a mess.
Called upon to tackle Seattle's first save chance of 2009, Morrow imploded Tuesday, allowing three runs in two-thirds of an inning to absorb the loss. Most troubling: He recorded two outs before walking three consecutive hitters, then giving way to Miguel Batista, the team's next-most experienced save-getter.
Morrow's command was shaky in this one, as he threw a first-pitch strike to only one of five hitters and only 14 of his 28 pitches for strikes. He also ran 3-0 counts to back-to-back hitters, Carlos Gomez and Jason Kubel, before walking each.
Such wildness can't be entirely unexpected. Elbow problems limited Morrow to five Cactus League innings, and let's not forget that it has been four days since we received official word that he would close. It's been less than two weeks since news broke that he would begin the season in the bullpen and exactly 15 days since he returned to game action after missing time due to forearm soreness. In a way, the Mariners rushed Morrow into this role due to a lack of better options, so they'll presumably be patient with him even after this stinker.
Besides, Batista wasn't any more effective in relief of Morrow; he served up an RBI infield single to Denard Span and a game-winning two-RBI single to Alexi Casilla on the only three pitches he threw. So what's better, a young, inexperienced closer who can't throw strikes, or a mediocre "experienced" one who can't record outs?
The Mariners know their answer: Morrow, their closer of now and the future. But fantasy owners should be prepared for a rocky adjustment period -- along with some risk of further injury issues -- acknowledging his abbreviated, injury-marred spring.
Previous editions: 4/7: Opening Day jitters
• So the Cardinals have now faced a left-handed starter (Paul Maholm) and a right-handed starter (Ian Snell) in their first two games, and in neither one did rookie David Freese earn the start at third base. After Brian Barden manned third on Opening Day, Joe Thurston played there Tuesday, begging the question: Where does Freese fit in? It was Thurston's first game at third base as a professional, which is a pretty damning statement of Tony La Russa's opinion of Freese. NL-only owners, keep an eye on this.
• Colby Rasmus made his big league debut in that game, reaching base safely three times in five plate appearances (two hits and a walk) while batting second. He played right field in place of Ryan Ludwick, which indicates he might figure into a sort of outfield rotation, sneaking in starts at all three spots against right-handers.
• Geovany Soto left Tuesday's game in the sixth inning with right shoulder soreness. The Cubs told ESPN he experienced the soreness on a throw to second base earlier in the game. Soto is day-to-day and hasn't felt the soreness before, but monitor his status, as backup Koyie Hill would be a weak fill-in, with his .190 career batting average.
• With Opening Day No. 2 hitter John Baker sitting against a left-hander, the Marlins batted rookie Cameron Maybin second Tuesday, a boost to his fantasy value, especially in the runs-scored department. It appears that might be the arrangement against southpaws when Ronny Paulino plays, while Maybin will slot in eighth when Baker is in the lineup.
• Exhibit A on why spring stats don't matter: Andy LaRoche committed his third error of the season in his second game, and he's 0-for-6 as a hitter. (He was a .333 hitter in the spring.) With only Ramon Vazquez behind him on the depth chart, LaRoche should continue to get chances, but any extended cold spell might lead to more starts for Vazquez against right-handers, and with time perhaps talk of a Neil Walker or Pedro Alvarez promotion.
• Lou Piniella apparently has tremendous faith in Mike Fontenot, starting him against left-hander Wandy Rodriguez on Tuesday despite talk in the spring that Aaron Miles would serve as his platoon partner against that side. Fontenot was 0-for-4, but that he was 3-for-4 on Opening Day against Roy Oswalt and 7-for-21 against southpaws in 2008 should earn him another chance against a lefty. He's looking like the every-day second baseman.
• Before you worry about Tim Lincecum's abbreviated, three-inning, 78-pitch Opening Day start, consider that he now has a 7.15 ERA, 2.21 WHIP and 12 walks in 11 1/3 innings in his first starts of the season in 2007, '08 and '09. In his other 55 career starts, he has a 3.08 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP and has averaged 3.45 walks per nine innings. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Giants trainer Dave Groeschner sent a text message to a club official in the press box saying that Lincecum's early exit wasn't injury-related. More encouraging facts from the Elias Sports Bureau: Lincecum's start tied Sandy Koufax's three innings in his 1966 debut for the shortest first start by a defending Cy Young winner. Koufax went on to win the Cy Young anyway in 1966.
• Alexei Ramirez batted eighth in the White Sox's 2009 opener, a frustrating assignment for fantasy owners expecting him to break out. Meanwhile, Dewayne Wise led off and Chris Getz batted second. Neither Wise (0-for-4, 3 K's) nor Ramirez (0-for-3, K's) impressed in their roles, but Getz was 2-for-4 in the lineup spot in which Ramirez owners might most like to see him wind up. Wise might not last in the leadoff spot, but if Getz has staying power, Ramirez's runs and RBI totals will surely suffer.
