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In the past week, two plays happened that should force significant changes in the way Major League Baseball is played.
First, Kendry Morales smacked a walk-off grand slam on Saturday, and broke his leg while celebrating at home plate. Second, with two outs in the top of the ninth of a perfect game being spun by Detroit's Armando Galarraga, umpire Jim Joyce ruled Cleveland's Jason Donald safe at first base, a call replays showed was incorrect and a call that robbed Galarraga of history.
Joyce's decision has to force MLB to expand instant replay, right? At this point, with technology allowing for immediate replay, what's the argument against expanding it? Besides, umpires are human beings, and every human being makes mistakes. Baseball analysts, writers and fans are blasting Joyce for making a bad call. But criticizing Joyce is just silly when MLB isn't giving him the best tools to do his job.
While Joyce's mishap was simply an error, Morales' was plain stupidity. I've been watching players exuberantly celebrate early season walk-off wins for the past five years. Every time somebody did the leap/plate-stomp maneuver into their teammates I expected them to land on someone's foot and sprain an ankle. Morales broke his leg.
From a fantasy perspective, Joyce's call cost Galarraga owners 0.05 WHIP points for the season (By the way, Galarraga is working his way up the RotoExperts Xclusive Edge Rankings). The Angels' celebration probably cost Morales owners about three months. Maybe it's time for the league to limit these celebrations, and at the very least players should proceed with caution.
I'm hoping that Major League Baseball looks at both these incidents and takes the proper steps to help the umpires and protect the players.
On to the injuries ...
Kendry Morales, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
There's a chance that Morales takes the field again this season depending on the final verdict on his leg. Unfortunately for Morales, that return probably won't come until much later this season, and at this point, accurately predicting a timetable is nearly impossible. What's interesting is the ripple effect that his injury will have on the rest of the team. There are unconfirmed rumors floating around that the Angels are pursuing Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee. In the meantime, catcher Mike Napoli is seeing some time at first base. This is great news for Napoli's fantasy owners, especially with Jeff Mathis closing in on a mid-June return. In the beginning of the season, manager Mike Scioscia seemed to prefer Mathis' defense over Napoli's bat. With Napoli minding first base, his fantasy owners won't have to worry about him riding the pine. (Quick side note: Lee has a mild hamstring strain, but should be back by the weekend)
Fantasy owners searching free agency for a Morales replacement should look up former Angels' star Troy Glaus. The Braves first baseman is available in 61 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues and has posted numbers similar to Morales (.278 batting average, nine homers, 40 RBI). A deeper league option is Baltimore's Luke Scott, who's available in 80 percent of leagues and his hitting .361 with six homers in the last month.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
Roberts, who has been out since April 9 with a combination of a herniated disk in his back and an abdominal strain, is eligible to come off the 60-day DL on June 9. While the recent news on Roberts has been encouraging, he probably will not be on the field for the Orioles any time around his eligibility date. The second baseman has progressed well and should be ready for a minor league rehabilitation assignment around June 11. The Orioles start a home stand on June 22, which I believe is the earliest date we will see Roberts.
Roberts' return shouldn't have much of a fantasy impact on anyone outside of his owners. Ty Wigginton will spend most of his time at first base, and the odd man out is most likely Julio Lugo, who doesn't even deserve deep AL-only league consideration at this point.
Grady Sizemore, OF, Cleveland Indians
Hopefully Sizemore owners took my advice last week and tried to move the Cleveland centerfielder, because Sizemore will undergo surgery Friday that could end his season. The surgery is going to be performed by Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo. and the extent of the necessary surgery will not be known until Sizemore goes under the knife. He is expected to miss at least six to eight weeks, but could be out for much longer.
While Carlos Beltran continues his rehab, Mets outfielder Angel Pagan makes a nice Sizemore replacement. However, Beltran is finally making some progress and his return could knock Pagan completely out of the Mets lineup. A longer term option is Cincinnati centerfielder Drew Stubbs, who hit five home runs and drove in 18 runs in May and now has 11 stolen bases on the season. Stubbs and Pagan are both available in around 75 percent of leagues.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets
As mentioned before, there is finally some good news on Beltran. His knee has responded well to running exercises. However, that's only a small part of the battle. General manager Omar Minaya has stated that Beltran will not return until four to six weeks after he is able to start participating in baseball activities.
Beltran owners should anticipate a post-All Star game return, and Pagan owners can rely on his services for at least that long. Unfortunately the situation is one that will require continual monitoring.
Jon Rauch, RP, Minnesota Twins
Here's my, "I'm just sayin'" player note of the week. In the five innings he's pitched since May 22, Rauch has allowed four earned runs on 10 hits. His batting average against has risen from .263 in April to .293. The closer has now admitted that he's dealing with a right hamstring issue. Decreased performance and a mild injury are small warning signs for a pitcher, especially one who needs to be ready to go every day.
I'm not sayin' that Rauch owners should panic or that players like Matt Guerrier should become hot free agent additions, I'm just sayin'.
Not all injuries are self-inflicted like Morales', here are some other guys recovering from actual baseball-related injuries.
The Boston Red Sox have decided to shut down pitcher Josh Beckett (back) for the next 10 days, and the Boston Globe is reporting that he's at least a month away from returning. He was eligible to come off the DL on June 3, but it looks like Tim Wakefield will be taking the mound in Beckett's spot until at least early July. Wakefield is only valuable as an AL-only spot-starter. ... Free swinging Diamondback Mark Reynolds missed Tuesday's game with a strained quad, and was only used as a pinch-hitter on Wednesday. Reynolds isn't expected to land on the DL, and could be back as early as Friday. ... Rangers' DH Vladimir Guerrero nearly knocked himself unconscious during batting practice on Wednesday. He was taken to the hospital where X-rays on his left eye showed no significant damage. Guerrero could be back in the lineup Thursday, and no lasting effects are expected. ... Soreness in his right ring finger forced Chipper Jones to leave Wednesday's game. The Braves third baseman could miss a couple games. ... Mets second baseman Luis Castillo is facing a potential trip to the DL with a bruised right heel. Fantasy owners hoping to pick up Castillo's possible replacement, Daniel Murphy, will have to put those plans on hold after Murphy sprained his knee in a Triple-A game on Wednesday. Murphy who is trying to make a positional switch from first to second base had to be helped off the field after a collision. ... Jimmy Rollins (calf) will not return to the Phillies lineup on Sunday, the day he's eligible to come off the DL. The team has yet to announce whether he will need a minor league rehab assignment or not, and expect them to be overly cautious with their star shortstop. ... The Phillies got some good news on third baseman Placido Polanco, who should be back in the lineup after missing a few games with a sore elbow. He got a cortisone shot on May 31 and is expected back on Friday. ... White Sox third baseman Mark Teahen went on the DL with a fractured finger. Don't expect much fantasy production from either of the guys lined up to replace him -- Jayson Nix or Omar Vizquel. ... On Thursday Vicente Padilla will begin what is expected to be a three-game rehab stint. After that, he will return to the No. 5 spot in the Dodgers rotation. NL-only fantasy owners in need of a starter may want to monitor Padilla, who pitched well in L.A. at the end of 2009. ... The left side of Mike Cameron's abdominals is still healing from a fairly significant tear, but it was the right side that forced him to miss games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Fortunately the injury to the right side is only a bruise, and the Red Sox outfielder should be back sometime this weekend. ... I feel obligated to report that Erik Bedard will throw a bullpen session on Friday. He'll need to throw three bullpen sessions before the team gets him into a simulated game. Then he'll need a few minor league rehab starts, so his return timeline is most likely after the All-Star break.
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