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Andy Behrens

Opening Shots: Taking a flier on Bonifacio

Okay, we had a fun day of baseball. Plenty of surprise heroes, a few expected ones, some big-name goats, and I don't even mind the two postponements – it just balances things out a little more for Tuesday.

But what does it all mean? How do we digest the surprising things we saw?

One annoying trend you'll see in some fantasy corners is something I call "over-extrapolation analysis." We'll be told that Felipe Lopez won't hit 324 home runs, Emilio Bonifacio won't steal 486 bases, the Pirates won't go 162-0, and CC Sabathia won't finish the year without a win (or a strikeout).

Of course, that's of no help to us. Creating a useless context and then stating the obvious doesn't solve anything. We know Bonifacio won't steal 486 bases – but can he get 30, or 40, or 50? What's Nyjer Morgan's upside? How soon do we worry about Jason Motte? What do we make of Hank Blalock or Jeff Francoeur right now? Those are questions we have to consider and delve into immediately.

The best free agents grabs from fantasy baseball often come early in the season, and while league contexts will vary and the advice we give in this space is not "one size fits all," my free-agent feelings for most of my leagues ultimately boil down to asking myself "Why?" or "Why not?" on the players in question.

In leagues with limited restrictions on pickups and a rich waiver wire, "Why not?" becomes the key question. I grabbed Bonifacio at 4:26 p.m. in the Friends & Family League, right after his second swipe, feeling he could become a dynamic leadoff man who steals 30-50 bases and scores 100 runs. If he doesn't, so what? Because it's relatively painless to U-turn out of any move that goes awry in this group, you need to jump on any significant upside that shows on the wire.

In most shallow and medium mixed leagues, the most competitive teams cycle through the free-agent wire constantly. No one on the bottom quarter of my depth chart ever has any real job security. But in some other leagues, pickups are harder to pull the trigger on; maybe a FAAB budget applies, perhaps a real-life cost keeps a lid on things. This doesn't mean you don't want to be aggressive in April if a good opportunity presents itself, but you might have fewer bullets to fire during the year. In those types of groups, I'll find myself asking the "Why?" question most of the time; I really have to be sold on the worth of the pickup before I take one of my limited fliers. (Also consider that in deep leagues, the players-dropped list is often more attractive than the current waiver wire.)

Enough of the pickup theory for now; this is an open theme we'll continue to discuss all season long. Let's give some attention to the late games on Monday's card.

Felix Hernandez turned an ankle in the early stages of his start at Minnesota and spent the rest of the day hobbling around, but it sure didn't affect his pitching. King Felix spun a 97-pitch beauty inside the Metrodome, limiting the Twins to just five hits and one run over eight innings. Hernandez conceded that the pain increased as the start went along, but he insists he'll be fine for his next turn.

Ken Griffey Jr. clouted his eighth career opening-day homer (against lefty Francisco Liriano, no less), Franklin Gutierrez added a two-run shot, and Jose Lopez collected three RBIs for the Ms, who made the most of just six hits.

Brian Fuentes owners got just what the doctor ordered on opening day; a rocking-chair save against an unintimidating opponent. Fuentes needed just 13 pitches to retire the Athletics in order in the ninth, and it didn't hurt that he was working with a three-run lead (Mike Scioscia loves to steer saves to his stoppers, no matter if they're easy ones). Joe Saunders was effective with his pitch-to-contact game (6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K), and Howie Kendrick tossed a cookie to his adoring public, rapping out a couple of hits including a homer.

Kevin Gregg's first save chance in a Cubs uniform got off to a rocky start – two hits and a sacrifice fly plated one run – but eventually he hit the underbelly of the Houston lineup and things settled down; Michael Bourn flew out and Jason Smith grounded out to first, ending the game. Carlos Marmol retired three of the four men he faced in the eighth, working around a walk to Lance Berkman. Mike Fontenot marked his territory at second base, rapping out three hits and scoring two of Chicago's four runs.

The Jays took batting practice against Detroit (12 runs, 15 hits), with Adam Lind getting the biggest piece of the pie (a zesty 5-2-4-6 line, with a homer) in the No. 5 slot. Travis Snider added a homer and a double out of the No. 9 position, where he hit most of last year; it will be interesting to see when the Jays are ready to give the kid more responsibility and a better spot in the order.

