Enjoy Mariano Rivera while you still can, because he'll be throwing his final cutter later this year.
That's right, Rivera is expected to retire after the 2013 season. It's not official yet, but all indications are that he will make the announcement at a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. ET on Saturday morning.
Of course, the good news is that Rivera will go out on his own terms. The 43-year-old right-hander suffered a season-ending knee injury last May while shagging fly balls on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, but he's feeling great this spring and will make his Grapefruit League debut following his announcement on Saturday.
We have routinely seen columnists speculate about Rivera's decline each and every time he has a bad night, so the doubters only figure to get louder this season given his age and the serious nature of his knee injury. But as I told Kay Adams earlier this week, underestimate the all-time saves leader at your own peril. I expect Joe Girardi to be very cautious with Rivera's workload, but I still think he can be a top-five closer in mixed leagues during his 19th and (apparently) final season in the majors.
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Team Canada was delivered a tough blow on Thursday, as Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie was forced to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic due to a left rib cage injury. The issue cropped up during an exhibition game on Wednesday while tests Thursday determined that he'll likely need to miss 2-3 weeks.
While Canada will have to forge ahead with Brewers' infielder Taylor Green as their starting third baseman, Lawrie will now turn his focus to getting ready for the start of the season. The encouraging part is that this injury isn't believed to be as severe as his right oblique strain from last season, so Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulous is confident that he'll be in the lineup on April 2 against the Indians.
Big things were expected from Lawrie last season following his small sample breakout as a rookie in 2011, but he failed to deliver on the hype. Injuries to his knee, back, calf and oblique were a big reason for this, as the 23-year-old batted just .244 with three home runs and a .654 OPS after the start of July. Lawrie's power-speed combo makes him plenty intriguing from a fantasy perspective, but hopefully we won't see a similar pattern on the injury front this season.
Hicks Has Himself a Day
I mentioned in my AL position battles piece late last month that Aaron Hicks could "easily" play his way into the Twins' starting center fielder job with a strong spring. He's well on his way to making that a reality.
Hicks had a tremendous afternoon on Thursday, going 4-for-5 with three home runs, six RBI and a stolen base during a split-squad game against the Phillies. The 23-year-old also homered on Wednesday and is now hitting .407 (11-for-27) during Grapefruit League play.
Selected by the Twins in the first round back in 2008, Hicks bounced back from a disappointing 2011 season by hitting .286/.384/.460 with 13 home runs, 61 RBI, 32 stolen bases and an .844 OPS in 129 games last year with Double-A New Britain. He has never played a game in Triple-A, so some might argue that it makes sense to give him some more seasoning while delaying his service time, but the Twins are going to have a tough time doing that if he continues to hit like this.
Darin Mastroianni entered camp as the favorite for the starting center fielder job, but he has lost some traction over the past week due to a hamstring injury. Chances are he was only going to be a stopgap option, anyway, but he still could still steal double-digit bases in a reserve role. Assuming Hicks ultimately wins the center field job, fantasy owners should expect good on-base skills mixed with speed and some pop. If he can top 10 homers and 20 steals, that would make him very useful in deeper mixed leagues. Keep an eye on him.
Video Breakdown: Top 12 for 2013
In this video below, you'll get a look at my Top 12 fantasy picks for the season as compared to Rotoworld's list. There are some interesting differences, so check it out.
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