Cue "Theme Song from M*A*S*H" and ... action!
Back in March, most of the starting pitchers looked healthy and headed toward 34 starts this year. Now after a month, they're either on the DL or at the end of the bench being skipped because of a tweak, a twinge, a strain, a sprain or an ouchie (that last one is a technical term). Let's look at some broken starters and see what you should do about them. For each I've listed whether they're on the 15-day DL (15DL), 60-day DL (60DL) or Day-to-Day (DTD), and which part of their body is in need of repair.
Toronto Blue [Shield] Jays and Anaheim [-lich Maneuver] Angels
These two teams have almost their whole rotations on the DL. However, they're on two separate paths. The Jays are miraculously in first in the AL East, while the Angels are in the cellar of the AL West and need a four-game win streak to break even (perhaps "break" wasn't a good word to use). And losing Vladimir Guerrero doesn't exactly help.
Casey Janssen (TOR, 15DL, shoulder): Janssen has experienced setbacks while trying to recover from a sore shoulder. If he makes it back this season, monitor his progress.
Jesse Litsch (TOR, 15DL, forearm): He was pitching very un-Litsch like and experiencing forearm tightness. Now he's off to see Dr. James Andrews, which is never a good sign. Don't drop him, but watch the results of the consult closely. Initial word was late May for a return, which opens the door for Brian Tallet, whom you should let in if you're in an AL-only, but likely pass in mixed.
Shaun Marcum (TOR, 15DL, Tommy John surgery): If Marcum makes it back in September as advertised, don't pick him up, unless as a low-price keeper for 2010.
Dustin McGowan (TOR, 15DL, shoulder surgery): McGowan continues to experience setbacks in his return from surgery. Forget about him for '09.
Ricky Romero (TOR, 15DL, oblique): If for some reason the Romero owner in your league lost patience and dropped him, pick him up. He's already started throwing and could be back in a couple of weeks. Romero will be an impact rookie this season.
Kelvim Escobar (ANA, 60DL, shoulder): I know it's shocking to see Escobar on the DL, but ... Escobar is on schedule for an early-June return. I have him stashed away, but I'm also well aware that he likely doesn't pitch the whole remainder of the season.
John Lackey (ANA, 15DL, forearm): Lackey is throwing and on schedule for an early-May return.
Dustin Moseley (ANA, 15DL, elbow): Moseley appears to be pain free, but is feeling weak in his elbow. Expect about a month before he's back, and yes, hang on to him.
Ervin Santana (ANA, 15DL, elbow): Santana is throwing at full strength and is on track for a mid-May return. See if you can steal him a way from an impatient owner (I'd offer a hot-start player like Emilio Bonifacio, who is reverting back to form as we speak).
These SP1s were likely drafted in the first eight rounds and are dragging down your pitching. You likely should have drafted that available slick-hitting middle infielder instead of these broken down starters, but let's see if they can salvage the rest of your season.
Chris Carpenter (STL, 15DL, ribs): Carpenter has a torn oblique muscle, which makes it hurt when he sneezes. I go by the old adage "Can't sneeze, can't pitch," and I'll guess we won't see him until around the All-Star break (I totally fabricated that adage). My main concern is since he can't really move, he'll be out of pitching shape and will require an extended rehab. He's too valuable to drop, but if you can get comfortable with what you get in return, think trade.
Justin Duchscherer (OAK, 15DL, elbow): Duchscherer has always had health issues and increased his innings by over 800 percent last year. So he was headed straight for elbow surgery this year. On the plus side, the surgery went fine, but on the minus, he still hasn't started throwing yet. Think All-Star break or a little sooner for a return, but don't expect much.
Cole Hamels (PHI, DTD, shoulder): Hamels is not expected to miss his next start because of a bruised shoulder he got from a line drive. However, he may still be crappy. No promises.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS, 15DL, shoulder): Dice-K has no timetable for his return, but has had a throwing session from 60 feet (no word on when they make him back up another six inches). But with the rotation looking so good right now -- Justin "Missing Bats" Masterson should not be available in any league -- they likely won't rush him. And yes, Dice K's not the Red Sox' ace, but he'd likely be the SP1 on many other teams.
