Camp notes: Zumaya, Escobar make strides
• Tigers relief pitcher Joel Zumaya threw off a mound Monday, his first time doing so in three weeks since dealing with a sore shoulder and muscle cramps. Zumaya's throwing session lasted about five minutes, and he's scheduled to have more extensive sessions in the coming days. Tigers manager Jim Leyland remains skeptical Zumaya will be on the team's active roster when the season opens. However, after seeing incumbent closer Brandon Lyon serve up not one, not two, not three, but four home runs in the sixth inning against the Red Sox on Monday, Leyland might aim to accelerate Zumaya's recovery. Fernando Rodney wasn't much better than Lyon, as he allowed three runs in his one inning of work Monday.
• In that same Red Sox-Tigers game, a hurler who fared much better was former Dodger Brad Penny. His Grapefruit League debut with Boston was a success, as he needed only 33 pitches to breeze through three hitless innings. Penny and John Smoltz aren't expected to be on the team's Opening Day roster, but each could be smart dollar choices late in auction drafts.
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• The Angels don't have anyone like Manny, but they also got good news Monday about someone who could play a major role. Kelvim Escobar won 18 games in 2007, then missed all of last season with a torn labrum in his shoulder. He retired four hitters in a minor league appearance, and manager Mike Scioscia was impressed by his velocity. Escobar is one of those late picks in AL-only leagues who could really help fantasy owners.
• Cardinals manager Tony La Russa confirmed Monday that third baseman Troy Glaus would not appear in a spring training game as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Glaus was hoping to play in March and come off the DL in mid-April, but now the Cardinals are targeting early-to-mid May as more realistic. Glaus hasn't had any setbacks, but isn't progressing as quickly as the team would prefer. I view him a bit like I do Alex Rodriguez in that he shouldn't be discounted in drafts too much, since he can be productive in his four-plus months of action. In the meantime, David Freese and Joe Mather remain the top options to replace Glaus early in the season, although neither looks appealing in standard fantasy leagues.
• In better Cardinals news, starter Chris Carpenter tossed a spring-best 76 pitches against the Nationals on Monday, and his ERA remains a pristine Blutarski-like 0.00. Carpenter did allow a pair of unearned runs, but otherwise his five innings were spotless, with three hits allowed, no walks and six strikeouts. Carpenter is being drafted in most ESPN leagues at this point, but he's quickly becoming more than merely a sleeper, and instead someone to depend on.
• The Cardinals news just never stops: Young reliever Chris Perez threw 25 pitches in a bullpen session, and reported no pain in his balky shoulder. The team didn't announce when Perez would throw again, but it's believed Jason Motte is the leader for April saves anyway.
• It was a bit surprising when the Nationals cut starting pitcher Shawn Hill last week, despite how oft-injured the right-hander had been. Hill has had bouts of success in the past, and well, the pitching-starved Nationals could use the help. Hill ended up signing with the San Diego Padres, another club that clearly needs rotation help. Hill might actually make the rotation out of spring training, since Josh Geer, believed to be the No. 5 starter, was optioned to Triple-A Portland on Monday. The team's fourth starter is Kevin Correia. If Hill can get and stay healthy, he could certainly be effective in spacious Petco Park.
• Those who remember what damage Chris Shelton did in April 2006 also can't forget what a bust he has been pretty much every month after that. Shelton hit 10 home runs and knocked in 20 runs that wonderful month, then added just eight homers and 38 RBIs in the 11 months of regular season play since. On Monday the Mariners decided ancient Mike Sweeney had made the club, likely signaling Shelton's pending exit. Shelton has been one of Seattle's top hitters this spring, slugging .763, but it appears Sweeney will get to help Russell Branyan at first base. In other surprising Mariners news, Endy Chavez is slated to start in left field, with prospect Wladimir Balentien backing him up. Makes no sense at all, but then again, Jeff Clement is headed to the minors, Carlos Silva has a rotation spot and Ken Griffey Jr. will steal at-bats from kids like Balentien.
• Young Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley left his Monday start after two innings with a groin strain, which the team is calling minor. Billingsley had allowed four runs to that point. According to Billingsley, removing him from the game was precautionary, and he remains on track to pitch the third game of the regular season. The fact a pitcher got hurt and can't blame the WBC for it hasn't been mentioned, but I'm sure it's coming.
• Speaking of the WBC, congrats to both Japan and Korea for an exceptional championship game. I don't think fantasy owners learned a whole lot from the tournament, but it was mostly good baseball. Sure, it appeared half of Team USA went down with injury, but I don't think it affects fantasy baseball. Matt Lindstrom is throwing again, and could be ready to close Opening Day. David Wright, Ryan Braun and the right side of the Boston infield will be ready with plenty of time to spare as well. If anything, those who play fantasy in the United States were able to see how good international competition can be. For example, if electric young right-hander Yu Darvish, who won Monday's title game for Japan, decides to become the next Daisuke Matsuzaka and play ball regularly in the U.S., many fantasy owners can say they scouted him once upon a time.