Camp notes: Baker placed on DL

April, 3, 2009
Lots of news today. Let's get to it:

Scott BakerKim Klement/US PresswireBaker's injury doesn't sound bad, but he'll miss at least one start.
• The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Scott Baker has been placed on the 15-day disabled list because of "right shoulder stiffness," and thus won't be able to make his Opening Day start. Francisco Liriano will pitch in his place (on three days' rest, no less). Baker threw in a minor league game Wednesday night, a 58-pitch outing in which he gave up no runs but reportedly developed some stiffness, and the team decided to take the safe route with him. Baker, who signed a four-year, $15.25 million contract last month, told reporters he found it "tough to get loose between innings" during Wednesday's start but "hopes to miss just one start." The Star-Tribune hints that R.A. Dickey might be the Twins' fifth starter in Baker's absence.

• The Seattle Times reports that Ichiro Suzuki visited with a doctor Thursday to discuss the fatigue and dizziness that has bothered him the past couple of days. The Mariners reportedly believe Ichiro's condition is entirely related to being worn down by the World Baseball Classic, which would be cold comfort to his fantasy owners. Ichiro is expected to rejoin his teammates in Las Vegas on Saturday.

• The Houston Chronicle reports that Roy Oswalt had to leave his final spring start Wednesday because he felt light-headed, Ichiro-style. The Astros seem convinced that Oswalt was merely dehydrated, and that he'll be fine for Opening Day.

Lance Berkman started his first spring game since last Friday, going 1-for-4 against the Astros' Double-A affiliate. He had been dealing with biceps tendinitis. It appears he'll be ready to go when the regular season begins, though it'll be worth watching him closely the first couple weeks.

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• As my colleague AJ Mass reported in Thursday's camp notes, Huston Street is going to be the Rockies' closer to start the year; Colorado made it official Thursday afternoon. Manny Corpas will thus be the eighth-inning guy. Don't forget about Corpas, though. Since Street will enter his final year of arbitration in 2010, the Rockies could decide to deal him if and when he excels in this role. At that point, Corpas likely would re-take the closer's job.

• In a rather surprising move, the Cardinals sent Joe Mather to Triple-A on Thursday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For a time in late February and early March, Mather looked like the safe bet to start the season at third base for the Cards, in place of the injured Troy Glaus. But David Freese took advantage of Mather's terrible second half of spring play and won the job. Freese ripped up Triple-A in 2008, with 26 homers, 91 RBIs and a .306 average, but few seemed to believe the third-base gig was his in St. Louis. But Mather's demotion indicates Freese's leash is rather long. He's worth a look in deep mixed leagues, especially since Glaus now looks unlikely to return before the All-Star break.

• Another Cardinals name you've heard a ton about over the past couple of springs, Colby Rasmus, appears likely to make the big league club, according to the Post-Dispatch. He'll likely platoon in left field with Chris Duncan, and also back up center field and right field. He's a solid late-round pick in an NL-only league, but I'm still skeptical he'll produce enough contact at the plate in '09 to warrant a mixed-league spot. He has plenty of upside, though.

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• Finally, the Post-Dispatch also reports that Chris Carpenter called his calf injury a "non-issue," despite the fact that it caused him to be scratched from a minor league start.

• The Twins' official Web site reports that Joe Mauer hit off a tee again Thursday, and plans on catching a bullpen session "sometime this week." Mauer's biggest problem with his bad back has reportedly been running, which he hasn't attempted yet, and the Twins aren't expecting to have their All-Star catcher back until May at the earliest. But at least it's good news that Mauer seems encouraged.

• The Twins' site also reports that while Justin Morneau has missed three straight games because of a pulled muscle in his back that he suffered taking batting practice Tuesday, Morneau doesn't believe he'll miss any regular-season action.

• Brewers slugger Ryan Braun returned to Milwaukee's spring lineup Thursday and went 0-for-4. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Braun's thumb contusion isn't bothering him much any longer. In my opinion, his ribcage injury is still much bigger news and is worth watching. Braun had a terrible September last year because he was limited by a similar injury.

• The St. Petersburg Times reports that B.J. Upton will begin the season on the disabled list, as expected. Upton will continue to rehab his surgically repaired left shoulder and play in minor league games while his teammates begin the season on the road. He hopes to be ready to play right around when he's eligible to be activated, on April 11. By the way, Jason Isringhausen will begin the season on the DL, too, meaning Troy Percival's job as Tampa's closer is safe for the moment. Emphasis on for the moment.