Chien-Ming Wang (NY, 15DL, hip): Now the Yankees are saying Wang has hip weakness, something I get accused of when I freely quote songs from the 1980's. They might as well diagnose him with River Blindness (wait, that was J. Geils Band, wasn't it?). Basically Wang is on the shelf until he pitches strikes, which could be a long time if Phil Hughes yields any results (Hughes should be gone in all leagues). Don't touch Wang, but oddly enough, I could see him contributing in the second half (remember, no strikeouts).
Brandon Webb (ARI, 15DL, shoulder): Webb has been completely shut down and perhaps the only good news is that unlike Carpenter, Webbie can sneeze when he wants. But like Carpenter, his lack of throwing will result in a period of arm re-strengthening, so he may likely be gone until the All-Star break. However, with SS Stephen Drew also on the DL, perhaps Webb would have seen a lot of his grounders sneak into the outfield anyway.
Other Big Names on the Mend
While these guys weren't taken early in your draft, they were targeted and their progress is being followed by most fantasy players.
Tom Glavine (ATL, 15DL, shoulder): Glavine is currently on retirement watch while trying to come back from last year's elbow and shoulder injuries. His elbow is fine, but he has rotator cuff inflammation. Give him another week or two on your bench, but have a contingency plan.
Hiroki Kuroda (LAD, 15DL, ribs): Kuroda is still throwing, but also still experiencing pain. The Dodgers have not used the word "setback," but he could be out until June. Monitor his progress. If someone dropped him in your league, pick him up as the time off may help him make it all the way through the long MLB season.
Kyle Lohse (STL, DTD, knee): Lohse heard a pop in his knee while covering first in his last game. However, it is only swollen and he should make his next start and with my preseason touting of him continue to make me look like Nostradamus.
Tim Redding (NYM, 15DL, shoulder): Yes, he's not a big name right now, but if you're looking for someone to pick up out of this column, here's your man (note to self: get Redding in all my leagues before column gets posted). The Mets' rotation is a mess right now and Jerry Manuel will give a spot to any starter who gets the job done. Redding may not be that man, but he'll definitely get that opportunity, which is all we ask for in fantasy baseball.
Tommy John Surgeries
As a rule, I say it takes closer to 18 months to come back from Tommy John surgery rather than the 12 months that's being sold to teams and players. At least for fantasy purposes, I'm usually right about this.
Tim Hudson (ATL, 60DL, Tommy John surgery): Hudson is on a 12-month return schedule, which mean August, but pass on him for this year, even in a pitching-starved deep NL-only.
Jake Westbrook (CLE, 60DL, Tommy John surgery): Westbrook is shooting to be back around the All-Star break, but you should pass on him as well.
Matt Chico (WAS, 60DL, Tommy John surgery): Chico is a tough pitcher who will make an effort to return this year, but coming back to play for the Nationals is like running a marathon to eat at Denny's. It a big let down and mostly pointless.
And here's everyone else who was supposed to start but isn't because of injuries, illnesses or intellectual imbalances.
Brandon Backe (HOU, 15DL, ribs): Backe tends to follow up his high-inning years with injury-plagued ones. He threw 166.2 innings last year, so he's on track to have a lost year in '09.
Cha Seung Baek (SD, 15DL, forearm): Baek should slide back into the rotation by mid-May. With the Padres playing well, he may be worth monitoring in mixed leagues.
Kris Benson (TEX, 15DL, elbow): The best-case scenario is that Benson returns in early May and that someone else picks him up off the waiver wire. Stay away.
Jeremy Bonderman (DET, 15DL, shoulder): The tightness in his shoulder is hurting Bonderman's velocity, but he is still working his way back to the rotation. If Justin Verlander can't put things together and Bonderman can, there could be a switch, but I'm still holding out hope for Verlander.
