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Sunday, March 16, 2008
Fantasy Camp Notes: Drama, thy name is Lackey

By Christopher Harris
ESPN.com

John Lackey is expected to miss most of April because of an injury to his triceps, according to the Orange County Register. An MRI done Friday reportedly revealed a "strain," and Lackey won't throw a baseball again for the next 3-4 weeks. The pain is reportedly different from the elbow issue that sidelined Lackey early in camp, which was on the inside of his arm. Still, this isn't good. The Angels are saying early May is an "optimistic" timeline for the big righty's return. Considering the Angels' top two starters (Lackey and Kelvim Escobar) will be on the shelf in April, the AL West-rival Mariners have to be licking their chops. Dustin Moseley is the favorite to occupy Lackey's vacancy in the rotation, leaving the Angels with a group that includes Jon Garland (guess they knew what they were doing when they traded Orlando Cabrera for him), Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Moseley.

• According to The Boston Globe, Josh Beckett reportedly will resume throwing Sunday, a week after he suffered back spasms while trying to warm up before a spring game. However, he won't pitch from a mound, which puts him way behind his timetable of making the Red Sox's trip to Japan. With news that Daisuke Matsuzaka's wife gave birth Saturday morning, Matsuzaka will be able to fly to Tokyo with the team and start the season opener against the A's, so there's probably quite a bit less urgency to have Beckett go, too.

Scott Kazmir
Scott Kazmir, who was scratched from his start Sunday, won't start for the Rays on Opening Day.
• The Tampa Tribune reports that the Rays scratched Scott Kazmir from his proposed first start of the spring, which was supposed to happen Sunday. Manager Joe Maddon wants Kazmir to "build more arm strength" before making his debut, which should come later in the week. Maddon also admitted that Kazmir won't pitch for Tampa Bay on Opening Day but believed his ace's first appearance would probably come during the season's first week.

• The Mets' official Web site reports that Pedro Martinez will make his spring training game debut Sunday against the Tigers. Martinez probably could've pitched in a game before now, but circumstances, including weather and road trips, conspired to keep him pitching on the side.

• The Washington Post reports that Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was held out of games on both Saturday and Sunday because of "lingering soreness in his right hip flexor." "It's playable," said manager Manny Acta. "[But] we don't want to take any chances." Lastings Milledge (stubbed toe) and Elijah Dukes (hamstring) were also held out of this weekend's games.

• Do I ever write these notes without commenting on some Reds-related prospect drama? First off, you have Homer Bailey getting racked again Saturday, allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Red Sox, giving him an 8.45 ERA in 10 2/3 innings this spring. Manager Dusty Baker has told multiple sources that prospect Johnny Cueto is leading in a bid to make the rotation, which means Bailey has a decent chance of starting the year at Triple-A. (Josh Fogg and Edinson Volquez have pitched decently this spring, while Jeremy Affeldt and Matt Belisle are also candidates behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.) I also watched Joey Votto go 0-for-4 on Saturday, bringing his spring training count to 5-for-33. Meanwhile, Scott Hatteberg is 11-for-31 and boasts a .459 OBP. Anyone else think it's likely that Votto will start the year at Louisville, too?

Takashi Saito's calf healed well enough for him to make his spring debut Saturday, and he pitched a perfect inning against an admittedly undermanned Nationals team. Still, Saito's ability isn't really in question after last year; his durability is, simply because he's 38. Anyone who takes him should reach for Jonathan Broxton as well.

• Lou Piniella told the Cubs' official Web site that he would pick his closer from among Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry after each of them pitches "in consecutive games" this coming week. Wood appears to have the inside track on the job because Piniella believes that setup roles are actually tougher on pitchers than just throwing in the ninth inning. All three of these candidates have struggled with something this spring; I personally saw Wood get taken deep by Torii Hunter in Arizona a couple of weeks ago, Marmol has had difficulty locating his fastball, and Howry has gotten lit up to the tune of seven runs and 12 hits over 5 1/3 innings.

Milton Bradley played in his first game of the spring Friday night -- a Triple-A game. He played DH, and in five at-bats he hit two singles and a double. He told the Rangers' official Web site that he had "fatigue" in his surgically repaired knee but that he didn't consider it a setback. Bradley is a very interesting mixed-league sleeper in the middle of the Texas lineup, so keep tabs on his health over the next couple weeks.

Manny Parra
Manny Parra is making a strong bid to stick with the big league club coming out of spring training.
• Brewers rotation candidate Manny Parra struck out seven and allowed an unearned run Saturday against a Royals lineup with four regulars, giving Parra 15 strikeouts in 14 innings (to go with just two walks). Carlos Villanueva has also pitched very well in his pursuit of the fifth-starter gig (behind Ben Sheets, Dave Bush, Jeff Suppan and Yovani Gallardo), and those two appear to have outdistanced Chris Capuano and Claudio Vargas. The key may be that Villanueva has experience as a swingman. It'll be very interesting to see if Milwaukee keeps Parra on the big league team.

• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Eric Chavez won't make the A's trip to Japan to face the Red Sox for two regular-season games next week. Chavez already has had an epidural for his bad back and hasn't yet been able to take ground balls.

• Nationals starter Shawn Hill was able to throw his first bullpen session of the spring on Saturday after dealing with continued forearm problems during long toss earlier in the month. The Nationals' official Web site reports that "the ball jumped out of his hand," for whatever that's worth. Hill had surgery on the offending forearm late last year and isn't a great bet to stay healthy, but it sounds as though he could be pitching in spring games within a week.

• Royals co-catcher Miguel Olivo injured his groin spinning out of the way of a pitch on Friday night, according to the Kansas City Star, and was expected to miss some time. John Buck is the nominal starter behind the plate for the Royals, but Olivo is expected to eat into his playing time to the point that neither guy will seem very interesting, except in two-catcher AL-only leagues.

• Trendy AL-only pick Scott Moore returned to game action for the first time since March 3 on Saturday, and he went 1-for-3 against the Marlins. He missed nearly two weeks because of a strained groin but before that had gotten off to a quick start. The Orioles acquired the 24-year-old Moore from the Cubs in a deal for Steve Trachsel last August (Trachsel, regrettably, is in O's camp, too), and might decide to keep the third-year player in the bigs. The Orioles could use him as Melvin Mora insurance at third; plus, because they're going to be terrible, they might as well see if Moore can help them at first base or DH, in lieu of Kevin Millar and/or Aubrey Huff.

• Speaking of the Orioles, the Washington Post reports that Luis Hernandez is the favorite to win the team's starting shortstop gig, ahead of Brandon Fahey. You're not drafting either of them, hopefully, but Hernandez has the potential to be particularly unappealing fantasy-wise. He has 69 career big league at-bats, and he hit .242 at Double-A last year. Baltimore will be using him because of his defense. You shouldn't.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.