Fantasy owners this spring were salivating at the thought of Ian Desmond in Coors Field.
Those, uh, fantasies will have to wait for now.
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Desmond was diagnosed Sunday with a fractured left hand after getting hit by a pitch in a Cactus League game earlier in the day. Desmond will be re-evaluated by a hand specialist in the next few days, at which point the club will have a clearer picture of his outlook.
All we seem to know now is that Desmond won't be ready for Opening Day.
“It’s a bummer,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “It’s a tough loss for us and a bad break for Ian. But at least it’s in spring. He’ll bounce back from this.”
The ripple effect is that an unexpected player will be starting at first base for the Rockies to open the season.
Mark Reynolds, in camp on a minor-league deal, might have an inside track after hitting .282/.356/.450 in 118 games with the Rox last season. Reynolds certainly has pop, but the .282 batting average and .356 on-base percentage appear to be mirages; he owns a career .234 batting average and .326 on-base percentage over 10 seasons.
“Mark was a big part of this team last year. He makes a lot of sense,” Black said of Reynolds possibly filling in for Desmond.
More interesting might be a pair of lesser-known players, Jordan Patterson and Stephen Cardullo, in camp with the team. Patterson, a 25-year-old former fourth-round pick of the organization, batted .293/.376/.480 with the Rockies' Triple-A club last year and has played first base behind Desmond this spring. Cardullo, 29, has seen his stock rise quickly in the past year, jumping from the Independent League to Triple-A, where he hit 17 homers with 72 RBI in 115 games.
It'll be a battle worth monitoring, but with a few weeks left before the season begins and hand fractures not often requiring extensive absences, the likely reality is that Desmond returns before much of the season is gone. The winner of the camp competition might be worth a late-round flyer in NL-only leagues and could be a nice option in daily fantasy for a few weeks in the meantime.
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Kipnis Shut Down; Won't Be Ready For Opener
Jason Kipnis' shoulder woes have lingered, and they're now cutting into his regular season.
Kipnis has been dealing with a strained right rotator cuff this spring, and he was shut down for two weeks Sunday to give his shoulder a chance to rest. The timetable almost certainly means he won't be ready for the April 3 opener.
"He could certainly DH today," Indians manager Terry Francona said Sunday. "He could actually go play second, but because there are times when he's still feeling this thing (shoulder), the medical people and Kipnis have met and the determination was that we're going to keep him down for a couple of weeks.
"What they do in the next couple of weeks is to be determined. We had a pretty lengthy conversation because he is getting better. Nothing has gone haywire, nothing has gone wrong. But it's such a long season, by taking this approach, we want to make sure they knock it out and not get it at 90 or 85 percent. That's why we're doing this."
It's a disappointing development after Kipnis enjoyed another strong offensive showing in 2016. The 29-year-old batted .275/.343/.469 with 23 homers, 91 runs scored, 82 RBI and 15 stolen bases last year, setting career highs in homers and runs.
Unlike with Desmond, the internal options to replace Kipnis don't excite, and the offensive environment -- the Indians' lineup is strong, but Progressive Field isn't the same park as Coors Field for hitters -- doesn't make anyone a must-own. Michael Martinez, Erik Gonzalez, Ronny Rodriguez and Daniel Robertson could all be candidates, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The best buy might actually be Kipnis, who will likely be discounted in drafts with this news. If the rest helps and he's swinging free and easy in early April, he could feasibly be back with the club by mid-month. That's still a lot of season left at that point.
Tillman 'Doubtful' For Start Of Season
The outlook for Chris Tillman is less rosy.
Tillman scrapped a scheduled bullpen session Sunday due to renewed shoulder discomfort after 10 warm-up pitches, casting doubt on any timeline for his return. Before Sunday's development, Tillman had eyes on returning early next month.
When asked, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the team believes Tillman will pitch for them "at some point this year," but didn't have many more specifics.
“We think we’ve got a pretty good feel for what the issue is, structurally,” Showalter said. “I’m still very confident he’ll pitch for us at some point this year. We’ll see what the next few days bring. Just the start of the season is in jeopardy — doubtful. That’s a better word than jeopardy.”
Not a hugely confident statement from Showalter, and with the 28-year-old's 16-win 2016 season looking like something of a high-water mark it may be best to just avoid Tillman this spring until we get some more clarity. There are always exceptions to the rule, of course, but Tillman is probably best left for late rounds of AL-only formats and very deep mixed leagues for now.
Quick Hits: Josh Donaldson (calf) is expected to take live at-bats as a DH within the next few days. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said those at-bats with either come in minor league games or Grapefruit League games -- either way, it'll be the first live action of the spring for the star third baseman. Assuming he continues to progress, he should be in there on Opening Day ... Max Scherzer (finger) pledged Monday that he will be ready for the start of the 2017 season. That might not mean Opening Day, but the ace right-hander does not expect to miss a turn in the Nationals' season-opening starting rotation. "I'm gonna do it," he told reporters Monday morning ... Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Sunday that the best-case scenario for Salvador Perez (knee) would be him returning in a week. An initial MRI on Perez's left knee revealed only inflammation, as he appears to have avoided a serious injury following a collision in a World Baseball Classic game Saturday. Perez is set to receive a second MRI in Royals camp on Monday, at which point more will be known about his timetable ... Dansby Swanson (back) is expected to be cleared to return to Grapefruit League games later this week. Swanson hasn't played in over a week due to back tightness, but he's been going through full baseball activities the last few days without any issues ... A.J. Pollock was lifted from Sunday's Cactus League game with minor left groin tightness. The Diamondbacks are calling his exit purely precautionary. Let's hope ... J.J. Hardy (back) is set to make his Grapefruit League debut on Monday. Hardy has been eased into action this spring due to lower back issues that popped up soon after he arrived in Orioles camp. He plans to play in more road games than usual over the next three weeks to make up for lost time, and should still have time to round into shape before Opening Day.