Cameron Maybin told a Marlins Web site reporter that he's not going to focus on hitting homers this year, but rather use his legs to produce steals and runs. The same article divulged that Maybin won't be a full-time leadoff hitter for Florida, at least not to begin the year. Against lefties, Maybin will hit in the top spot, but against righties, he's likely to be the No. 8 hitter, although if John Baker struggles in the No. 2 hole, Maybin could bat there. To start the year, the Marlins expect Emilio Bonifacio to hit leadoff against righties.

• Not only has Andruw Jones made the Rangers' Opening Day roster, but the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth reports that Jones is likely to be the team's starting DH and hit cleanup against lefties to begin the year. That's a pretty dramatic change in value for a guy who looked unlikely to stick with the big club as recently as a week ago. Jones definitely has value in an AL-only league now.

• The Phillies' Web site is reporting the team "still has a shot" to sign Gary Sheffield. Sheffield wants a situation in which he can maximize playing time, and Philadelphia offers nothing close to a starting gig, with Jayson Werth in right, Shane Victorino in center and Raul Ibanez in left. But one other team reportedly in the running at the moment, Cincinnati, doesn't appear to have a full-time opening, either. Sheffield's agent told reporters there was a third team in the mix, and there has been speculation that team could be Tampa, though the New York Daily News seems to think it might be the Mets. Regardless, the agent also said Sheffield "won't rush to sign." There's not a ton of evidence that the mercurial Sheffield has a lot left in the tank, but he'd be an option for the power-needy in a deep league, depending on whether he can find legit playing time.

Brad Penny pitched five innings Thursday, allowing three runs, five hits and no walks against the Twins in his final spring start. The Boston Globe reports that if Penny feels OK on Friday, he probably has sewn up the Red Sox's fifth-starter gig to begin the year. That means Clay Buchholz is likely ticketed for Triple-A Pawtucket, which is a shame because he had a terrific spring. You can still bank on Buchholz making starts for the big club at some point this season; in fact, I still peg him as a more valuable fantasy commodity than Penny.

• The Miami Herald reports that the Marlins have named Anibal Sanchez their fourth starter and Andrew Miller their fifth starter. Neither guy is recommended in a mixed league, and Miller is really entering a make-or-break year for his status as a supposed ace.

• The Tigers announced Thursday that Jeff Larish has made their big league squad over Brent Clevlen. Larish, 26, is still a fair power-hitting third-base prospect, though he'll likely strike out too much to become a regular anytime soon. He could wind up being the left-handed-hitting side of a platoon at DH with Marcus Thames, if Thames (a career .231 hitter against righties) struggles. I like Larish as an AL-only sleeper.

• The Detroit Free Press reports that rookie Rick Porcello has officially made the Tigers' Opening Day roster, and that he'll make his major league debut April 9 against the Blue Jays. He's only 20 years old but certainly is highly touted. Still, it's tough to see a ton of fantasy success for him right away. He has never pitched above Class A, and didn't post a dominant strikeout rate at that level last year.

• The Nationals placed Anderson Hernandez on the DL because of a strained hamstring, but according to The Washington Post, he'll likely miss the minimum time and return as the team's starting second baseman by the season's second week. Ronnie Belliard will fill in.

• The Padres sent Emil Brown to their minor league camp, which isn't a huge surprise or a massive fantasy story. But it's worth remembering that Brown posted over-.800 OPS seasons in '05 and '06 for the Royals, and was considered a possible late-career breakout guy as recently as last year with Oakland. Now he's 34, and probably is done as a fantasy player.

• Ugliness will predominate in the Orioles' pitching staff, and all the more so now that the team has chosen Mark Hendrickson to be its fifth starter. The super-tall lefty has actually acquitted himself quite well as a reliever over the past couple of seasons, but he's crummy as a starter. In 2008, after he got past the 45th pitch of any outing, Hendrickson's ERA was 8.57 and his WHIP was 1.80. This won't go well. Hendrickson is reportedly holding the rotation spot of Rich Hill, whose sore pitching elbow required him to begin the year on the 15-day DL. The rest of Baltimore's rotation reportedly includes Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Adam Eaton and Alfredo Simon. Yuck!



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