April 23, 2010

One thing that I will never do is cheer after a player gets injured. That type of behavior is sick. It's miles below my standards as a sports fan. Remember when Philadelphia Eagles fans cheered when Michael Irvin hurt his neck and had to be carted off the field? That was just despicable. Those actions could only come from the drunken hooligans who attend NFL games; and it's not just Philly fans (although they have developed the most visible reputation for crass behavior).

No, you will never catch me cheering when players get hurt. Never.

Wait a minute ... what was that? Jeff Mathis broke his wrist? So, I can finally put Mike Napoli back into my fantasy baseball lineup? The same Mike Napoli who is one of only a handful of catchers with 20-home run power?

Well, I guess that is sort of good news. I mean, I still feel bad for Mathis and all. He seems like a nice enough guy ... ah, screw it.

HOORAY! Mathis is out for six-to-eight weeks! I can finally see some return on my investment in Napoli.

Sorry, Jeff. I hope you understand. Really, myself and every other Napoli owner wish you all the best, but this is fantasy baseball we are talking about. Most of the time injuries hurt our roto teams, but when an injury clears the path for one our stars (or our projected starting catcher in this case) it's time for a little celebration. No hard feelings.

Sometimes the cold reality is that injuries really do help fantasy managers. As long as the player is likely to recover, there is no reason we can't give a little fist pump in these situations. (Oh, and watch the fantasy waiver wire, just in case an anxious Mathis owner sends him packing. He's at the minimum a handcuff for Napoli down the road, and might pick up where he left off when he returns.)

Here's a rundown of other injury news from around the MLB:

Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets

On Tuesday, Beltran met with doctors in Vail, Colo., who told him that his knee was "making progress," but it was not ready for baseball-related activities. That news sent some Mets fans and Beltran owners into a mild state of panic, but it's not as bad as it seems. As long as he's making progress, Beltran will continue with his rehab and should soon start some light running. There is still a good possibility that he returns in less than a month.

This may be the last time to buy low on Beltran, especially if his current owners are concerned about the latest reports. He's not going to jump back into the Mets lineup and turn into the 27 HR/25 stolen base guy he was in '08. However, there's no reason to believe he can't knock 15 out of the park and swipe double digit bags from mid-May through the end of the year. He had 10 HRs and 11 SBs in only 81 games last year and should be able to play between 110-120 games when he returns.

Cliff Lee, SP, Seattle Mariners

There was good news all around for Lee (abdominal injury) to start the week. First, MLB decided to drop his five-game suspension. Lee appealed the suspension claiming that his injuries led to inaccuracy and he did not intend to throw at Chris Snyder.

It was also announced that Lee will be ready a few days earlier than originally expected, moving his projected first start to April 30 against the Rangers. When Lee returns he will bump Doug Fister, Jason Vargas, or Ian Snell out of the Mariners' rotation. Fister has impressed so far going 2-1 with a 1.42 earned run average in his first three starts. It's hard to imagine that he'll be the one to lose his job. For fantasy purposes, Fister is available in almost every league.

Meanwhile, Erik Bedard (shoulder) threw a 60-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday. The most optimistic estimate for Bedard's return is the end of May.

Jason Marquis, SP, Washington Nationals

According to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, an MRI showed "some floating bodies in the elbow" of Marquis. (Who knew the East River was in Marquis' elbow? Hey! Try the veal.)

Anyway, the elbow problems are going to send the struggling Marquis to the 15-day disabled list. However, the overachieving Nationals are not going to use his vacancy to call up phenom Stephen Strasburg. Last year's No. 1 overall pick is 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA for Class-AA Harrisburg, but Rizzo isn't going to let only three minor league starts persuade him. He has a tentative plan that will keep Strasburg in the minors for the near future.

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies

Rollins is eligible to come off the 15-day DL next week, but he says that he is unlikely to do so. The shortstop is dealing with a calf strain, and according to multiple reports, he is progressing quickly with his rehab. Rollins says that he can push off of his leg, and he started taking batting practice on Wednesday.

Even with the encouraging news, Rollins will probably not return until the first week of May at the earliest. While Rollins is out, Shane Victorino continues to fill his spot at the top of the order. Victorino's .210 batting average is a bit discouraging, but he's hitting .258 in seven games at the leadoff spot, versus .161 in his seven games batting seventh. He's scored six times and driven in six runs from the leadoff spot as well.

