Fantasy Camp Notes: Soriano, Lackey injury updates

• The Chicago Tribune reports that Alfonso Soriano suffered a nondisplaced fracture of the middle finger on his right hand while playing catch in the outfield Sunday. When they first announced the injury, the Cubs said they believed their left fielder would miss between three and five days of work, but Monday, manager Lou Piniella told reporters, "I don't know. … He'll have to tell us. It's going to be a while. It's not going to be a matter of two or three days." That's not great news for folks thinking about drafting the fleet Soriano in what could be a bounce-back season, but it's far too early to panic. Soriano still is probably a second-round pick in mixed leagues.

• The Cubs and Orioles are starting to get serious again about Brian Roberts, according to SI.com. The Orioles continue to be interested in Sean Gallagher and Ronny Cedeno, with Sean Marshall possibly thrown in the mix as well. In Chicago, Roberts probably would replace Soriano as the Cubs' leadoff hitter. Meanwhile, Gallagher is only 22 and would join the ranks of the Orioles' very good pitching prospects. Cedeno might get more playing time in Baltimore but still would be an ugly fantasy player.

Scott Kazmir got some good news Sunday, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Rays doctors declared Kazmir's left elbow "free of inflammation," clearing the way for the starting pitcher to participate in team drills. His next test will come Wednesday, when Kazmir will play catch for the first time since hyperextending the elbow.

• Updating an item my cohort Tristan Cockcroft wrote about yesterday, Angels starter John Lackey threw 40 pitches in the bullpen Monday and didn't feel any problems in his right elbow, according to the L.A. Times. If he doesn't have any pain in the next few days, Lackey should pitch again in the bullpen Thursday and make his spring debut Sunday.

Orlando Hernandez still hasn't thrown a bullpen session since he acknowledged his right foot has been bothering his mechanics, according to the New York Daily News, and El Duque is officially falling behind the rest of the Mets' rotation candidates. Considering he won't face live hitters for at least a few more days (and possibly more than that), it's now conceivable that Mike Pelfrey has the inside track on the last spot among New York's starters. Pelfrey threw three scoreless innings in Hernandez's rotation spot in an exhibition game Monday.

• Arizona manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Chris Young, Orlando Hudson and Conor Jackson will be his first, second and third hitters to begin 2008, while Eric Byrnes has a very good chance of landing the cleanup spot, according to The Arizona Republic. Byrnes was most effective in '07 when he was hitting leadoff (.842 OPS compared to .762 hitting third and .741 hitting fourth), but don't worry too much about the possible lineup switch hurting his steals: Byrnes stole 31 bases out of the three-hole in '07, compared to 12 while hitting leadoff. Meanwhile, that's very good news for Young's potential stolen base numbers: He was 19-of-22 from the leadoff spot in '07.

• The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Jay Bruce's quad injury, which he suffered Sunday, will keep the 20-year-old out for a few days. Manager Dusty Baker made a point of telling reporters he is leery of Bruce's recurring leg injuries, which adds more heat to the idea that Bruce could begin 2008 in the minors. Also adding to such a possibility is the fact that the Reds signed Corey Patterson and Jerry Hairston Jr. to minor league contracts Monday night. As of this writing, it was unclear whether Patterson was going to be in the mix for the center fielder's job, but no matter what, this isn't good for Bruce.

• The Boston Globe reports that Bartolo Colon successfully threw his first Red Sox bullpen session Sunday, tossing a combination of fastballs and changeups. He hadn't thrown off a mound in nearly a month and reportedly got his heater up to around 90 mph. If that's as fast as he gets, though, there's little chance of Colon making Boston's Opening Day roster. He's not expected to see spring training action for a couple more weeks.

• The nasty collision between Marlon Anderson and Ryan Church in Saturday's spring training game has kept both players out of action since. Anderson has a bruised sternum, while Church suffered a Grade 2 concussion, according to the New York Daily News. While Church's headaches are gone, he still "gets woozy" whenever he moves quickly. He says he hopes to return to action by the end of the week.

Jeff Baker, who suffered a bruised elbow when he was hit by a pitch this weekend, won't play in an exhibition game before Wednesday but was able to take batting practice Monday, according to the Denver Post. Baker is battling Jayson Nix, Ian Stewart, Omar Quintanilla and maybe even Clint Barmes for the Rockies' starting second-base gig.

Aubrey Huff faced live pitching Sunday, according to the Baltimore Sun, and ran the bases. Huff told reporters he expects to see game action this week. He's recovering from offseason hernia surgery.

• The Dallas Morning News reports that both Kevin Millwood and Brandon McCarthy are making progress in their respective returns from injury. Millwood will throw a two-inning simulated game Wednesday to test his injured hamstring, while McCarthy will undergo one more bullpen session Tuesday to make sure his sore elbow is all right, then pitch in an exhibition game Friday.

Eric Chavez's back already is bothering him, and he had an epidural to relieve pain this weekend. On Monday, he told the A's Web site he's not sure about being ready for Opening Day. As it is, Chavez isn't close to playing in games this week.

• I've written about Andrew Miller's first season with the Marlins a few times this winter and how the young lefty has it in him to be an interesting NL-only sleeper. Alas, those skills weren't on display Monday, as Miller walked five Red Sox hitters in three innings of work. Miller still has "bonus baby" written all over him, but remember, he walked 39 in 64 big league innings in '07. Tread lightly until the 22-year-old shows better command.

Noah Lowry walked nine -- count 'em, nine -- batters in one-plus inning in his Monday afternoon start against the Rangers. In each of his first two outings, he has thrown two pitches past his catcher and to the backstop. This incredible wildness is definitely alarming from a starting pitcher who suffered through a tender elbow at the end of '07. We reiterate what we've said all winter: Don't be fooled by his 14 wins or 3.92 ERA; Lowry wasn't good last year, having walked and struck out exactly 87 batters in 156 innings. Until you get an explanation for what ails him, you can't draft Lowry in any format.

Troy Patton, the lefty starter who was a piece of the deal that sent Miguel Tejada to Houston, told The Associated Press on Monday that he believes he needs surgery for a labrum tear. Patton will return to Baltimore for a test that could confirm the tear, and the Orioles aren't commenting, but it certainly doesn't sound good. Patton will miss the year if he needs this surgery. This potentially helps the starter candidacies of Steve Trachsel, Radhames Liz, Garrett Olson and Hayden Penn; it seems like they'll be battling for two spots in the Baltimore rotation.

Rich Harden pitched three innings for the A's in his spring training debut Monday, allowing four hits, no walks and two runs while striking out two. While the red-hot Torii Hunter's triple off Harden was a shot, it's at least heartening to see that Harden doesn't seem to have any pitch-count constraints on him this early in spring.

• The San Francisco Chronicle reports that uberinjured Bobby Crosby suffered back spasms while taking grounders Monday and is officially listed as day-to-day. Crosby blasted homers in the Athletics' Saturday and Sunday games, but apparently felt obligated to remind fantasy owners he's made of glass. Please don't draft him.

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.