May 14, 2010

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"Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me ... we can't get fooled again."-- President George W. Bush.

When the Phillies sent closer Brad Lidge back to Philadelphia to have his surgically repaired elbow looked at by doctors, I couldn't help but think of our former president's infamous quote. Maybe President Bush botched the quote, and maybe late night talk show hosts joked about it for years to come. But Bush, a former Texas baseball man, makes a good point. Who knows, maybe he was referring to Lidge, the former Houston Astros closer, when he said this. At this point, nobody really remembers what he was talking about.

What I do know is that doctors are checking out Lidge's elbow after he complained of some soreness. Supposedly, this examination is pretty standard and the Phillies aren't expecting any major news. However, the Minnesota Twins expressed those exact same sentiments when Joe Nathan flew back to the Twin Cities to have his elbow examined during spring training. What was supposed to be loose scar tissue ended up being much, much worse and Nathan won't be back until 2011.

I am not suggesting that Lidge is headed for season-ending surgery, but I am suggesting that Lidge's fantasy owners should prepare for the worst. The first step is adding Jose Contreras, who is the short-term closer at the very least. Contreras has a 0.77 earned run average and 15 strikeouts in 11.2 innings, and he is only owned in 19-percent of Yahoo! leagues.

By no means should anyone drop Lidge. MRI results on Lidge's elbow should be available by Friday, and his status moving forward should become clearer over the weekend. Remember this quote from another famous wordsmith:

"It ain't over 'til it's over."--Yogi Berra

There have been Lidge doubters since Day 1, and to be frank, I wasn't optimistic about him either. He had an awful season in 2009, followed by multiple surgeries. Yet his recovery went pretty much according to plan, and after giving up a run in his first appearance with the Phils (a non-save situation), he allowed one hit and zero runs in his next three outings. He converted the only save opportunity he had on Sunday. There is really no reason to believe that Lidge can't be a mid-level fantasy closer if he's healthy, and the Phillies will give him every chance to prove that.

Besides, if a former President of the United States and a legendary MLB icon took the time to chime in on the Lidge situation, he has to be a valuable asset. Right?

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies

Lidge's status might be up in the air, but Philly fans can expect to see their star shortstop back on the field soon. Rollins is in Clearwater, Fla. rehabbing his calf and should be back in the lineup next week. Philadelphia starts a seven-game homestand on Monday, May 17, and it looks like Rollins will be ready by Wednesday at the latest.

Rollins' return is excellent news in the fantasy baseball world, where it seems like every week another shortstop is hitting the injured list. Next week, I might just start listing the shortstops who are healthy, it'll probably be easier.

Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

Furcal, who has been out since April 27 with a strained hamstring, is eligible to come off the 15-day DL on Friday. He should be ready to jump right back into the lineup after two rehab games in Class A. Through 19 games, Furcal had scored 16 runs and recorded eight steals while batting leadoff. His return will shuffle the Dodgers batting order. Catcher Russell Martin, who led off most of the time while Furcal was out, will certainly move down in the order. Three of Martin's four homers and six of his 10 runs batted in have come from his 29 leadoff at-bats.

Yunel Escobar, SS, Atlanta Braves

Like Furcal, Escobar's (groin strain) stint on the DL is coming to a close. The Braves shortstop is eligible to play Saturday, and will compete in a Class AAA game on Friday. Escobar's return will temporarily put an end to Omar Infante's fantasy value. The utility man is hitting .278 with nine RBIs and 12 runs scored in only 79 ABs, but will be relegated to bench and spot starter duty now that Escobar is healthy.

J.J. Hardy, SS, Minnesota Twins

Unfortunately, not all shortstop news is good news. On Monday, the Twins placed Hardy on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 5 due to a left wrist contusion. Hardy missed five games after bruising his wrist sliding into third on May 4. Unless the injury turns out to be worse than a bruise, Hardy should be back as soon as he's eligible to come off the DL. Brendan Harris and Alexi Casilla will replace Hardy. Harris has some fantasy value in deep AL-only leagues, while Casilla should be left on the waiver wire.

