Aaron Gleeman

Baseball Daily Dose

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Bad News for Beckett

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today marks my final baseball Daily Dose column of the season, as my focus will shift to football starting Monday. Baseball is my first love and it's been a pleasure strolling through the latest news, notes, and injuries with you each weekday for the past six months, but for better or worse football truly dominates the fantasy landscape and the NFL season is right around the corner. However, those of you who've made this column part of your daily routine should fear not.

My services are needed elsewhere, but the extremely capable trio of Pat Dahl, Nick Nelson, and Drew Silva will take my place and keep this column rolling into October. Plus, those of you who aren't completely sick of me can check out my football Daily Dose column along with the baseball Daily Dose produced by the Dahl-Nelson-Silva three-headed monster of a platoon. As always it's been a lot of fun writing this column, so thanks for reading and good luck down the stretch.

While Pat, Nick, and Drew grab the keys and hopefully take good care of my baby, here are some notes from around baseball …

* Josh Beckett has been scratched from his scheduled start Friday, marking the third time that his next outing has been pushed back since complaining of tingling in his hand 10 days ago. General manager Theo Epstein said Thursday that the tingling is no longer bothering Beckett, but added that "the elbow itself doesn't feel 100 percent. Officially the Red Sox are calling it a precautionary measure, but Beckett's visit with Dr. James Andrews suggests there's plenty reason for concern.

"I think the best word I can use is we're just trying to get some closure," manager Terry Francona said. "We never want to send anyone out there that's not 100 percent. We're no more pessimistic about him today than we were, but when he does go out there [again] we want him to be able to pitch with a peace of mind." Daisuke Matsuzaka will take Beckett's place Friday against the White Sox and David Pauley is expected to be called back up from Triple-A to start Saturday.

* According to multiple reports the Blue Jays have agreed to deal Matt Stairs to the Phillies, who figure to give him playing time in right field against right-handed pitching while Geoff Jenkins is on the disabled list. With Jenkins out the Phillies have turned to Jayson Werth as their everyday right fielder and he's responded by going 14-for-39 (.359) with six extra-base hits and nine walks while starting 11 of the past 12 games.

Werth has hit .275/.372/.498 in 106 games overall, including .265/.379/.427 against right-handers, and is vastly superior to Stairs defensively. In other words, Stairs doesn't figure to be much of an upgrade given the 40-year-old's modest .251/.350/.394 line against righties. However, as a bat off the bench and occasional starter he does still have some real-life value even if his fantasy stock is very limited. With Stairs out of the picture, the Blue Jays are expected to call up Travis Snider.

Selected 14th overall in the 2006 draft out of high school, Snider has moved quickly through the Blue Jays' system, crushing the low minors before hitting .275/.358/.481 with 23 homers between Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A this year. Those are impressive numbers for a 20-year-old and give him plenty of long-term fantasy potential, but 153 strikeouts in 556 plate appearances (27.5 percent) make it tough to imagine Snider maintaining a strong batting average in the majors.

* Traded to the Mets on August 17, Luis Ayala converted his first save chance last Friday, blew a save Tuesday, and then closed out a three-run win Wednesday. That qualifies as major success considering the bullpen's struggles and sure enough manager Jerry Manuel basically announced Thursday that Ayala is the Mets' new closer. Manuel didn't exactly make anything official, but said that Ayala gives the Mets "the best chance right now to close the game out."

Ayala struggled mightily with the Nationals for most of the year, but has looked solid since joining the Mets and posted ERAs of 3.19, 2.66, 2.69, and 2.92 over his previous four seasons. His low-90s fastball and mediocre strikeout rate certainly aren't ideal fits for the ninth inning, but he's capable of having some short-term success while Billy Wagner is sidelined and Manuel doesn't have a ton of other options at this point. Ayala should definitely be owned in all fantasy leagues.

* Getting a chance to start in right field thanks to Austin Kearns' fractured foot, Elijah Dukes went deep twice, walked, stole a base, scored three times, and drove in four runs Thursday night in the Nationals' blowout win over the Dodgers. Between off-field problems, injuries, and hitting just .192 through the first 315 plate appearances of his career Dukes' stock dropped considerably during the past two years, but he's quietly starting to show why he was once considered a top prospect.

Dukes has hit .321/.402/.580 with seven homers and eight steals in his last 28 games, albeit with two stints on the disabled list mixed in. His career batting average remains just .233 thanks to the awful start, but Dukes has produced 18 homers, 13 steals, and 62 walks through his first 442 trips to the plate as a major leaguer. Toss in a .285/.396/.476 line in 97 games at Triple-A and the fact that he's still just 24 years old, and Dukes is a solid long-term bet with a wide range of skills.

AL Quick Hits: Joba Chamberlain (shoulder) threw a 45-pitch bullpen session Thursday and said afterward that he expects to return as a reliever, perhaps as soon as next week … Todd Jones' (shoulder) emotional meeting with teammates Wednesday has led to speculation that he plans to retire … Ongoing shoulder soreness has stalled Travis Hafner's recovery, but the Indians remain hopeful that he'll play again this season … Edwin Jackson tossed seven innings of one-run ball Thursday and is 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA over his last seven starts despite a poor 24-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio … Jason Giambi knocked in all three of the Yankees' runs Thursday despite coming off the bench, delivering a two-run homer and walk-off single against Jonathan PapelbonMark Kotsay made his Red Sox debut Thursday afternoon, going 1-for-4 with a double while starting in right field and batting sixth … Brandon McCarthy left Thursday's start versus the Angels in line for his first win in nearly 13 months, but the Rangers' bullpen coughed up a 5-2 lead … According to manager Dave Trembley, Adam Jones could return from a fractured foot as soon as Monday.

NL Quick Hits: Cristian Guzman hit for the cycle Thursday night, lacing a seventh-inning triple to complete the feat … Chris Carpenter (shoulder) threw a 60-pitch bullpen session Wednesday and said afterward that he "felt good" … Justin Upton (oblique) is on the verge of returning after hitting .286/.365/.500 through 14 games of a minor-league rehab assignment at Triple-A … Out since late June with what's supposedly just a strained forearm, the Nationals announced Thursday that Shawn Hill won't pitch again this year … According to manager Bud Black, Chris Young (forearm) could come off the disabled list to "start Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday" … Ty Wigginton homered twice Thursday, giving him 10 long balls so far this month … Tim Lincecum improved to 15-3 with another great outing Wednesday, but was allowed to throw a career-high 132 pitches … Despite suffering two setbacks in his recovery, Todd Helton (back) said Wednesday that he hopes to play in September … Francisco Cordero is available out of the bullpen again after leaving the Reds for the birth of his child … Rafael Soriano will miss the remainder of the year following elbow surgery.

Aaron Gleeman is Rotoworld's senior baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. Also find him at AaronGleeman.com and on Twitter.
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