Camp notes: Hoffman, Upton may miss openers

March, 23, 2009

Trevor HoffmanAP Photo/Morry GashTrevor Hoffman's regular-season debut for the Brewers could be delayed a week or two.
Trevor Hoffman's strained oblique muscle may not allow him to be ready for the start of the season, as he's not expected to throw for at least another week. Manager Ken Macha has been vocal in his displeasure with the spring performance of Carlos Villanueva and indicated Seth McClung could be a candidate for some early saves if he is not needed in the rotation. Hoffman isn't expected to miss too much time at the start of the season, so don't downgrade him significantly.

• Rays manager Joe Maddon confirmed that after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery and being hit on the hand by a pitch Saturday, B.J. Upton likely will not be ready for the team's opener and should miss the Rays' six-game road trip to start the season. Gabe Kapler likely will start in center field for the first week. The team does not want to play Upton until he's 100 percent healthy, so you'll need to find a replacement for those first games.

• After missing all last season with a shoulder injury, Curt Schilling officially announced his retirement on his blog Monday. During his peak, Schilling was one of the top pitchers in fantasy, thanks to his high strikeout totals, low ERA and WHIP and ability to win plenty of games for good Diamondbacks and Red Sox teams. With this news, you officially can take Schilling off your draft boards.

• It was announced that Chris Getz won the second-base job for the White Sox, but it's not a job he's likely to keep the whole season. Getz profiles more as a utility player, while Gordon Beckham has been very impressive this spring, indicating he could make his big league debut as early as this season. Though Beckham likely will play shortstop in the minors, he could take over the job from Getz at some point this year if he has a strong start at Triple-A.

Ricky Nolasco looked in midseason form in his latest spring start, working seven innings of the Marlins' combined no-hitter against the Tigers on Sunday, walking one, striking out eight and facing the minimum 21 hitters. There are no questions about Nolasco's ability to repeat his breakout performance of last season. But questions still remain whether he can stay healthy after his workload last season, which came after he missed most of the previous season thanks to an elbow injury that was treated with rehab instead of surgery. If he keeps taking the mound every fifth day, the strong numbers will be there again.

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James McDonald is making a late push for the Dodgers' fifth-starter job. It was expected that he would begin the season in the bullpen to limit his innings a bit, but none of the other candidates (Claudio Vargas, Eric Milton) has been impressive this spring, opening the door for the 24-year-old. He's an endgame play in NL-only leagues.

David Price threw four scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the Yankees on Sunday, keeping his name alive to make the final roster. He is expected to start the season in the minors because Jeff Niemann and Jason Hammel are both out of options. However, neither of those two has pitched well lately, and both are the subjects of trade rumors. Have no fear: If Price is sent to Triple-A, he likely won't be there long.

• The chances are increasing that top prospect Rick Porcello could be the fifth starter for the Tigers when the season opens, as manager Jim Leyland ruled out Zach Miner this past weekend, leaving just Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis as the other candidates. Both Robertson and Willis have had awful springs; Robertson has looked better in his past two outings, but still has to pitch well during the final two weeks. Regardless, expect Porcello to see a good amount of big league time this season, and his potential demands attention in AL formats, even if they aren't keeper leagues.

Justin Duchscherer, battling a sore elbow, will throw a bullpen session Monday in the hopes of being able to appear in a minor league game later this week. Considering we've added this problem to the chronic hip issue that has required surgery each of the past two offseasons, we can't expect a significant amount of innings out of Duchscherer this season.

Speaking of the A's rotation, Vin Mazzaro was roughed up again on Sunday, meaning he likely is out of consideration for the open fifth-starter spot as well as Duchscherer's spot for however long he is out. With Gio Gonzalez having been ruled out because of a sore shoulder, top prospects Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill appear to be the leading candidates for the job. Both have pitched well this spring, and both are good enough to make the leap from the low minors and have some fantasy impact. Anderson has more polish and command, so he has a better chance at immediate success, but both should be on your radar screen. They are worthwhile reserve-list plays in mixed leagues if you want to take a chance on some pitching.

J.D. Drew, who was hit on the hand by a pitch Friday, saw the swelling go down Sunday and hopes to be back in the lineup on Wednesday.

• White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said Brian Anderson will platoon in center field with either Dewayne Wise or Jerry Owens, and that battle will go down to the last days of camp. The winner of that battle of left-handed hitters will get the lion's share of at-bats, and their speed potential will give the winner some quiet value in AL-only play.

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Mike Napoli finally got back behind the plate, playing five innings in an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday. Stealing bases against him was not allowed, but it was an important step in his recovery from shoulder surgery. He's not likely to be ready for the team's opener, but Angels hope his official return to the squad won't be too long after that. He has been playing long toss and making practice throws to second in full gear.

• The Seattle Times is reporting Jeff Clement could head to Triple-A to get regular at-bats to start the season while the club carries Rob Johnson as the backup catcher temporarily. It would be a surprising move, but the fact remains that Clement could spend a month or two in the minors at the season's outset.

• With both Gaby Sanchez and Dallas McPherson battling injuries, Emilio Bonifacio has been turning some heads at third base for the Marlins, leading the club in at-bats this spring and raising the possibility that Jorge Cantu could be the starting first baseman when the season begins. If that occurs, Bonifacio would start the season across the diamond. Watch this situation closely during the next couple of weeks. Bonifacio has no pop but could hit for a decent average with some speed.

• With David Freese playing in spring games in big league camp again, and Joe Mather in an 0-for-19 slump that has caused him to take a couple of days off to work on his swing, the Cardinals' third-base job for the first month has not been decided just yet.

Scott Lewis may be the front-runner for the Indians' fifth-starter job after throwing five scoreless innings Friday. He's trying to beat out Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey, and the soft-tossing lefty definitely will be a sleeper in AL leagues if he wins the job. He has the most upside of the three remaining candidates.



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