Phil Dumatrait (PIT, 15DL, shoulder surgery): Dumatrait is still experiencing soreness and his early May return is looking more like late May. So far Dumatrait has been a WHIP killer, so he's not on your radar.
Jeff Francis (COL, 60DL, shoulder): Francis is likely done for the year following shoulder surgery, and isn't worth squirreling away for next season.
Rich Hill (BAL, 15DL, elbow): Hill is making his way back, likely in May. Hopefully he returns as a better pitcher (or at least the '07 Rich Hill). Because of his strikeout potential, he is worth watching. Because he has a problem with issuing free passes, make sure his K/BB is higher than 2.00, or he'll likely hurt your ratios.
Shawn Hill (SD, 15DL, elbow): Hill has never gone over 100 IP in a year in the majors. No sense hoping you get him the year he does.
Eric Hurley (TEX, 60DL, shoulder): One of the Oceanic 6 (what, am I the only guy left who watches TV rather than signing on nightly to X-Box Live?), Hurley has a torn rotator cuff and frayed labrum. He's done for this year and isn't worth keeping for next season.
Scott Lewis (CLE, 15DL, elbow): Lewis should be returning in the first half of May. He should be rostered in AL-only leagues, and monitored in mixed.
Noah Lowry (SF, 15DL, shoulder): First ER goes off the air, now this. Perhaps I'm the only one who gets the two confused. If the Giants' offense were better or the rotation worse, I'd say keep an eye on Lowry. However, as of now, take him off your radar.
Andrew Miller (FLA, 15DL, ribs): I'm still not convinced Miller has anything to show in terms of fantasy baseball, and like I predicted last week (with an almost scary accuracy), this Marlins team has too many defensive problems to be this good. Trade him away if you can.
Brian Moehler (HOU, 15DL, knee): The 37-year-old will be wearing a knee brace all season and currently sports a 27.00 ERA. He may be coming back soon, but not to your team if you want to win.
Franklin Morales (COL, 15DL, shoulder): Morales is shelved with a strained shoulder, which could mean a June return for him. There will be room in the rotation for him, but he won't keep his K/9 up -- unless he somehow pitches only against the Diamondbacks all season -- and isn't worth storing away.
Dustin Nippert (TEX, 60DL, shoulder): Being moved to the 60-day DL is never a good sign. Nippert has never had a season ERA below 5.50, and returning to the Rangers after having a sore shoulder doesn't seem like the recipe to change that fact.
Ryan Rowland-Smith (SEA, 15DL, triceps): His name is my name too ... Rowland-Smith should be back in mid-May. Because Seattle is playing so well, he is fantasy-relevant and his return is worth watching in mixed leagues.
Jason Schmidt (LAD, 15DL, shoulder): If there's anyone tougher than Schmidt, I haven't met him. He will continue to attempt a comeback this year, but I wouldn't count on it. Make sure to follow team reports, but not those from Schmidt as he will attempt to pitch even when he shouldn't.
Alfred Simon (BAL, 15DL, elbow): Simon's season is ending before it really begun. He'll be out for the year after getting elbow surgery (not Tommy John surgery, however). Good-bye Simon, hello Brad Bergesen, whom mixed leagues should monitor.
John Smoltz (BOS, 15DL, shoulder): Smoltz is throwing batting practice and trying to return by mid-May. However, like Matsuzaka, there may be no need to rush him. Smoltz will contribute, but it may take him time to acclimate to the AL. Expect a stronger second half of the season, and think about trying to trade for him if he does start slow (or awful).
Rick VandenHurk (FLA, 15DL, elbow): VandenHurk would likely have snuck into the rotation with Miller's injury, but now he's not worth rostering.
Dontrelle Willis (DET, 15DL, la cabeza): I don't want to make light of an anxiety disorder, but any time someone says, "I'm not crazy," well, you know how to place your bet. Willis looked awful in spring training games, but he seems to be headed toward getting back on the mound for the Tigers this summer. While he won't be on my team, you can bet I'll watch every moment of that game.