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

Braun's fantasy owners dodged a major bullet when Tommy Hanson's fastball drilled the leftfielder in the left elbow Monday night. ( "If it had hit me right on the elbow, I'd be shocked if it wasn't fractured. Hopefully, it's a few days instead of what could have been a month or two. It hit me clean. It didn't deflect or miss it at all. It hit me pretty hard," Braun told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

With an off day on Thursday, reports say Braun will be able to return for Milwaukee's Friday game against the Phillies. At the worst, he'll be back by the weekend.

Josh Beckett, SP, Boston Red Sox

Beckett has already been ruled out of his Friday start, and while Red Sox manager Terry Francona says he'll be ready to pitch by next Tuesday against the Yankees, fantasy managers should prepare for the worst. Beckett hurt his back taking batting practice of all things (interleague play starts next week).

Because of the off day Thursday, the Sox can keep their regular rotation intact throughout the weekend and, if necessary, plug Tim Wakefield into Beckett's spot on Tuesday.

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox

Even though some experts thought Ellsbury would tough it out for last weekend's series, the speedy outfielder's fractured ribs aren't quite ready for the everyday grind. As of right now, there isn't an official timetable for his return, although his stint on the DL is over. He has been able to run, and will soon be able to take on more baseball related activities. Expect him to head to a rehab assignment next week and possibly return by the weekend.

Meanwhile, Ellsbury's outfield partner Mike Cameron (abdominals) is expected to make his third rehab start on Thursday and could be back by this weekend.

Mark DeRosa, OF-3B-2B, San Francisco Giants

DeRosa is inching closer to a DL trip after undergoing an MRI and nerve tests on his left wrist and missing the last three games. The Giants have admitted that another surgery on his wrist may be necessary this season and fantasy owners should be aware of these red flags. Even when he was healthy, DeRosa was having a disappointing fantasy season with a .194 average and only one home run. John Bowker will get time in DeRosa's left field spot. Bowker is an intriguing NL-only option with good potential if DeRosa misses an extended period of time.

With all the injuries in MLB, trainers should send the used wraps and ice bags to BP to help clog the leaking oil pipe. Here's a rundown of other dings and bruises.

Jason Heyward returned from a minor groin issue just in time to drill a line drive off of Yovani Gallardo's lower leg. It was a well hit ball, but Gallardo pitched after the incident and it doesn't look like it will threaten his next start. ... The Orioles transferred second baseman Brian Roberts (abdominal strain) from the 15-day to the 60-day DL and he can return on June 9. His replacement, Ty Wigginton, took a throw to the hand on Wednesday, but did return to the lineup Thursday. ... The Colorado closer situation is in shambles. Top option Huston Street (shoulder) is making progress but is still about two weeks away from returning. Streets' replacement Franklin Morales landed on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 6 with a shoulder problem. Manny Corpas currently has the job, but has a blown save and a loss in his last two save attempts. Whomever gets the next save for the Rockies could steal the job and hold it until Street or Morales returns. ... Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz (hamstring) will return Friday but is scheduled to have a day off over the weekend. Fantasy owners who plug him back into their lineup should prepare accordingly. ... Chipper Jones is dealing with a nagging groin injury and has been out of the starting lineup since Monday. Jones could be back Friday, but the injury is one that won't go away and his replacement, Brooks Conrad, has homered twice in Chipper's stead. Jones' owners and NL-only managers should put Conrad's name on their watch list. ... Andy Pettitte (elbow) threw a bullpen session on Thursday and is scheduled to start Saturday. ... The Yankees held Nick Swisher out of the lineup on Thursday with a sore left biceps but he should be back Friday. ... Nationals starter Jason Marquis told the Associated Press that there is a "strong possibility" that he will need surgery on his elbow to clean out bone chips. Surgery would likely keep him out for six weeks.

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