Camp notes: Braun injury not a joke

April, 1, 2009

No, it's not a cruel April Fool's Day joke. Ryan Braun really did get injured Tuesday night, but don't panic ... it doesn't appear to be incredibly serious.

Braun no doubt is thrilled to see his calendar reading April 1, because March was really not good to the Brewers slugger. First, he aggravated a strained muscle at the back of his rib cage while playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Then, on Tuesday, Braun got another scare when he lost a line drive off the bat of Brian Giles in the lights, and the ball struck his throwing hand. Braun left the game and went to the hospital for some X-rays, which were negative, according to the team's Web site. Still, manager Ken Macha is not the least bit amused and is hoping this doesn't turn into something worse.

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"Hopefully, they got it iced up good," Macha said. "But that's a small joint. With a little bit of inflammation, it's going to be tough. It's his top hand, too."

Braun is being listed as day-to-day, but for his fantasy owners, we can only hope he's gotten all the bad luck for 2009 out of his system already.

Joey Devine, who was expected to share the closer's job in Oakland with Brad Ziegler, is headed for the disabled list, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Devine has had recurring pain in his right elbow and will be examined by Dr. James Andrews next week, which speaks to the concern the A's have with their reliever. If it is discovered that Devine needs surgery, it's unlikely he would pitch at all in 2009.

This means the bulk of the closing duties now lie square on the shoulders of Ziegler, who opened his major league career with a record 39 consecutive scoreless innings. However, manager Bob Geren hasn't ruled out the possibility of throwing a few extra arms into the ninth-inning mix.

Geren told the paper that Russ Springer and Santiago Casilla will also get some save chances on days when Ziegler is unavailable. "Casilla is definitely throwing the ball right now where I would have confidence putting him in the ninth inning," Geren told the paper.

Devine's shelving once again underscores the importance of not paying for saves in your fantasy draft, but those of you who were relying on Joey should probably snatch up Ziegler (assuming he's available) before the final verdict on the injury comes down.

• Meanwhile, Royals fans might also be skeptical when they hear the news that Luke Hochevar has been sent to Triple-A Omaha instead of Sidney Ponson, but again it's a case of contracts versus performance. Hochevar, the team's first overall pick in 2006, had a 3.86 ERA in five spring outings, which was light years better than the 9.58 ERA put up by Ponson in two starts.

Unfortunately for the young pitcher, the Kansas City Star reports that Ponson has a clause in his contract that that allows him to become a free agent if he's not on the big league roster by May 1. So while Ponson has not been impressive, the team would much rather have Hochevar pitch regularly in the minors for a month and hope that Ponson works out his problems than to keep Hochevar with the team, using him only occasionally when a fifth starter is called for, and to let Ponson become a free agent.

• The Phillies have released Geoff Jenkins, which opens up a spot on the roster for another right-handed outfield bat off the bench. And the rumor mill is working overtime, insinuating that just-released Gary Sheffield might be that bat. According to the Phillies' official Web site, Ruben Amaro Jr. has indeed contacted Sheffield's agent to gauge his interest in joining the defending World Series champions.

Of course, Sheffield won't be able to DH with the National League team, but that wouldn't bother Sheffield. "I can go out there on an everyday basis and play in the outfield," Sheffield told the Web site. "That's what I yearn for. I want to be in the outfield. At the same time, it kind of puts you in a box when you accept the DH role, because people start labeling you as that's all you can do. And that's not the case."

Still, Sheffield has played fewer than 20 games in the outfield over the last two seasons, and with Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth slated to start, there isn't really an open spot for everyday play. We're not sure Sheffield would sign on for such a limited role, but at least he's getting some offers. So, even if it's not in Philadelphia, it probably won't be long before he ends up on a roster somewhere.

• The Astros acquired Jeff Keppinger from the Reds for a player to be named later, and likely will use him as part of a third-base platoon with Geoff Blum. Originally, the Astros had planned to go with a platoon of Blum and Aaron Boone, but after Boone's heart condition was brought to light, it was clear that Houston would be bringing somebody in before the start of the season.

Jeff KeppingerJohn Grieshop/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesJeff Keppinger can have some fantasy value in NL-only leagues as part of the Astros' third-base platoon.
That someone is Keppinger, who hit .351 and slugged .515 against left-handers last year. In addition to playing third base against southpaws, the versatile Keppinger likely will be called on to spell Kazuo Matsui and Miguel Tejada from time to time, just to give those players a day off. While the move doesn't mandate that hot third-base prospect Chris Johnson will return to the minors for a little more seasoning, that's probably how things will shake out.

As for the Reds, the move made sense since Keppinger was out of options, and Alex Gonzalez, who missed all of last season with a microfracture in his left knee, has been deemed healthy enough to return to action on a regular basis. As Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "They were looking at a right-handed bat. We resisted it at first. But with our situation -- [Alex Gonzalez] probably being ready -- there wasn't going to be much playing time for Kepp. This is probably a better situation for him." Either Adam Rosales, or possibly Paul Janish, will be the primary beneficiary of the trade, claiming Keppinger's roster spot, but neither will have any fantasy impact unless Gonzalez goes down again.

• The Detroit Free Press reports that the Tigers have been talking to the St. Louis Cardinals about trading Detroit's Ryan Raburn in exchange for some pitching prospects. Raburn, who can pretty much play any position on the field, would be far more suited for an NL bench spot and has become expendable since the Tigers acquired outfielder Josh Anderson from the Braves. Either way, it's apparent that Raburn will not be coming north with the Tigers and that Jeff Larish likely has passed Raburn on the organization's depth chart.

• Perhaps part of the appeal for the Cards would be the news that the timetable for Troy Glaus' return has been scrapped. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that the team now has "no idea" when Glaus will be ready and that a team source recently suggested any forecast of a return before June is "extremely optimistic."

That means David Freese, who hit who hit 26 homers and drove in 91 runs at Triple-A last year, may well be the team's everyday third-baseman, especially since the other candidates for the job (Joe Mather, Brendan Ryan, Joe Thurston and Brian Barden) have been underwhelming this spring -- perhaps even underwhelming enough to cause the team to look to Detroit for some help fielding that spot.

• Clint Hurdle may not have decided on a closer yet, but according to Colorado's official Web site, he has decided that Dexter Fowler will be on the Rockies roster for Opening Day. The 23-year-old outfielder hit .335 in Double-A Tulsa last year, but struggled in his September cup of coffee last season and started slow this spring. However, after a 16-for-45 (.356) stretch, to go along with his amazing speed both on the bases and in the outfield, Fowler showed the team enough to beat out Scott Podsednik for a roster spot. Although it appears the Rockies' outfield is set with Seth Smith in left, Ryan Spilborghs in center and Brad Hawpe in right, Hurdle says he's going to use Fowler "regularly." This may mean that the left-handed hitting Smith might be sitting against lefties, as Fowler is a switch-hitter, and if Fowler does well in that capacity, perhaps he starts seeing action against right-handed pitching as well.



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