D.J. Short

Spring Training Daily

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Bad News For Johan

Friday, March 29, 2013


Welcome to the final edition of Spring Training Daily. While I have enjoyed helping put these columns together over the past month, it's much more fun talking about the real thing as opposed to a bunch of exhibition games. This year's spring training has been unusually long due to the World Baseball Classic, but fortunately we don't have to wait much longer.

The 2013 regular season will get underway on Sunday night when the Astros host the Rangers. Then on Monday morning you'll find the season debut of the Daily Dose. For those who are new around these parts, the Daily Dose recaps the big events of the previous day while providing analysis and fantasy advice. It'll be here for you every weekday mornings through October. Think of it as your baseball companion for the next six months.

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Oh No, Johan

We already knew that Johan Santana wasn't going to start the season on time, but Thursday brought some unfortunate news which could put his career in jeopardy.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson revealed during a conference call Thursday evening that Santana was diagnosed with a re-tear of the capsule in his left shoulder. The 34-year-old missed the entire 2011 season following the first surgery and now a second surgery is seen as a "strong possibility." Santana is expected to remain in New York this weekend before he makes a decision about the next step, but we can essentially write him off for the 2013 season and quite possibly for good.

It's a shame to see, as Santana worked for 19 months after his September 2010 surgery to make it back on Opening Day last year. He was very impressive despite diminished velocity, posting a 2.38 ERA over his first 11 starts. His comeback hit its apex when he delivered the first no-hitter in Mets' history on June 1. Whether you want to blame the career-high 134 pitches needed to throw the no-hitter, he just wasn't the same guy after that memorable night in Queens. Santana had an 8.27 ERA over his next 10 starts before being shut down due to fatigue in the shoulder, which was believed to be related to injuries to his lower back and ankle.

The hope was that Santana would be on a normal schedule this spring, but he never really got off the ground. After his spring debut was pushed back so that he could build strength in the shoulder, the Mets expressed disappointment that he wasn't in pitching shape upon arriving to camp. Santana then deviated from his throwing program by having an unannounced bullpen session. Who knows when the re-tear occurred, but something clearly wasn't right over the past couple of weeks. Now we know why.   

Santana is still owed $31 million on the six-year, $137.5 million deal he signed with the Mets after coming over from the Twins in 2008. This includes $25.5 million this season and a $5.5 million buyout on his $25 million option for next year. If anything, Santana's rapid demise should function as a reminder that long-term contracts for pitchers are extremely risky.

Rondon Demoted, Tigers to Use Closer-By-Committee

The Tigers resisted acquiring a closer this offseason in hopes that hard-throwing rookie Bruce Rondon would run away with the job during spring training. It didn't happen.

Rondon was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday after he allowed eight runs on 17 hits and nine walks over 12 1/3 innings during Grapefruit League action. The 22-year-old had his share of ups and downs this spring, but he ultimately sealed his fate with a rough appearance on Wednesday when he gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Rondon still could mature into a dominant late-inning reliever in the long-term, so this surely isn't the last we've heard of him, but the Tigers are a team that is built to win right now and can't afford to mess around in the late innings. Of course, many folks were saying that before camp even started. Anyway, Jim Leyland will now move forward with a committee consisting of the likes of veterans Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel.

You may recall that Leyland leaned on Coke heavily during the postseason amid Jose Valverde's struggles, but it's worth noting that right-handed batters have hit .299/.370/.432 against him for his career and had a 1.050 OPS in 115 plate appearances against him last year. In other words, he's best utilized as a matchup play against lefty-heavy lineups. Benoit isn't perfect, as he gives up a lot of fly balls, but he would probably be my first choice at the moment. Still, this promises to be a fluid situation and quite possibly, a major headache for fantasy owners. As I said back in February, I wouldn't be surprised if the Tigers sign Brian Wilson once he's back to full health following Tommy John surgery.

Rockies Send Arenado to Triple-A

Rockies prospect third baseman Nolan Arenado put some pressure on Chris Nelson this spring, but his major league debut will have to wait a little while longer.

The Rockies optioned Arenado to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday after he hit .288 (15-for-52) with four home runs, 12 RBI and an .885 OPS in 18 games during Cactus League play. While he didn't end up making the team, it was nice to see coming off what many considered an underwhelming season with Double-A Tulsa. If he continues to produce in the minors, it won't be long before he makes his way to the Rockies. And hey, it never hurts to delay his service time for a couple of months.  

As for Nelson, he hasn't received much respect in fantasy circles, even though he hit .301/.352/.458 with nine home runs, 53 RBI and an .810 OPS in 111 games last season. Sure, he was much better at Coors Field than on the road, but really, who isn't? With his multi-position eligibility between third base and second base, he should be owned in deeper mixed leagues.

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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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