D.J. Short

Spring Training Daily

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Concern Over Carp?

Friday, March 09, 2012


The Cardinals have understandably brought Chris Carpenter along slowly this spring after he tossed a career-high 273 1/3 innings last year between the regular season and the postseason, but another variable was recently thrown into the mix which could impact his availability for a possible Opening Day assignment.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday that Carpenter has been dealing with persistent neck stiffness for the past 5-6 days. The Cardinals are said to be "minimizing the situation," but the malady caused the veteran right-hander to skip a scheduled throwing session on Wednesday. It's a little early to panic, but if he can't make his Grapefruit League debut as scheduled on Monday or even sometime later next week, the calendar may soon become an issue.

Even if Carpenter's neck issue turns out to be a minor blip and he pitches Opening Day as expected, this might be the proper time to ask whether he's worth the hefty investment in fantasy leagues this season. Remember, he turns 37 in April and already has a lengthy injury history. Coming off the unprecedented workload, I'd rather let someone else deal with the potential disappointment.

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Wainwright Returns

While one Cardinals' pitcher is ailing, another is on the comeback trail.

Adam Wainwright, who missed the entire 2011 season following Tommy John surgery, is slated to make his Grapefruit League debut Friday afternoon against the Twins. It will be his first appearance against major-league hitters since September 24, 2010.

There's been nothing but good news about Wainwright's rehabilitation so far this spring, which is quite a contrast to how his season crumbled on the practice fields of Jupiter, Florida almost exactly one year ago. The Cards' ace hasn't run into any setbacks with his surgically-repaired elbow and is throwing without any restrictions. The plan calls for him to make five starts during exhibition action in preparation for his season debut, which could happen against the division-rival Brewers on April 7.

The results on Friday aren't all that important, but it will be interesting to see where he is with his velocity and command. Pitchers often come back from Tommy John surgery stronger than they were before, so I wouldn't be surprised if his velocity isn't far off, but command is usually the last thing to come around post-op. It could take weeks or it could take months for him to look like the same dominating pitcher.

Based on Wainwright's ADP (average draft position), it doesn't seem as though fantasy owners are going to get much of a discount on draft day, so I would look to see if he gets off to a bit of a slow start and attempt to pounce.

Chapman Bullpen-bound?

Targeting Aroldis Chapman as a possible fantasy sleeper with a move to the starting rotation in mind? Listen up.

New Reds' closer Ryan Madson (elbow), set-up man Nick Masset (shoulder) and left-handed specialist Bill Bray (groin) are all sidelined at the moment. The injuries to Madson and Masset don't appear to be serious, but Bray had to be shut down after experiencing a setback during a bullpen session Wednesday and it's not clear when he'll throw again.

Chapman allowed one run and struck out three over two innings in his first start of the spring and is still scheduled to start Friday against the Giants, but Reds manager Dusty Baker told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday that he hasn't dismissed the possibility of moving the hard-throwing left-hander back to the bullpen if Bray starts the season on the disabled list.
 
Chapman will have to pitch lights out this spring to beat Homer Bailey for the final spot in the rotation, anyway, so the most likely scenario is that he'll either continue working as a starter with Triple-A Louisville or make the move back to the bullpen. The status of Bray figures to be a pretty big factor for the Reds, who have designs on making a playoff run.

Well Dunn

Perhaps it's a little early to say Adam Dunn is back, but he honestly doesn't have to do much to improve upon his horrendous first season in a White Sox uniform.

The big slugger showed some promising signs Thursday afternoon against the Rangers, first taking right-hander Neftali Feliz deep for a three-run shot and later stroking an RBI double off left-hander Michael Kirkman. Dunn is 2-for-4 with three walks so far during Cactus League play and hasn't struck out in any of his seven plate appearances.

Obvious caveats about the incredibly small sample size, but as our own Matthew Pouliot noted on HardballTalk last night, Dunn fanned once every 2.8 plate appearances last season and was just 6-for-94 with one extra-base hit against left-handed pitching.

Many have tried to figure out why Dunn completely tanked last year and it seems as though moving to the DH spot after spending his entire career in the National League may have played a small part, but the White Sox also believe that his past offseason habits -- namely that he doesn't swing a bat over the winter -- didn't help matters. Dunn did swing a bat more often this offseason, so perhaps the early activity will pay some dividends.

Dunn is 32 years old now, so I seriously doubt we'll ever see the same guy who once hit 40 homers per season like clockwork, but I still think he can be useful in fantasy leagues. Playing his home games in the hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field certainly helps his chances. After a season where he hit just .159 with 11 homers and a .569 OPS, the price tag for a potential rebound figures to be a modest one.



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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