Normally you can tell what Jonathan Broxton has very early in the appearance, and Monday turned out to be one of his better days. He needed just 11 pitches to mow down the Padres in the ninth, getting a pair of strikeouts. Hong-Chih Kuo wasn't as smooth in the eighth, walking a pair and uncorking a wild pitch, but he didn't allow any runs to score.

Keep an eye on Melvin Mora, who seemed to come up lame while running the bases in the eighth inning of Baltimore's win over New York; he should have scored easily on Aubrey Huff's bases-loaded double with two outs, but he wound up stopping at third.

Posted by SP, 1:07 am

Just had some delicious homemade pizza, time for another ballpark update.

We welcomed Curtis Granderson to the Y! blog family today and we're thrilled to see Grandy start his 2009 season with a home run. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that's the only highlight of the day through six innings; Roy Halladay has allowed just two other hits, while Justin Verlander was lit up for eight runs before leaving in the fourth. Adam Lind (homer, three hits, five RBIs) and Travis Snider (double, homer) led the Jays attack.

Hiroki Kuroda is slower than a Jane Austen novel, but through six innings he got the best of Jake Peavy, 3-1. Corey Wade deserves some props as well; he actually got the final out in the last of the sixth, retiring Kevin Kouzmanoff with the bases loaded. Matt Kemp gave the Dodgers some insurance in the top of the seventh with a mammoth homer to dead center field. Vin Scully, timeless as ever.

I avoided Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano like the plague this spring, but they've had the opening laugh on me in Houston today. Soriano led off the ballgame with a homer and later added a single, while Zambrano was sharp in his six innings (5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 SO). Carlos Marmol did the job with a scoreless eighth (working around a walk); if the Cubs don't extend their 3-1 lead in the ninth, looks like Kevin Gregg will come on to finish the job.

To answer those that asked in the comments, yes, Pirate OF Nyjer Morgan (3-for-5, steal) is a person of interest, at least in mixed leagues. He's capable of being a Willy Taveras type if the Bucs commit to him, and no snarky comments, that type of player has value. Jack Wilson was the ninth inning hero for the Bucs today (three-run double), but he's not someone to bother rostering unless you're in an NL-only group.

There's a college basketball game just about to tip and as a Michigan resident, I'm required to watch the event. Don't worry, amigos, you'll get at least one more update here, and perhaps two if things fall right. I hope you've enjoyed this day as much as I have. (As I'm about to file this, the Tigers have pushed four runs across on Halladay in the top of the seventh; it's now a 9-5 ballgame. It will be interesting to see what transpires when the Jays are forced to go to the bullpen. Is there a Michigan Miracle in the house, on the diamond or on the hardwood?)

One last update – Clark Kellogg is horrendous. I will not debate this. More a little later, amigos.

Posted by SP, 9:27 pm

Every save situation has meaning to the serious roto owner, and with that, let's have a look at what unraveled in St. Louis this afternoon.

Jason Motte certainly looked the part in his first save chance of the year, huffing and puffing and doing his best Al Hrabosky, but his stuff didn't hold up; he wasn't able to command his fastball and the Pirates did a good job raking the pitches that caught too much of the plate. At the end of it all the Bucs had four hits and four runs (Brandon Moss was also hit by a pitch), spoiling things for Genius La Russa and Friends in the top of the ninth.

Matt Capps on the other side, working with a two-run lead? Piece of cake. He wrapped three outs around a harmless Albert Pujols single, and with that Pirates fans can dream about this being the year they get back into the mix in the NL Central. Set-up man John Grabow, who retired two of three batters he faced in the eighth, grabbed the win for Pittsburgh.

The runs came early and often in Arizona, but the Diamondbacks were able to escape with a 9-8 victory because the bullpen did its job. Tony Pena retired all four Rockies he faced (two on strikeouts), and Chad Qualls worked a 1-2-3 ninth.

It hasn't been a good debut for the high-priced Yanks to this point; you know all about CC Sabathia's implosion by now, and Mark Teixeira is 0-for-4 with a walk. A.J. Burnett's first act comes on Thursday; if you know who Baltimore is throwing that day without cheating, you're a heckuva baseball fan.

Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson jump started the Dodgers in the top of the first, pulling off a double-steal as part of a two-run rally against Jake Peavy. James Loney delivered both of the runs with a two-out single. The Dodgers have run aggressively against the Padres in the past, and that's apparently going to be the plan again this year.

It's almost George Sherrill time in Baltimore, keep the remote control handy. (On second thought, with the Yankees bullpen blowing up, Sherrill may not be needed today).

