The Cardinals knew they were taking a risk last fall when the decision was made to let Rafael Furcal rehab his right elbow injury rather than have surgery. It looks like that decision is going to come back to bite them.
Furcal has been limited all camp by the ailment and had a setback last week when he tried to ramp up his throwing. The shortstop was examined Monday by team medical director Dr. George Paletta and will get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. Though it’s not a guarantee that Andrews will recommend season-ending Tommy John surgery, the possibility is certainly there. Even if an operation isn’t required, general manager John Mozeliak admits that having Furcal available for Opening Day would be “a longshot.”
If Furcal is unavailable, Pete Kozma appears to be the early favorite to see the bulk of the time at shortstop, though Ronny Cedeno would still be very much in the mix. The Cards could also choose to move Daniel Descalso to short if Matt Carpenter proves to be capable of handling second base. A trade for a shortstop could be considered, though that probably wouldn’t happen until closer to the trade deadline.
Kozma batted .333/.383/.569 with two home runs and 14 RBI in 26 games last year for the Cards and also starred in the Division Series win over the Nationals. However, he holds a .236/.308/.344 career batting line in the minor leagues and would be a poor bet to have much fantasy value.
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Leyland Poo-Poos Papa Grande Talk
The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported over the weekend that Tigers manager Jim Leyland was interested in bringing former closer Jose Valverde back into the mix. On Monday, though, Leyland shot down that rumor.
"That's not in the picture, trust me," Leyland said on MLB.com. "That has not even been discussed."
A three-time All-Star, Valverde recently pulled out of the World Baseball Classic due to a personal issue, and it would likely take a team suffering an injury at their closer spot in order for him to get a shot at a ninth-inning gig.
As for the Tigers, they will hold struggling reliever Bruce Rondon back from his next Grapefruit League appearance while he works on his mechanics. The youngster has a 7.36 ERA and has issued five walks in 3 2/3 spring innings and is unlikely to open the season as the team’s closer unless he rights the ship in a hurry. If Rondon starts the year at Triple-A and the Tigers don’t bring anyone else in, they’re likely to use a combination of Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel in the ninth.
Most teams are done tinkering with their roster at this point, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still hearing the occasional trade whisper.
The Rangers are looking for rotation help following the injury to fifth starter favorite Martin Perez. Not only has their interest in free agent Kyle Lohse perked up, but they’re also considering trade possibilities, reportedly putting in a call Monday to the Tigers to ask about Rick Porcello.
The Tigers have fielded many inquiries on Porcello this winter, and they’re open to moving him and installing Drew Smyly as the No. 5 starter. The sinkerballer has done nothing to hurt his stock this spring, producing a 3.38 ERA and 10/0 K/BB ratio over eight frames.
Another guy whose name popped up on the trade radar Monday was Aaron Harang, who reportedly was scouted by the Orioles and Brewers during an appearance in a minor league game Monday. Harang is plenty good enough to be in someone’s starting five, but he’ll be squeezed out of the Dodgers’ rotation if Chad Billingsley’s elbow holds up and maybe even if it doesn’t. The big right-hander posted a 3.61 ERA and 131/85 K/BB ratio in 179 2/3 innings last year for Los Angeles.
Arenado Impressing Early On
Most projected Nolan Arenado to take over the Rockies’ third base job at some point during the 2012 season. Instead, he spent all of the year at Double-A, where he batted an uninspiring .285/.337/.428 with just 12 home runs. The top prospect is looking to bounce back big in 2013, and if his early work in spring training is any indication, he’s well on his way to doing so.
Arenado belted his third home run in as many games Monday and also added a double. The 21-year-old has four homers, two doubles and eight RBI in his first 17 Cactus League at-bats. That’s good for a 1.235 slugging percentage.
Although Arenado remains a longshot to crack the Opening Day roster, manager Walt Weiss isn’t ruling it out, saying "you don't want to ever put a limit on a kid like that and say he can't win a job." Chris Nelson will surely be the club’s starter at the hot corner on April 1, but Arenado could eventually push him. The former second-round pick would possess intriguing fantasy upside in the thin Denver air.
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