Pitchers and catchers have reported, and the early reports are concerning for two stud pitchers.
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It came out Wednesday that Cole Hamels dealt with biceps tendinitis and soreness in his left shoulder this offseason, setting him back at the start of camp. Hamels still won't throw for another week, and he's already expected to begin the year on the disabled list.
Shoulder injuries are widely regarded as the worst type of injuries for pitchers, even more than elbow injuries, so there's some risk associated with counting on the 30-year-old this season. For their part, Hamels and the Phillies seem confident it won't be an issue that afflicts the left-hander all season. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said there's just no reason to rush Hamels at this juncture.
"Why would we want to push him?" Amaro said. "If we wanted to push him and tell him to get ready for opening day, we might be able to do that. But what's the point? There is no point in doing that."
Over in Arizona, the Mariners have problems of their own with right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker. Iwakuma, an AL Cy Young candidate last season after posting a 14-6 record and 2.66 ERA, won't throw for four-to-six weeks after straining a tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand. Iwakuma sustained the injury after catching his hand in a protective screen while working out this offseason.
"Luckily, this does not appear to be a serious injury," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a statement. "It is a setback for Kuma, but we are confident that he will quickly overcome the missed time and be able to rejoin our rotation early in the regular season."
The timetable puts Iwakuma back on a mound right around the time the team will head back to Seattle, but even then he'll need some work to get into game shape. The Mariners are optimistic the injury won't extend beyond April, but it's unclear how a strain might affect a split-finger fastball pitcher like Iwakuma.
"I did feel discomfort when I was playing catch," Iwakuma said. "We’ll have to see how it feels down the road."
It's less doom and gloom for Iwakuma's rotation mate, Walker. The top prospect reported some shoulder soreness that will limit him early in camp. There's no indication that this is a long-term concern, but ESPN's Keith Law believes the soreness could be a result of Walker's delivery. If that's not something Walker or the Mariners address, it might lead to more problems down the road.
This time of year the question for fantasy owners is how injuries affect a player's draft position, and the different injuries will do different things to Hamels and Iwakuma's stock. With Hamels, his track record suggests this isn't a death sentence -- he's thrown at least 183 innings in each season since 2007, so durability isn't a concern. Our own Matthew Pouliot pointed out that this isn't the first time Hamels has dealt with issues early in camp, and in those previous times he's managed to make a full slate of starts. Owners should take a wait-and-see approach with the All-Star.
With Iwakuma, things are less sunny. The 32-year-old has been fairly healthy in his two seasons with the Mariners, but his injury history in Japan shows he's not the most durable pitcher. Even the smallest injuries can have profound effects on pitchers -- pitchers have missed starts as a result of sleeping funny, among other things -- so if Iwakuma's finger doesn't feel right upon return it could take him a while to regain the feel of his pitches. Iwakuma is too talented to fall off draft boards, but he should be dropped from his current ranking.
The Buc Stops In Philly
Hours after it was learned Hamels won't be ready for the start of spring training, the Phillies inked former Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $16 million deal to shore up its rotation.
The 37-year-old is more than just insurance for Hamels. Burnett was the Pirates' ace and one of the best pitchers in the National League last season, posting a 3.30 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 209/67 K/BB ratio in 191 innings. He'll slot firmly behind Cliff Lee and Hamels in the Phillies' rotation, giving them a formidable group that could help them win a few more games than expected. Still, the team will be lucky to break even in a tough NL East.
Burnett moves from a team that struggles to produce offense in a pitcher's park to a team that struggles to produce offense in a hitter's park, but he shouldn't be too affected by the cross-state transition. The NL East features two of the more potent lineups in the Nationals and Braves, but it also includes the light-hitting Mets and bottom-feeding Marlins upon which Burnett can prey. Burnett was likely ranked with some fear that he'd end up back in the AL East, so owners can move the right-hander up a spot or two on their draft boards if so desired.
Snakes Bite On Arroyo
After searching all winter for a front-of-the-rotation starter, Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers found some rotation help when he signed Bronson Arroyo to a two-year, $19 million deal that includes a 2016 option with a $4.5 million buyout.
Arroyo, 36, isn't the ace the Diamondbacks yearned for, and he's barely an upgrade over the team's current options among back-end starters. The signing likely pushes Randall Delgado to the bullpen and has a chance to delay the Archie Bradley era in Arizona.
One thing Arroyo does bring is durability. He's thrown at least 200 innings in each season since 2005 -- his 199-inning season in 2011 is an honorary member of the club -- and hasn't made fewer than 32 starts in that span. With Brandon McCarthy's health an ongoing question, it won't hurt the D'backs to have options.
National League Quick Hits: In what's been a theme this offseason, the Braves reached a long-term deal with a rising star when they locked up Julio Teheran with a six-year, $32.4 million deal. Teheran was one of the best rookies in the National League last season and should build on that in his sophomore campaign ... the Nationals acquired backup catcher Jose Lobaton and two prospects from the Rays in exchange for right-hander Nate Karns. Lobaton will occasionally spell Wilson Ramos at backstop, but Ramos is still the clear-cut starter in Washington ... Carlos Gonzalez is ahead of schedule in his return from emergency appendectomy surgery, making him a good bet for Opening Day. Where he'll be playing is still up in the air, as Rockies manager Walt Weiss is hoping a center field candidate emerges and allows CarGo to stick in left ... Yasiel Puig's throwing is being limited early due to right shoulder inflammation. It's something that Puig dealt with at times last season as well, and the Dodgers are being careful with their young phenom ... the Cubs finalized deals with pitchers Jason Hammel and James McDonald. Both pitchers will be given a shot to earn a rotation spot, with Hammel looking close to guaranteed after signing his one-year, $6 million contract ... the Phillies released Chad Gaudin after he failed his physical. He'd previously been signed to a minor league deal earlier this offseason.
American League Quick Hits: Kole Calhoun is the early leader to bat atop the Angels lineup this summer. Hitting ahead of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton could do wonders for the outfielder's fantasy value ... In the wake of their pitching woes, the Mariners have reached out to Ervin Santana and presumably Ubaldo Jimenez as well. Either pitcher would require them to forfeit a draft pick, but their first-round pick is secured ... The Indians secured a corner outfield spot for years when they inked Michael Brantley to a four-year extension worth $25 million. The 26-year-old posted an impressive .284/.332/.396 line in 2013 ... The Royals released Emilio Bonifacio after no team claimed him and his $3.5 million contract on waivers. Bonifacio is now a free agent and can sign with any team ... Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez won't play in 2014 as he continues to deal with gastrointestinal issues. It's hard to see Gutierrez making a comeback at this point ... The Athletics ensured they'll have Coco Crisp around for two more years, agreeing to a $22 million extension with the outfielder. Crisp roped a career-high 22 home runs for the A's last season ... The Rays signed lefty Erik Bedard to a minor league deal. Look for him on early Cy Young candidates lists in July.