Posted by SP, 7:47 EDT

I'm Scott Pianowski and I work out of the bullpen. Andy Behrens is in line for the win, I'll try not to blow the save.

Felipe Lopez (two homers) had a strong head start for The Tuffy, but Emilio Bonifacio grabbed the yellow jersey after hitting an inside-the-park homer in his third at-bat (on the heels of two hits and a pair of steals). The inside job had a fluke element to it, as they always seem to – the Nationals had their outfield at shallow depth with a runner on third; the winds are swirling in Florida; Lastings Milledge did not play the ball particularly well – but that doesn't make us any less excited about Bonifacio, Florida's new leadoff man.

I made an impulse grab on the speedy infielder after his second bag, snapping him up in the Friends & Family League, and Brandon Funston validated the pick-up by calling me a "rat bastard" in an e-mail. What's better than opening day?

Remember when Rob Neyer speculated Nick Johnson would be "first baseman of the aughts?" All Nick seems to do now is watch strikes whiz by him (he's done it four times today) as a prelude to the inevitable out. The sooner Johnson gets hurt, the happier fantasy owners will be – Adam Dunn can slide to first, another outfield position opens up, and Elijah Dukes will be safe to text message again.

Ricky Nolasco looked untouchable in the early innings but the Nats have caught up to him – Dunn's three-run moonshot in the sixth inning brings Washington to within 8-5. I'm not sure who the color guy is on the MASN telecast – working with solid pro Bob Carpenter – but he's killing me softly. Make it six opening day home runs for Dunn.

When did the error disappear from the official scoring handbook? I'm sick of watching so many defensive miscues get slapped with the "hit" tag just because it keeps two out of three people happy (the hitter and the fielder).

Nyjer Morgan, marking his territory (three hits, steal). An opening-day hit for Adam LaRoche justifies as a "hot start." Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta shook off their batting order spots, clubbing home runs off Brandon Webb. The Yanks lineup looks radically different without that A-Rod fellow, doesn't it?

I know Cliff Lee didn't get anyone out this spring, but I won't hold an Arlington Meltdown against anyone. It's easy to say "he won't match 2008" – that's a cop out. He's still very capable of being a fantasy star this year. I'll pay extra attention to his weekend turn against Toronto.

A fourth hit for Bonifacio, a bunt single. I think the MASN mangler is Rob Dibble (he just took a shot at Bonifacio; them's fighting words). Back at you after I finish this sandwich. (Am I dreaming, or did Bonifacio just steal another base? Don't wake me ... and don't wake him, either).

Steven Shell hangs a curve, Hanley Ramirez hits the ball out of Florida, grand slam. All 57 Marlin fans are cheering at once! CC Sabathia didn't have a thing in Baltimore (4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 BB, 0 K). It's a keg tapper in Arizona; the Snakes cling to a 9-8 lead. Opening day should be a national holiday.

Posted by SP, 6:20 EDT

Fine, Bob Melvin. You win...this time. Some of us were a little upset at the decision to sit Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton, but Eric Byrnes and Tony Clark have already driven in three runs. The RBI for Byrnes wasn't so legit – it was a shallow fly to center, and Chip Hale (+2) sent Stephen Drew – but Clark hit a two-run bomb that gave Arizona a 6-4 lead.

During pregame introductions in Florida, Cameron Maybin ran through the high-five line after he was announced, then parked himself in the leadoff hitter's spot, next to Fredi Gonzalez. One small problem: Maybin is batting eighth today. Gonzalez had to shoo him away. The Marlins' actual leadoff man, third baseman Emilio Bonifacio, is already 2-for-2 with a pair of steals and two runs scored.

Florida is mauling John Lannan. It's 6-0 in the third, and every pitch is getting crushed. Jorge Cantu and Jeremy Hermida have homered. Meanwhile, Ricky Nolasco has four Ks and no walks through three.

Orioles fans don't seem too happy with Mark Teixeira for whatever reason. Hmm.

K-Rod worked a flawless ninth in Cincinnati, earning the season's first save. The end-game worked exactly as planned for the Mets: 1 IP, 0 H, 1 K for JJ Putz, then 1 IP, 0 H, 1 K for Francisco Rodriguez.

As a general rule, if Glendon Rusch is getting work for your team on opening day, then things probably aren't going according to plan.

Austin Kearns – not Elijah Dukes – got the start in right field for the Nats. Think the mood in the Washington dugout is a bit uneasy?

I've now reached my pitch-limit. Scott Pianowski takes over in the next update. Enjoy the games...

