Camp notes: Injury updates on Hamels, Pedroia

March, 16, 2009

One of the perils of being in a league that drafts early is that you have to sweat out the spring injuries, hoping all of your guys make it in one piece to Opening Day.

In that regard, this past weekend was not a good one, even as we wait for the results of a second-opinion exam on Joe Mauer's back.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia told Red Sox fans to "calm down" after he suffered a strained left abdominal muscle that knocked him out of the World Baseball Classic. He might as well have been saying it to his fantasy owners. It was originally thought to be an oblique injury, which would have been a bigger issue that could have sidelined him for a month or two.

Pedroia felt some pain while swinging a bat, but his injury is expected to require just some rest. It's not certain when he'll be ready to get back in the field, but this ultimately shouldn't impact his availability for Opening Day, so don't knock him down your draft lists. There's still plenty of time for him to recuperate a bit and be ready to start the season.

His partner in the Sox middle infield was not as lucky. Julio Lugo, who was the favorite to win the starting shortstop position, will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. It will not be known how long Lugo will be out until he undergoes the procedure, but it will be at least three weeks and perhaps more depending on what they find. This gives Jed Lowrie the starting job, and also raises questions about how well Lugo will be running when he does return, as his main fantasy asset is speed. This development makes Lowrie even more of a viable option for the mixed-league endgame, especially because the shortstop pool is relatively weak compared to recent seasons.

Cole HamelsTim Heitman/US PresswireCole Hamels has only made more than 30 starts once in his three-year career, and that was last season.
• Persistent discomfort and tightness in his elbow has Cole Hamels headed back to Philadelphia for an MRI on Tuesday. While he does not feel pain when he throws, the elbow continues to tighten up between innings. It's not viewed as too serious at this juncture, but it's serious enough to get it checked out a bit more thoroughly. Tread cautiously in drafts for now, just in case, as this is enough to drop him a round or two until we know for sure it's not anything more serious. Hamels had a strained left elbow that forced him to the disabled list for a month in 2007. There's a possibility that even if it's not too serious, his Opening Day assignment could be in jeopardy.

• Sticking with the elbow theme for a minute, the news continues to not be good for the A's Justin Duchscherer. Already a health risk for this season after offseason surgery on his ailing hip for the second year in a row, Duchscherer had to shut down his long-toss session Saturday due to recurring pain in his elbow. He received a cortisone shot and won't be ready for the start of the season. There are also rumblings that he could wind up being moved to the bullpen to protect his health a little better. This situation creates another opportunity in the A's rotation, and the club is seriously taking a look at prized prospects Brett Anderson (four scoreless innings Sunday) and Trevor Cahill quicker than expected because of it. Another prospect, Vin Mazzaro, is also making his case this spring. Do not overlook Anderson, especially, in AL-only drafts.

• Finally, some good elbow news, as Ervin Santana has begun his throwing program after experiencing tightness, but will still miss a good portion of April as he gets back into his routine and gets stretched out. Still, it's a good sign that we'll be able to get 25 starts of Santana's fantasy goodness.

• Unlike Pedroia, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones really is dealing with a strained oblique muscle, and though he was able to play Saturday against Puerto Rico in the WBC, he felt it grab while taking some swings Sunday. Asked if he thought he would be ready for Opening Day, Jones said: "I hope so as long as we take care of it now and don't come back too soon and have this linger. This is one of those things that can linger, especially for a switch hitter."

• Two more players left Sunday's WBC game for the U.S. Ryan Braun departed in the eighth inning with what was termed a "sore right side," but told the team Web site after the game he was "fine. It's precautionary more than anything else. Just tightened up on me a little bit." Yet another bullet dodged, it seems.

• Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom also left Sunday's WBC tilt with a tight right shoulder, and he will undergo an MRI on Monday. "I still had arm strength," he told the team Web site. "The muscle in my shoulder was slowing my arm down, and I kind of felt it a bit." Lindstrom believes his soreness is just a little inflammation that will calm down. For now, it may not be anything that will delay the start of his season. If it does, Leo Nunez may be a candidate to get some early saves. The club has already reassigned hard-throwing Jose Ceda -- whom they acquired in the Kevin Gregg deal and is looked at as a potential future closer -- to minor league camp after his own shoulder trouble prevented him from throwing early in camp.

Manny Ramirez departed Sunday's game with a sore left hamstring suffered while chasing after a fly ball. He's the proverbial "day-to-day" at the moment. Keep in mind that for all of his offensive production, he's been under 500 at-bats in two of the past three seasons, so be prepared to deploy some short term fill-ins from time to time.

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• Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced that Mike Fontenot would be his starting second baseman, but that Aaron Miles would still likely see 350 at-bats as the backup at second, third and short. Fontenot can hit for average, and actually has double-digit pop, which you wouldn't expect from such a diminutive player, so there's some quiet value to be had here in NL formats.

Chase Utley went 0-for-2 in his first action of the year Sunday, playing four innings at second a day after playing in an intrasquad game. It's a good sign that Utley could be ready when the season starts.

Nomar Garciaparra (who, if you think about it, could have been the Yankees' third baseman if he had waited another week to sign) made his spring debut this weekend and had two hits. He's expected to see time all over the infield this year, at least until his inevitable injuries kick in.

Gary Matthews Jr., recovering from offseason knee surgery, also made his own preseason debut, grounding out in his only at-bat. He's ahead of schedule in his recovery, but it's still hard to see how he gets more than 250 at-bats this season given how crowded the OF/DH slots are with the Angels.



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