The A’s entered spring training with one of the deepest rotations in the game, but their depth is about to be tested.
On Monday we learned that Jarrod Parker was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will require what will be his second Tommy John surgery.
"First and foremost, I feel for him," A's manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com. "I mean, he's done so much for us. He competes hard. He works hard. For a guy who's gone through this before, I really feel for him. As far as the team goes, sure it's a blow. This is a guy that has meant a lot to us, and we'll have to do something different."
Parker will obviously miss the entire 2014 season, and he probably won’t be ready in time for the start of 2015, either. The unfortunate news for the 25-year-old came after the A’s had already been dealt one blow to their rotation, as A.J. Griffin will be shut down for the next three weeks due to flexor tendinitis in his elbow. Griffin also dealt with elbow issues last season, but Oakland is hopeful that he’ll be ready to go after a little rest. He shouldn’t be counted on before May.
There’s also Scott Kazmir, who had to be scratched from Monday’s Cactus League outing due to triceps tightness. Thankfully Kazmir’s ailment looks to be minor, as he could be ready to start as soon as Tuesday.
Even if Kazmir turns out to be OK, the A’s still have to find a couple arms to fill out their rotation. Those arms are expected to belong to Jesse Chavez and Tommy Milone.
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All but two of Chavez’s 191 career appearances at the big league level have come in relief, and all 39 of his appearances the last two seasons with the A’s were as a reliever. However, he’s made 54 starts in the minors, including five last year at Triple-A Sacramento where he posted a 2.70 ERA and 26/5 K/BB ratio over 30 innings. Chavez has been untouchable this spring, tossing 12 scoreless frames with a 12/2 K/BB ratio. That said, it’s hard to ignore the 30-year-old’s career 5.48 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.
Milone is a name you should all be more familiar with given that he’s made 57 starts over the last two seasons for the A’s. He’s been perfectly capable in those outings, holding a 3.93 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. The left-hander has a pedestrian 6.7 K/9 rate in his career and is an extreme fly ball pitcher, but he doesn’t walk anyone (career 1.9 BB/9 rate) and benefits from spacious O.co Coliseum and the Athletics’ terrific outfield defense.
Of the two hurlers, Milone is the better option in fantasy leagues. Another guy to keep an eye on, especially if Kazmir has a setback, is Drew Pomeranz. The former Rockie has been used in short stints this spring but is a good bet to be stretched out now.
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Bourn Nursing Sore Hammy
Michael Bourn’s bid for a bounce-back season in 2014 might get off to a late start.
The outfielder was removed from Sunday's game with tightness in his left hamstring and will be held out of action for at least the next week. The Indians are calling the injury minor, but there’s no guarantee that Bourn will be ready to go on Opening Day. The speedy outfielder had surgery on the same hamstring last October, though he says the tightness he’s feeling is not in the same area that was operated on.
"They want me to take a couple days off from activity," Bourn told MLB.com, "and just do treatment to make sure everything is OK. But I feel positive about it. It's not really in the same spot as I had surgery on. All that's fine."
Bourn said that he thinks he’ll be ready for Opening Day but added the caveat that he’s “going to make sure that I'm healthy. It's a long season." It’s nice that he’s feeling upbeat, but injuring the same hamstring you had operated on five months earlier is cause for concern. Add in the fact that Bourn has yet to attempt a stolen base this spring and fantasy owners definitely have reason to worry.
If the Indians need a replacement for Bourn in center, the Tribe could easily just slide over Michael Brantley from left field and give Ryan Raburn and David Murphy regular at-bats. Manager Terry Francona also mentioned giving Elliot Johnson, Matt Carson, Jeff Francoeur and Nyjer Morgan a look in center.
Cubs Giving Baez a Second Look
With Starlin Castro established at shortstop, top Cubs prospect Javier Baez is going to have to move positions if he wants to get into the lineup. On Monday, we got a glimpse of the young slugger at what could eventually be his new home.
The 21-year-old infielder has been working out at second base during camp and got his first start at the position versus the A’s. He fielded both balls hit to him and “looked fine” at the position, according to manager Rick Renteria. Baez has impressed with the bat this spring, hitting .281 with three home runs and two doubles. This is after he hit .282/.341/.578 with 37 homers, 111 RBI and 20 stolen bases between High- and Double-A last season.
Renteria didn’t want anyone to read too much into the switch, but with only Darwin Barney in his way, it’s hard not to see Baez eventually cracking the big league lineup at the keystone. He’ll begin the season as Triple-A Iowa’s shortstop, but a call to the big leagues should come this season.
Ventura Stakes to Claim No. 5 Job
Yordano Ventura was lights-out again Monday, holding the Rangers scoreless on four singles and no walks while striking out six over six innings. As it turns out, it was the 22-year-old’s final appearance before he officially cracked the Royals’ rotation.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost announced after Monday night’s game what was becoming obvious: Ventura will be the club’s No. 5 starter. The young fireballer made the decision easy, as he’s dominated this spring with a 1.76 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 17/1 K/BB ratio over 15 1/3 Cactus League frames. His primary competition for the gig, Danny Duffy, has been knocked around with an 11.00 ERA and 2.11 WHIP across his nine innings. Duffy will compete for a bullpen role.
Ventura is coming off a year where he posted a 3.14 ERA and 155/53 K/BB ratio over 134 2/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A. He then used his high-90s heater to impress in a late-season audition with the big club, putting up a 3.52 mark over three starts. Ventura wasn’t quite as dominant at Triple-A as he was Double-A and will undoubtedly have his innings closely monitored in 2014. However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a great fantasy sleeper this season. With a current Yahoo! ADP of 246.6, he could wind up being a bargain.