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Monday, March 12, 2007
FLB: Spring Training Notebook 3/12

By Christopher Harris
ESPN.com

Josh Beckett and Gary Sheffield had quite an adventurous Saturday afternoon together. First Beckett hit Magglio Ordonez in the ear-hole, and, still obviously wild, plunked Sheffield with a pitch, whereupon Sheffield did his typical "you-ain't-so-bad" stare, which is just perfect for spring training. That led to Todd Jones trying his best to bean J.D. Drew, and getting ejected as a result. Then Sheffield and Beckett smacked into one another accidentally behind home plate, and Beckett got his jaw popped, and had to leave the game. He's fine.

• Cleveland hurler Cliff Lee had to scratch a side session on Sunday because his pulled abdominal muscles still hurt, and the Associated Press reports that Lee will miss as many as the first four weeks of the regular season. Fausto Carmona is expected to take Lee's spot in the rotation when a fifth starter becomes necessary, though with his control issues, you probably want no part of that action.

Alex Gordon will miss a few days of exhibition action because of a sore shoulder, according to the Royals' team web site. Manager Buddy Bell told reporters he didn't know when Gordon hurt himself, but it might have been diving for a ball on Friday.

• Cincinnati phenom starter Homer Bailey is going to start the season in the minors no matter what, so don't read too much into Saturday's outing, where Bailey went two-thirds of an inning and gave up five earned runs. Still, it would be better if he'd looked, like, good.

Daisuke Matsuzaka got lit up in his third exhibition start, on Sunday. He allowed homers to the immortal Jon Knott and Jason Dubois, and according to the Associated Press only threw nine first-pitch strikes against the 18 hitters he faced. He still hasn't unleashed the kind of speed and/or power advertised to Red Sox fans.

• The Denver Post reports that rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was drilled on the forearm by a Doug Brocail offering, and had to leave Saturday's spring training game. Rockies medical staff indicated they didn't believe Tulowitzki suffered a fracture, but they'll run several tests over the next few days. At the very least, the shortstop is expected to be pretty sore, but at least he didn't fall down any stairs carrying venison.

• The Chicago Tribune reports that John Danks, one of two players the White Sox acquired for Brandon McCarthy, finds himself a possible alternative to Gavin Floyd at the back end of Chicago's rotation. Danks threw three innings of scoreless relief last Friday, and has out-pitched Floyd so far. Keep an eye on this.

• The L.A. Times reports that Bartolo Colon threw 35 pitches off a mound on Friday, as part of his recovery from a torn rotator cuff. It was Colon's second time throwing off a mound, and while he only threw fastballs, he reportedly looked good. Maybe the Angels' timetable of having Colon available to them by mid-April isn't as silly as it first sounded?

• Royals reliever Leo Nunez also took a liner off his wrist in an exhibition game on Friday, and had to leave the game. X-rays showed a hairline fracture, according to the Kansas City Star, but Nunez is only expected to miss a week to 10 days. There's still a chance he makes the big-league club out of spring training.

Terrmel Sledge, who according to the San Diego Times-Union isn't likely to win the leadoff job from Marcus Giles, has nevertheless been red hot this spring. On Saturday, he hit his fourth homer in seven games.

• The Kansas City Star also reports that last year's surprise relief fantasy entity, Joe Nelson will need surgery on his "injured labrum," and miss at least two or three months. With Octavio Dotel in the fold, Nelson wasn't going to be getting many save opportunities anyway, but he was a good story in '06, having recovered from two previous labrum surgeries.

Mark Prior had another rough outing on Saturday, walking three and allowing four hits and four earned runs in two innings of relief. The Chicago Tribune reports that Prior topped out at 87 miles per hour, and while that's faster than he threw in his first exhibition game, it's not fast enough for him to be effective. Anything can happen, but at this point, I'm beginning to feel Prior's not even worth a last-round gamble.

• Twins spare outfielder Lew Ford relented to the pain in his right knee, and will miss four-to-six weeks. He'll begin the year on the DL, and not be worth drafting in any leagues.

• Texas starter Robinson Tejeda ticked off manager Ron Washington with his inefficiency Saturday, according to the team's web site. "Throwing 50 pitches in two innings isn't very good; it is not going to get it done," Washington said. "He stretched our bullpen. Hopefully, the next time out he'll correct his command."

• The Orange County Register reports that Angels starter Jered Weaver was able to complete a 30-pitch bullpen session on Friday without incident, but that Weaver is still expected to start the season on the disabled list with biceps tendonitis. He should throw another side session on Monday.

• Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin will have to shut it down for another full week because of his oblique strain, the Providence Journal reports. Manager Terry Francona told reporters, "We're going to shut him down for a week and hopefully get through this and then he can pitch six months pain-free." Hm. Doubt it. These days, reporters are speculating that Joel Pineiro and Brendan Donnelly are the favorites for Boston saves, but that's just because there aren't any other candidates. Here's one thought for you: maybe Jon Lester, who's without a rotation spot, could make a conversion? (This is entirely my speculation, of course.)

• The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Ryan Braun (who is no relation to Lloyd Braun, who was played by two different actors on Seinfeld) resumed baseball activities on Saturday. Braun probably won't make the team out of spring training, but should get big-league ABs this year.

• The New York Times reports that new Japanese import Kei Igawa was better in his second exhibition start than he was in his first, pitching three innings, walking no one and striking out four. He allowed a two-run homer to Ronny Paulino, but the results were far more encouraging and after all: he's a Yankee starter.

Adam Wainwright is now up to 11.2 scoreless innings over three spring appearances for the Cardinals. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Wainwright has specialized in the ground ball this spring, and has only struck out two batters.

• Washington manager Manny Acta announced Saturday that both Nook Logan and Ryan Church will have full-time outfield jobs, alongside Austin Kearns. Church has beaten out Chris Snelling for the left field job.

• Nothing personal, Pirates fans, but being your squad's third starter is something akin to being the third-best-tasting Brussels sprout. Paul Maholm has potential, but he was torched by the Yankees Saturday, allowing three runs before recording an out. He'll still man the rotation behind Zach Duke and Ian Snell, but I'm not sanguine about his fantasy chances.

• The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Freddy Sanchez is still out with a sore knee, but that early worries Sanchez had suffered a serious injury have abated. Manager Jim Tracy says his second baseman should be able to get back into the lineup in "a few more days."

Christopher Harris covers fantasy baseball, football and NASCAR for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.