• Matt Holliday's absence Tuesday was termed a "non-baseball-related condition," which the Athletics' official Web site says means he's sick. Expect Holliday back in a day or two, but Oakland went with Nomar Garciaparra at first base, Jason Giambi at designated hitter, Travis Buck in left field and Jack Cust in right field in his stead.
• Brandon Morrow wasn't the only closer who struggled Tuesday; B.J. Ryan blew his save chance, too. Ryan served up a solo home run to Brandon Inge but was taken off the hook when the Blue Jays won in the bottom of the ninth. A player of Inge's caliber getting to Ryan, coupled with spring reports of diminished fastball velocity, warrants some concern. Ryan owners need to retain Scott Downs as a handcuff for now.
Mike Cameron, Brewers
A 1-for-1 game might not impress, but when you tack on four walks and two stolen bases, suddenly it looks a lot nicer. With the four-walk effort, Cameron is one of only three players since 2000 with that many in his team's opener (Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield are the others), and he's the only one of the three with two four-walk performances in season openers, as he also did it in 2001. But what fantasy owners like to see are the steals; Cameron's steals total dropped in each of the past two years, and it's his 20/20 ability that has us so willing to overlook that .250 career batting average.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
On a day that saw several solid pitching performances, Jimenez's seven shutout innings were the most impressive, mainly because he defeated Dan Haren, a top-10 fantasy starting pitcher, in the process. Jimenez capitalized upon facing a strikeout-prone Diamondbacks lineup, whiffing eight and throwing 61 of 107 pitches for strikes. ESPN Stats & Information notes that four of his K's came on fastballs of 96 mph or greater. He now has a 1.31 ERA and 24 K's in 20 2/3 innings in three career starts at Arizona's Chase Field. If he can maintain that command all season, as opposed to his shaky spring numbers (13 BB in 19 2/3 IP), he could be one of 2009's bigger breakout candidates.
2: For the fourth consecutive season the Philadelphia Phillies have lost each of their first two games, which might be more distressing if you didn't remember that they've won the National League East title in each of the past two years and are defending world champions this year. Interestingly enough, the Braves were the team to beat them in back-to-back contests to kick off 2007, and they swept that season-opening series in Philadelphia that year. Still worried that this team is suffering from a "World Series hangover"?
• Rockies manager Clint Hurdle told The Denver Post that Franklin Morales will be demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs following his scheduled start Wednesday, in order to keep the left-hander on his usual rotation turn. Hurdle wouldn't promise Morales his spot back the next time the Rockies need a fifth starter on April 21, though, noting that Jason Hammel might be a candidate to take that turn.
• Click here for all the latest MLB transactions.
AJ Mass: Really nice Opening Day. Still, it was against the Nationals and I'm not changing any projections just yet, nor am I declaring him the next Tuffy Rhodes. My feeling is you wait at least two weeks before making a call on a player's start -- though if you drafted a guy who ended up not making the 25-man roster, feel free to swap him out.
-- Full chat transcript
Stephania Bell: Well, it's certainly a serious condition in the sense that it needs to be treated seriously (which it is), and it's important to discover it fairly early (which it sounds as if they did). The good news is that medication and rest should do the trick. His body will have to replace the blood loss (which is what caused him to be fatigued, etc., to begin with), and medication these days for ulcers is excellent. So once he recovers it should not be a recurring problem.
-- Full chat transcript
Wednesday's fantasy chat schedule:
Tristan H. Cockcroft, 11 a.m.
Eric Karabell, 3 p.m.
• Tom Glavine threw 85 pitches over six scoreless innings during a minor league intrasquad game at Gwinnett Stadium on Tuesday, according to the Braves' official Web site. Despite working in temperatures in the mid-40s, the left-hander reported no problems with his shoulder, as he struck out four batters despite his fastball reportedly clocking in at around 80 mph. Glavine will make one more minor league rehabilitation start this weekend before joining the Braves' rotation April 18 at Pittsburgh.
• Dustin Pedroia, who homered in his first at-bat of 2009, could be in for another big game, as he's 14-for-25 (.560) with four extra-base hits and four walks lifetime against Scott Kazmir.
• Zack Greinke has never won a game at U.S. Cellular Field. He's 0-6 with a 7.78 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight games (six starts) there, and was soundly pounded for a 15.00 ERA and five home runs in two starts at "The Cell" in 2008.
• While Mike Cameron had a nice Tuesday, he has struggled in his career against Wednesday's starter Randy Johnson. Cameron is 2-for-29 with 18 strikeouts in his career against the Big Unit.
• Fausto Carmona, a ground-ball pitcher, has won both of his career starts at Rangers Ballpark, one in 2007 and one in 2008 while tallying 14 innings and allowing one unearned run and a 1.07 WHIP. He also had a 2.67 spring ERA. Sneaky-good start, anyone?
• Rick Ankiel has four hits, including one homer, in five career at-bats against fellow lefty Zach Duke.
• Check out Daily Notes for more information on Wednesday's games.