Speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos made some nice early impressions as he settled into Cardinals camp last month and was beginning to rise to the rank of fantasy sleeper here in early March. But reality checked in on Wednesday.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch that Bourjos has been sidelined for the past three days because of tightness in his right leg and will remain on the shelf through Thursday’s Grapefruit League matinee with the Twins. "They're testing him out," Matheny said. "He has good strength, which is always the sign that we're not looking at anything major. But it was a little tender. We're just staying away from pushing him."
“A little tender” is indeed nothing major for your average MLB player, but with Bourjos it’s reason for serious concern. He missed time in 2011 -- an otherwise breakout year -- with a serious right hamstring strain and then spent over a month on the disabled list in 2013 because of a severe strain of his left hamstring. Bourjos was supposed to bring his elite-level defense to Busch Stadium’s spacious outfield this summer and he said in January that he wants to steal 40 bases. But both of those require speed and his tires right now appear to have been punctured.
Bourjos made just 48 outfield starts in 2012 and 45 last season. The late-November trade that sent him to St. Louis (for David Freese and Fernando Salas) didn’t suddenly give him better durability.
All of this would be great for the fantasy outlook of Oscar Taveras, but the 21-year-old top outfield prospect is still recovering from last year’s ankle surgery and has yet to log his first Grapefruit League at-bat. Jon Jay, a far weaker defender than Bourjos and far weaker hitter than Taveras, could be relied on heavily in the early going.
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Editor's note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day, $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day's games (March 31). It's $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. The contest starts at 1:05 p.m. ET on Opening Day. Here's the FanDuel link.
Puig experiencing back and shoulder pain
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig appeared to grimace after taking a big swing in the fourth inning of Wednesday night’s Cactus League game against the Reds and did not take the field in the fifth. In the clubhouse afterward he was spotted with massive bags of ice strapped around his left shoulder and acknowledged that he has been battling soreness all week.
“I always want to play. I came out early but I felt fine,” Puig told beat writer Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register late Wednesday through a translator. “I felt it on one swing. There’s a little bit of inflammation in my back but the training staff says I will be able to play tomorrow. I need to keep playing. I want to play tomorrow. We have less than three weeks left to prepare (for the March 22-23 season-opening series in Sydney, Australia) and I want to be ready to help my team.”
For now, the inflammation can be treated as minor. But this situation suddenly deserves close attention. Puig is the 12th-ranked mixed league outfielder in the 2014 Rotoworld Draft Guide with a projection of 21 homers and 23 steals.
Greinke progressing, steps back on a mound
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has already given Zack Greinke a pass on making a start during the club’s two-game trip to Australia due to a mild calf strain that the $147 million right-hander sustained last month in his Cactus League debut. But it appears as though Greinke will be very close to 100 percent by the time the Dodgers return state-side.
Greinke threw a bullpen session Wednesday for the first time since being diagnosed with that right calf strain and reported no physical limitations. He will throw on the side again on Thursday in camp and could return to the Dodgers’ Cactus League rotation at some point next week.
The Dodgers play the Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22 and 23, then head to San Diego for a three-game set with the Padres. Greinke will be a candidate to start that series-opener against the Friars on March 30.
Ankiel announces retirement at age 34
Cardinals television broadcaster Dan McLaughlin revealed Wednesday during a nationally-televised Grapefruit League game that Rick Ankiel had given up the job search and officially retired from professional baseball. Ankiel later confirmed the news on his personal Twitter feed.
Ankiel was one of the hottest pitching prospects in the sport when he arrived on the major league scene as a 20-year-old in 1999 and he finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting after a fantastic first full season in 2000. Severe control (and maybe psychological) issues derailed his dream of becoming an ace and he eventually decided to convert himself into a full-time position player, returning to St. Louis as a big-armed right fielder in 2007 and smacking a career-high 25 home runs in 2008.
It’s one of the more unique stories in modern MLB history. He was a special type of athlete.