Rollins' fantasy owners looking for a temporary replacement should turn to one of the many veteran shortstops off to a hot start. Washington's Cristian Guzman has hit .346 over the past week and he's available in around 75-percent of all fantasy leagues. Toronto's Alex Gonzalez and San Francisco's Juan Uribe are still exceeding expectations and can be had in nearly half of all leagues.

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers

Last week Kinsler said regarding his ankle injury, "Hopefully it won't last until October. Who knows?" This week the Rangers second baseman told reporters that he expected to be dealing with pain throughout the entire season. Kinsler's fantasy owners who go by his quotes alone are probably trying to scratch their eyes out.

Despite Kinsler's dramatic statements, it appears that he is nearing his return to the Rangers' lineup. Kinsler was expected to be the designated hitter in an extended spring training game on Thursday. He took batting practice and ran the bases before Wednesday's game at Boston.

Texas would like to get him back as soon as possible, and are hopeful for an end-of-April return. I finally have a quote to help his fantasy owners step back from the ledge, "It's getting close. I don't think it's going to be another two weeks," he told the Dallas Morning News.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles

Roberts' fantasy owners should start looking for a long-term replacement for the injured second baseman. Roberts saw a back specialist for the second time in four days this week, and while the prognosis wasn't disastrous, the expected recovery time has changed from a matter of days to a matter of weeks.

Roberts has a herniated disc in his back, a problem that sometimes requires surgery. As of right now, surgery isn't necessary, but the Orioles are going to take it easy with his rehab program. Another setback could mean Roberts goes under the knife. His fantasy owners can hope he's back in few weeks, but plan for him to be out through mid-May, and pray that he doesn't sit until June or later.

Ty Wigginton, who is eligible at first, second and third base, is still available in most leagues. Wigginton has five HRs, 11 runs batted in, and eight runs scored, all of which came in his last nine games. Another potential replacement is Kansas City's Alberto Callaspo, who has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games. Callaspo has performed well when hitting fifth or sixth (.400 BA, two HRs, nine RBIs). It's a small sample size, but the 27-year-old has some upside. He's available in most fantasy leagues.

You want to see the trainer? Take a number. The injury line wraps around the building.

Lance Berkman triumphantly returned Tuesday with a double and two RBIs. His knee isn't 100-percent, and he was easily thrown out trying to steal third. ... Just as he started to gain momentum as a fantasy sleeper, Orioles outfielder Felix Pie landed on the 60-day DL. He could be out until July with a torn latissimus dorsi muscle (upper back). ... Aaron Rowand is on the 15-day DL but will not undergo surgery to fix fractures in his left cheekbone. The outfielder could be ready to rejoin the Giants as soon as his DL stint ends. ... Cleveland closer Kerry Wood (back) threw a simulated game Tuesday and is scheduled to go again Friday, after which the team will decide whether or not to get him a minor league rehab assignment. The Indians need Wood back ASAP as Chris Perez has struggled in the closer role. ... In other closer news, according to Rockies manager Jim Tracy, Huston Street (shoulder) is "progressing really nicely." He's on target for a mid-May return and will immediately resume closing duties as Franklin Morales isn't ending games effectively for Colorado. ... Alex Gordon (thumb) is back with the Royals quicker than most expected. He homered in his third game back and should climb up the Royals batting order as he gets more plate appearances. ... The most encouraging sign from Daisuke Matsuzaka's minor league rehab assignment is that he has only walked one batter in 16.2 innings. He pitched what is expected to be his final rehab game on Wednesday and should get his first major league start of the year next week. ... Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill (hamstring) will rejoin Toronto on Friday against Tampa Bay. Sorry, John McDonald fans. ... As the return of closer Brad Lidge (elbow, knee) draws near, fill-in closer Ryan Madson has hit a rough patch. Madson's allowed five earned runs in his last four appearances. Manager Charlie Manuel said he will stick with Madson until Lidge's return, which could be the first week of May. ... Ryan Zimmerman missed five starts early in April with a strained left hamstring. On Wednesday, he hurt his right hamstring and was scratched from the Nationals lineup on Thursday. The light-hitting Alberto Gonzalez started at third.

* All stats up-to-date as of 04/22/10.

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