The off-season is a distant memory and the long slow march to the regular season has begun. The fact that baseball-like activities are going on makes March even worse. Anyone who enjoys watching a teams play lineups made up of a lot of guys who wonâ€™t be around in a few weeks go through the motions is either lying or six years old (Ed. note–I enjoy it!).
Most of the up-for-grabs closer jobs are still up for grabs. Little movement has been made in places like Chicago and Oakland. A few of the guys fantasy GMs have been waiting to see have either finally made their spring debuts or are about to make their spring debuts.
The race for a random guy to lead the league in hitting in spring and then never be heard from again is heating up. A 22-year old left fielder named â€œJaff Dekkerâ€ (not a spelling error) is eighth in the league with a 1.258 OPS. A 35-year-old Alex Gonzalez is seventh with a 1.262 OPS. Spring training sucks.
On to the real fantasy relevant stuff…
Jim Johnson made his Spring Training debut on Wednesday and… promptly got tagged for three runs in an inning. It sounds like he was just shaking off the rust, but his job could be in jeopardy if the pantsings continue. Matt Lindstrom is nursing a sore back, but should return soon. Kevin Gregg is the healthiest option and is looming in the wings. Gregg could find a role as a saves vulture if Johnson and Lindstromâ€™s health issues continue.
Andrew Bailey made his spring debut on Monday. He gave up a run on three hits, but he should be good to go for Opening Day as long as he doesnâ€™t suffer any setbacks with his strained lat. Mark Melancon is still a logical handcuff for a guy who spends as much time on the DL as Bailey has.Â
The White Sox picture hasnâ€™t really gotten any less murky because there really hasnâ€™t been any announcements on the bullpen roles. Matt Thornton has three scoreless innings with two Kâ€™s already this spring and appears to be the favorite. Jesse Crain is likely out of the running after being diagnosed with a strained oblique. Thatâ€™s assuming Jesse Crain was actually IN the running for the closerâ€™s job in Chicago. Addison Reed has thrown three innings, but has been tagged for two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks while striking out two.
Chris Perez has graduated from long toss to bullpen sessions. Perez could get in enough work to be ready to close by Opening Day if everything goes well. Vinnie Pestano fans should shed a tear or two of sadness…and turn those to tears of joy when Chris Perez loses the job in May.
The closing situation in Oakland is a mess. Joey Devine, Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes are all rocking ERAs over 10.00. Only Fautino de los Santos is having a competent spring, but heâ€™s given up seven baserunners in 4 â…“ innings. This closer battle is a long way from decided. Balfour and Fuentes are the two obvious choices, but it looks like there will be saves to be had in Oakland this year.
Carlos Marmolâ€™s rough spring has continued and his ERA has ballooned to 23.62 after 2 â…” innings. Heâ€™s given up seven runs on six hits and two walks. Four of the eight outs heâ€™s recorded came via the strikeout, but itâ€™s a troubling sign for a reliever who struggled terribly in the second half last year.
Redsâ€™ off-season addition Ryan Madson threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday morning and should make his spring debut any day now.
The situation in Houston is also looking murkier and murkier every day. Brett Myers canâ€™t throw an inning without giving up runs and top set up guy Wilton Lopez has been shut down with forearm tightness. Brandon Lyon is somewhere in the shadows and looking to vulture saves.
Juan Carlos Oviedo, the reliever formerly known as Leo Nunez, should be cleared to enter the country any day now. Fantasy impact? None. Heath Bell is the closer and will likely remain the closer barring catastrophe.
Brian Wilson is apparently healthy for now. Wilson threw a pair of scoreless innings last week. He allowed only one hit and struck out two. Itâ€™s time to start printing â€œFree Sergioâ€ t-shirts.