Camp notes: Good news for Billingsley, Hamels

March, 25, 2009

Chad BillingsleyMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireChad Billingsley's groin injury does not appear to be serious, so draft him as you normally would.
Chad Billingsley owners -- or those planning to target him in upcoming drafts -- you can stop holding your breath now. The right-hander, who left Monday's game with a strained right groin muscle, apparently won't miss significant time, pushing back his between-starts bullpen session only by a day or two. In fact, he told the Dodgers' official Web site on Tuesday that the injury is similar to one that bothered him early last spring.

"I did it the first day we threw to hitters," said Billingsley. "I took three days' treatment, did a touch-and-feel [bullpen session], two days off and then a simulated game. This seems the same, so we'll treat it and get back on schedule."

Billingsley remains scheduled to start the third game of the regular season for the Dodgers. With news that the injury is minor, he can be drafted confidently as a top-20 starter. In fact, it wouldn't shock me if a healthy Billingsley could contend for top-10 status; he won 16 of his final 28 starts with a 2.75 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

• The news on Cole Hamels was positive as well, as the left-hander tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings in a minor league game Tuesday, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out five. But more importantly, he reported no pain, tightness or swelling in his elbow, according to the Phillies' official Web site, and remains on schedule to make his first start of the season April 10 at Colorado. Hamels said Tuesday that the anti-inflammatory injection he received March 17 has cured his elbow woes, so fantasy owners can apparently resume regarding him as a top-10 fantasy starting pitcher.

Shairon Martis, whom you might recognize as the guy who threw a no-hitter for the Netherlands in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, tossed six shutout innings of three-hit baseball Tuesday, retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced. According to the Nationals' official Web site, that has him in the thick of the rotation race in Washington, battling rookie Jordan Zimmermann and sophomore Collin Balester for the final two spots. Zimmermann has pitched effectively enough to probably land one of those two, perhaps the No. 4 role, meaning Martis might be the fifth starter the first time the team needs one April 19. NL-only owners might find a little matchups value in Martis, but Balester, looking like a cut candidate, is no longer sleeper-worthy.

• More rotation news: The Indians reassigned Jeremy Sowers to their minor league camp Tuesday, making it almost certain that Scott Lewis will begin the year as their fifth starter, according to the team's official Web site. Anthony Reyes will be Cleveland's No. 4 starter. Both pitchers have a decent amount of AL-only sleeper appeal, with Reyes almost a fringe mixed-league pick, at least in those formats 12-plus teams deep.

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• Turning our attention to the Orioles' rotation, the team removed David Pauley from consideration Tuesday, narrowing the field for the final three spots to six candidates: Danys Baez, Brian Bass, Adam Eaton, Mark Hendrickson, Hayden Penn and Alfredo Simon. Unfortunately, none of those names is appealing from a fantasy perspective, but the relevance here: Rich Hill, the most sleeper-worthy on the original list of candidates, is no longer in the mix because the soreness in his elbow is likely to land him on the disabled list.

• By the way, fellow Orioles starter Koji Uehara struck out seven batters while allowing one run on three hits in 3 2/3 innings Tuesday in his first start since returning from a strained left hamstring. He should be back on track to serve as the team's No. 2 starter, though the adjustment to the U.S. game, coupled with his having to face the loaded American League East lineups of the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, makes him a risky bet for consistency in fantasy. He's more an AL-only or matchups type than a mixed-league value.

Wandy Rodriguez marked a successful return from a fingernail issue by pitching four shutout innings Tuesday without any lingering effects, according to the Astros' official Web site. He allowed just two hits and two walks in his longest outing of the spring, and was able to throw his curveball without any issues. Rodriguez might have his next start moved up by a day to Saturday in order to be ready for opening week, but the Astros could also play things conservatively and use him as their "fifth starter." Fantasy owners can treat him as a decent late-round mixed selection, as he seemed to even out his dominant-at-home, terrible-on-the-road trend in a surprisingly decent 2008.

Michael Young suffered a setback in his first game back from a tight left quadriceps, leaving Tuesday's game after one inning when he aggravated the muscle, according to the Rangers' official Web site. His status remains day-to-day, but it's cutting into a bit of a spring hot streak for him: He has eight hits in his past 12 at-bats. Young should be fine by Opening Day, but his status bears watching the next few days, as he needs as much time as he can get adjusting to his new position of third base.

Matt Lindstrom, who is working his way back from a rotator-cuff strain, has resumed throwing on flat ground. However, the Marlins' official Web site reports that he's questionable to be ready by Opening Day. He will pitch off the mound for five minutes on Friday and then face batters in batting practice if all goes well, but won't return to a Grapefruit League game until at least a week from now. With Lindstrom's status up in the air, the team's Web site notes that Leo Nunez is the clear front-runner to close in Florida on Opening Day. Logan Kensing is in the mix for a set-up role.

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• It didn't take long for Manny Ramirez to get his swing back. He homered and flied out to the warning track Tuesday in his second game back from a strained hamstring, and plans to return to his traditional position of left field Wednesday, reports the Dodgers' official Web site. It appears Ramirez should be fine well in advance of Opening Day.

Brandon Morrow pitched an inning Tuesday in his return from a forearm injury, and the Everett Daily Herald reports that the right-hander declared the outing a success. He served up a home run in the outing, but was pleased with his fastball command and his breaking ball. Morrow won't have enough time to get his workload up to the point where he'll be in the opening-week rotation, so he'll presumably begin the year on a minor league rehabilitation assignment if he's not switched to the bullpen. The Daily Herald suggests, though, that Morrow will still be groomed to start, so draft him expecting that.

• Braves prospect Tommy Hanson threw five no-hit innings against minor leaguers in an intrasquad game Tuesday, according to the team's official Web site. He threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of 21 hitters and struck out eight, but remains on track to begin the season in Triple-A ball. Coming off a standout spring and rating as the team's top pitching prospect, though, Hanson should be one of the first players recalled if there's an opening in Atlanta's rotation. He's a prime keeper-league prospect and an NL-only sleeper.



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