New Ace in Anaheim, or Los Angeles? Or Wherever the Angels Are-- With the injuries to John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, Jered Weaver is staking his claim to start on Opening Day for the Angels. After disappointing in 2007, Weaver is out to show that his rookie season was not his peak. In four starts this spring, Weaver is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 14 IP. He has struck out eight, while only walking two and opponents are hitting just .106 off of him. Manager Mike Scioscia hasn’t decided between Weaver and Jon Garland as of yet, but based on their spring performances, it is just a matter of time before Jered gets the nod.
Reds Rookies Rolling —Both Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto are turning heads in Reds camp. Although Manager Dusty Baker hasn’t named the two young guns to the rotation, it is more and more evident by the day that both of them could be in Cincinnati when the spring is over. Before today, Cueto had only given up one run in 9 spring innings with 8 Ks. He pitched pretty well again on Monday, giving up just 2 ER in 4 IP with 3 BB and 4 Ks. Volquez has pitched four times giving up just five runs and striking out 19 batters in just 13 innings. Baker is notorious for not playing young guys, so the fact that he is talking these two young pitchers up is a testament to the impact that they could make. Keep your eye on this situation.
Daddy Dice —Daisuke Matsuzaka’s wife gave birth to a son on March 15 th, and leave it to the Fighting Chance to find a fantasy spin on even this story. While it looked like Dice would miss the trip to Japan waiting for his son to be born, Matsuzaka will now start the Red Sox season opener in Japan. Given his long history as an ace in Japan, expect Dice to open the season throwing a gem. Jon Lester will start the second game in Japan.
Pedro Pitches Nearly Perfect —After spending most of the spring in simulated games, Pedro Martinez pitched in an actual game on Sunday and gave Mets’ fans hopes for 2008. Pedro pitched four shutout innings, giving up four hits while striking out four and walking just one. Martinez is looking for a big bounce back year after making only five starts in 2007 due to injury. This is a step in the right direction, however, don’t draft Pedro expecting 16 wins anymore. He can still be an effective pitcher but the wins and strikeouts won’t be what they once were.
Closer Notes —It is all but sealed that new acquisition George Sherrill will be named closer in Baltimore. Jaime Walker finished last year as closer, but shortly after getting Sherrill in the Erik Bedard trade, Manager Dave Trembley announced that he wanted Sherrill to be his closer. He hasn’t disappointed the skipper, giving up just two runs in six innings, and striking out six. It has gotten to the point that the media is asking him what his entrance music would be. The Orioles won’t present him with a great deal of save opportunities, but toward the end of your draft, Sherrill could be a good source of 25 or so saves, and a decent number of strikeouts.
Put Kerry Wood as the front runner for the closer’s job in Chicago. Bob Howry has been awful, and although Carlos Marmol seems to be the right fit for the job, indications are that Wood will get the first shot. The funny part is, some reports are having Wood as the likely choice because he will always pitch one inning, and the closers job is more predictable. With his injury history, the Cubs believe that the 9 th inning would be easier for Wood’s arm to handle. This situation is far from settled, although Lou Pinella is supposed to name his closer by this weekend, and he has said that once he names his guy, that’s who it will be. He does not want a platoon situation, or a guy on a short leash.
B.J. Ryan pitched for the second time this spring on Monday, and put up another scoreless inning. After having Tommy John surgery last season, Ryan is trying to get back to game action in less than a year. Although he stated that he didn’t feel as sharp as his first time out, Ryan was able to get out of the inning with a zero on the scoreboard. He reported feeling sore after his outing, but it wasn’t injury related. Remember, the guy hasn’t pitched in almost a year, he is bound to have some aches and pains in his initial few appearances. It is looking more and more that BJ will be ready to start the season back as the Jays’ closer. He may not pitch back-to-back days the first month of the season, but he could be a steal in drafts this season.
