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5U: The Brandon Webb guessing game; welcome back, Mike Aviles

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Five stories, many links, here's your midday fantasy update for Thursday.

There's plenty of Brandon Webb(notes) whispering and innuendo out there, some of it cautiously optimistic, some of it more worrisome, most of it conflicting. Spin the spinner, throw your dart, pick your date, place your return wagers.

If you'd like to hear a positive tune regarding B-Webb's mysterious shoulder, Ken Rosenthal has been told that a return in May is "highly likely." Fox Sports Arizona has a different spin, mentioning that Webb was told by a team doctor that recovery from the August 2009 surgery could take a year. If you want a more vague take on the Webb wing, head over to MLB.com, tell me what you get out of these 257 words. I wish I had a clear answer for you, but I don't think one exists. One thing we can all agree on; he's not going to be pitching for the Snakes in April.

We had a blast with the Mike Aviles(notes) story back in 2008 and it looks like happy days are here again for the frozen-rope machine. He's having a monstrous spring with the bat (.478/.528/.739, 15 runs, five triples), but the team isn't sure yet what Aviles is ready for defensively, given that he's coming off Tommy John surgery.

In a perfect world the Royals would give Aviles the third-base assignment for now, then perhaps slide him over to short when Alex Gordon(notes) is ready to come back. Clip and save, we might be looking at a nifty multiple-position sleeper here.

Ryan Garko has been plucked off waivers by the Rangers, and with that a few things clear up. First and foremost we can put a fork in those Mike Lowell(notes)-to-Texas rumors, that's obviously not going to happen now. The Garko move also takes a chunk of potential value away from Chris Davis(notes); Garko's been a lefty-masher for most of his career (.313/.392/.495) while southpaws have toyed with Davis (.226/.271/.428).

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Matt Joyce (elbow) is headed for the disabled list in Tampa, which probably clears the deck nicely for spring phenomenon Sean Rodriguez(notes) (.467, six homers). As for Hank Blalock's(notes) status with the Rays, no one is saying anything definitive just yet. "He's going to play [Wednesday), he's going to be with us [Thursday]," Joe Maddon said. "And we'll continue to work on that." If Blalock doesn't stick with the Rays - he's got a way out of his deal if he's not on the roster by the end of Friday - then Reid Brignac(notes) will break camp with the team.

Although Brett Gardner(notes) has been tabbed the starting left fielder for the Yankees, Joe Girardi hasn't ruled out the possibility of a platoon between Gardner and Marcus Thames(notes). Gardner's career line against lefties is a modest .241/.310/.627, but that's over a small sample (79 at-bats) and shouldn't be taken too seriously. He actually gained 73 OPS points against southpaws last year, but again, it's a tiny sample.

We've got a much larger book on Thames and it's pretty clear what he offers: reasonable utility against lefties (.256/.329/.516) but an ongoing struggle against righties (.234/.291/.474). Neither player has hit a lick this spring; Gardner's OBP and slugging are both under .300, while Thames has a .146 average and 20 strikeouts over 48 at-bats. For the ultimate big-market team, this is a rather underwhelming situation to have brewing at a corner-outfield spot.

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