Monday, February 20, 2017

Baseball literally couldn’t give us one day to enjoy its return before taking away one of the game’s biggest stars for at least a few weeks.

Spring training is upon us, so keep refreshing Rotoworld’s constantly-updating player news page for all the latest. While you’re at it, follow @Rotoworld_BB and @nate_grimm if you are on Twitter.

Former American League MVP Josh Donaldson on the first day of workouts Friday sustained a right calf strain that is likely to sideline him for at least two to three weeks. Even then, Donaldson on Sunday said he’s “hoping” the calf will allow him to get back to work.

“I’m ready to get out there right now but the fact is that my body is not letting me,” Donaldson said Sunday. “I’m hoping it’s just a couple of weeks to get out there. But it’s something we don’t want to push too much just for the simple fact that we have a little extra time with spring training right now, and just making sure when I step back on the field it’s ready to go and I’m ready to be able to push it.”

While not untrue that the World Baseball Classic provides a few more days for players to get into shape for Opening Day, the verbiage is worrisome in its vagueness. The fact that soft-tissue injuries tend to be less definite in their timetables and recur more frequently than broken bones or other injuries is also cause for concern.

If there’s a counterpoint, it’s that few players have been more remarkably durable than Donaldson in recent years. Since 2013, Donaldson has played in 158, 158, 158 and 155 games, respectively. He’s a picture of, if not health, at least the ability to take the field with regularity.

As things stand, Donaldson still has a good shot at being ready for the start of the season, good news for the Blue Jays and fantasy owners after the third baseman followed up his MVP 2015 season by hitting .284/.404/.549 with 37 homers, 99 RBI and 122 runs scored this past season.

“I’m sore, but overall the rest of my body feels great, I felt like I had a pretty great off-season,” said Donaldson. “Most of my off-season was to hopefully prevent things like this but it kind of shows up every now and again and we’re getting it taken care of and hopefully be strong for opening day.”

Allen Keeps Closer Gig

Andrew Miller is one of the best relievers in baseball, but he’s not one of the best closers.

Cody Allen is.

Allen, who saved games for the Indians in their run to the World Series last year and who has been the team’s regular closer since the 2014 season, will once again be the team’s go-to option in the ninth inning, with Miller lurking in a setup role, Indians manager Terry Francona confirmed Saturday.

“I do like the idea of Cody finishing games and Andrew facing the meat of the order,” said Francona.

Of course, that’s hardly a vote of confidence in the real world — Francona basically admitted that he prefers to have the option to use Miller in the highest-leverage spot in the game, rather than confining him to the ninth inning — but in the fantasy game, it’s everything. Striking out three guys with the bases loaded in the seventh inning just gets you three strikeouts in fantasy.

As such, it’s Allen, not Miller, who’s the Indians reliever to target, although both will likely be rostered in the majority of leagues. And it’s not as though Allen, who posted a 2.51 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 68 innings while saving 32 games last season, is an undeserving slouch.

If Allen falters and Miller is installed as closer, he would immediately become among the best, both in fantasy and reality. But opportunity often trumps talent, and it’s Allen who gets the first shot at the job.

A-Gonz Going AWOL

Depending on your outlook, recent news regarding Adrian Gonzalez is either an opportunity or yet another red flag.

Gonzalez has been shut down from swinging a bat for two weeks as he battles inflammation in his non-throwing elbow. The issue has lingered over the past roughly two weeks, forcing the 34-year-old to back off his preparation for the WBC and the regular season.

“It’s tough to put it like this, but it’s being punished for working too hard,” Gonzalez told the Los Angeles Times. “You work so hard in the offseason to get ready, and then your body says, ‘You worked too hard.’”

Gonzalez has already taken a hit this spring after struggling down the stretch last year, finishing with his worst offensive numbers of any full season in his career. An elbow injury, which he likened to “tennis elbow,” further damages his stock for those looking for reasons to avoid him.

An optimist might view it as a chance to buy low on a historically productive stock, though. Gonzalez was motivated this offseason after his 2016 swoon, and it may be a blessing in disguise that the injury could keep Gonzalez from playing for Team Mexico in the WBC next month, keeping him fresher for the regular season.

Like so much of fantasy, A-Gonz’s value this spring is likely in the eye of the beholder.

National League Quick Hits: Rockies manager Bud Black wants Charlie Blackmon to run more this season. Black said Blackmon was “banged up” last year, contributing to his 17 steals after the outfielder stole 43 bases in 2015. Black isn’t the only one who would like to see Blackmon be more aggressive in 2017 … Zack Wheeler (elbow) threw a 21-pitch bullpen session on Sunday. Wheeler had some tenderness in his pitching elbow during a ‘pen session last week, but he got through Sunday’s session with no issues … Padres signed RHP Jered Weaver to a one-year, $3 million contract. In a telling sign, Weaver may also now be the leader in the clubhouse to start on Opening Day for the Padres … Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports that the Mets and Neil Walker’s agent have discussed a contract extension that would run through 2019 and would be worth “north of $40 million.” Walker accepted the club’s $17.2 million qualifying offer in November that would otherwise make him a free agent after this season … David Wright (neck) played catch indoors on Sunday. He didn’t play catch outside with the rest of his Mets teammates, but it was the first time Wright has done any throwing since last June’s cervical discectomy and fusion surgery. The club will continue to bring the veteran third baseman along slowly this spring, as Wright’s participation in Grapefruit League games figures to be fairly limited. He’s obviously a major health question mark going into 2017 … Diamondbacks signed LHP Jorge De La Rosa to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic says that De La Rosa will make $2.25 million if in the majors and will compete for a spot in the D’Backs Opening Day bullpen … Reds signed OF Ryan Raburn to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Raburn is basically only good for hitting left-handed pitching at this point in his career, but he does that very well. DFS players, take note if he wins a job out of camp … From the Shawn Hunter Memorial “Huh, That’s Cool” file: Eric Gagne told’s Ken Gurnick that he’s considering making a comeback. Gagne is now 41 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2008 or even been in a spring training camp since 2010. However, he’s been throwing bullpen sessions as he prepares to pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic and says he’s getting his fastball into the 90s and also featuring his trademark changeup. “I feel great. It’s almost scary,” Gagne said. The righty has had throwing sessions with the Padres and Diamondbacks.

American League Quick Hits: Orioles acquired LHP Vidal Nuno from the Dodgers for RHP Ryan Moseley. Nuno can start and relieve and will be beneficial pitching depth for the O’s … J.J. Hardy underwent an MRI on his lower back on Thursday and a CT scan on Friday, with both results coming back clean. Hardy said Friday that, ideally, he’ll be ready to resume baseball activities on March 1. Nothing to see here … Yankees signed LHP Jon Niese to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Niese will get a look as both a starter and reliever in spring camp … Tyler Austin will be in a boot for three weeks and shut down from baseball activity for six week after being diagnosed with a small fracture in his foot. Austin suffered the break when he fouled a ball off the foot while taking batting practice. He was likely going to have to have a huge camp to stick with the Yanks anyway.