Prospects Report —St. Louis outfielder/phenom Colby Rasmus was optioned to Triple A to start the season. Rasmus had been trying to occupy the centerfield position vacated by Jim Edmonds, but that job was given to Rick Ankiel on Sunday. Rasmus did well for himself this spring, hitting .300 with two HRs and 4 RBI in 17 games. Don’t expect him to be in the minors all season, and by June you can bet that Colby will be in St. Louis. He has 30/30 potential, so when you see that he is recalled, you’ll want to grab Rasmus.
Homer Bailey appears to be headed to AAA to start the season. Bailey had another rough outing against Boston on Saturday, and it should be any day now that he is reassigned to the minors. Bailey has nearly a 9.00 ERA, and has continued to struggle with his control, as he has walked 8 in 10 IP, and opponents are hitting a ridiculous .380 off of him. With the strong springs from Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, you can cut ties with Bailey in year-to-year leagues unless you have a deep bench.
2007 Minor League strikeout leader Gio Gonzalez is headed back to the minors to start the season for the Athletics. Gonzalez came to Oakland in the Nick Swisher trade, and if your league has a minor league system, or a deep enough bench where you can stash Gonzalez definitely hold on to him, but if not, just watch the news wire to see when he comes back, because Gonzalez could have a good fantasy impact when recalled.
Injury Updates — Jeff Francoeur was beanhit in the head by the Cardinals Todd Wellemeyer on Sunday, and thankfully for the Braves the x-rays came back negative. Frenchy was treated for cuts inside his mouth and lips. Francoeur could return to the lineup by Thursday, and it appears that he got away with only minor injuries from a scary situation.
Josh Beckett will not be traveling to Japan with the Red Sox to open the season due to his back injury. It is being reported by the Red Sox that the injury doesn’t appear to be serious, and he could not miss his turn in the rotation when his team returns from the Far East. No timetable has been set exactly for his return, so just be wary that it is a possibility that the Red Sox are just being tight lipped about an injury to one of their star players.
Scott Kazmir will definitely miss the Opening Day start. This injury becomes more and more suspicious by the day. It was originally just a day-to-day thing, now he was just going to be cautious for the rest of the spring, and the latest news is he will start the season on the disabled list. I don’t wish anything bad to happen to Kazmir, but young, hard throwing strikeout pitchers with elbow issues always scare me. I really hate to say this, but if I saw a news story that said he was visiting Dr. James Andrews I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. We will definitely continue to monitor this situation daily.
Carlos Delgado was speared by a broken bat on Sunday. Leading off of third base, Delgado was impaled in the right forearm by a piece of Brady Clark’s bat. Carlos needed four stitches to close the wound, but it appears that he will only miss a few days with this injury.
Great spring performances : Yunel Escobar has gone 17-36 for the Braves this spring as their starting SS with 12 RBI. Rick Ankiel is now hitting .372 with 3 HRs this preseason, as he tries to recover from a season which had him linked to steroids. Aaron Hill looks to grow from his breakout season last year, and he hasn’t disappointed as he is hitting .478 this spring (that is not an endorsement to draft him except out of desperation). Andre Ethier hit his 5 th spring homer on Monday, and continues to make it difficult for new Manager Joe Torre to decide on his starting outfield. Is it possible that Matt Kemp plays right, Ethier in left, and Pierre goes to the bench? Unlikely given the contract situation, but the thought has to at least come up. Josh Hamilton had reached base in 10 straight appearances as of Sunday night, as he looks like he will follow up last season’s inspirational story with an even better 2008. Curtis Granderson had two homers and a triple on Sunday, as he looks to improve on his breakout season in 2007. Expect a huge year from Granderson. Brett Myers had the longest outing for a pitcher this spring as he went 7 innings on Sunday, giving up just two runs. Myers is trying to get back into the rotation after being forced to the closer’s role in 2007. Look back to 2006 if you are looking to predict what Brett might do in ’08.