Posted by AB, 5:25 EDT

We've got a blowout in Texas and an unfortunate booth situation in Cincinnati (see below), so let's spend some time with Colorado-Arizona. Daron Sutton and Mark Grace never disappoint. Here's a taste of Grace: "When I was playing in Coors Field, it was like hitting with no gravity. Now they've got that humidor..."

Love that guy.

Felipe Lopez opens the season as the leadoff man for the Diamondbacks, and he homered in his first at-bat. Lopez promises to run more often this season (if not more effectively), and he qualifies everywhere (2B, 3B, SS, OF). Still, they guy is available in 20 percent of PLUS leagues.

Just as Sutton and Grace were concluding a conversation about how tricky it is to run on Brandon Webb, Arizona pulled off a K/CS double-play. That's how it's done, kids.

Chris Snyder doubled to drive in Conor Jackson from first base in the second inning, and Arizona third base coach Chip Hale deserves a tip of the cap. He made the emphatic call to send Jackson, even though a good relay would have caught him at home. Webb was due up next, so it was the right call (obviously, since Jackson scored).

If you're scoring the third base coaches at home, it's Hale +1, Razor Shines -1.

A few interesting lineup notes for Colorado: Seth Smith hits second, Ian Stewart gets the start at 2B and bats sixth, and Chris Iannetta is buried in the eighth spot. Troy Tulowitzki is batting seventh. No Dexter Fowler today.

Saturday is magnetic schedule night, Diamondbacks fans. Make your plans today.

Posted by AB, 4:32 EDT

We're underway in Texas, where the opening day match-up is Cliff Lee versus Kevin Millwood. In the second inning, Hank Blalock lined an infield single off Lee's forearm, but the Cleveland lefty remained in the game. Moments later, Lee put a ball on a tee for Marlon Byrd, who doubled to left. Lee then fanned Chris Davis on a break-the-piñata sort of swing, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in both runners with a single. Elvis Andrus followed with a terrific at-bat, smacking a double into the right field corner. Ian Kinsler singled to score Salty and Elvis.

It was 4-0 Rangers after two, and Lee had served up some fat, hittable stuff. But Millwood is on the hill for Texas, so anything can happen there. We're not ready to call the contest just yet.

The Reds' first hit of the season was a Jay Bruce double, driven off the wall to the opposite field. And the crowd Bruuuuuuuced.

Daniel Murphy battled Aaron Harang for nine pitches in the fifth inning, then launched a solo homer. Don't sleep on that guy. Murphy is hitting second for New York, but he's owned in just 41 percent of PLUS leagues. Later in the inning, Bruce threw out David Wright at home, following a Beltran single. And the crowd Bruuuuuuuuced again.

Yeesh, Phillips. So the ESPN booth was discussing the fact that fielding has received a great deal of attention from the sabermetric community in recent years. Phillips basically dismissed all of it. It's the Jeter issue (naturally). Phillips is not interested in any system that considers Derek Jeter to be a shortstop with limited range.

He literally said this: "Because the statistics don't match what my eyes say, it makes me mistrust the veracity of the system."

Have at it, commenters.

Posted by AB, 3:30 EDT

Aaron Harang's first pitch of the season was a 90 mph fastball three inches off the plate...and it was called a strike. Jose Reyes smacked the next offering up the middle for a hit. Then he stole second, despite a quality throw. He was ultimately stranded at third by David Wright (K), Carlos Delgado (BB) and Carlos Beltran (F7). Still, it was a nice beginning to the fantasy season for Reyes owners.

Willy Taveras (flu) can't go today, so Jerry Hairston Jr. led off for Cincinnati. Darnell McDonald is playing center and batting second. Johan Santana struck 'em both out on changeups to begin the year. Hairston battled; McDonald wilted.

Apparently, Steve Phillips defines leadership as the willingness to tell a teammate to get a haircut. Just so you know. And Joey Votto is a leader.

Speaking of Phillips...hope you caught his Ryan Howard monologue last night. Phillips clearly does not like strikeouts. He thinks Howard should just look to put the ball in play when he's got two strikes. "Like the Korean and Japanese teams in the World Baseball Classic," he said, or words to that effect. Never mind the 35 two-strike homers that Howard has hit over the past two seasons. He needs to get slappier. This should reduce his K total to...what? 160? 150? Then maybe the Phillies could finally win something.

Santana walked Edwin Encarnacion to begin the bottom of the second, but Ryan Church made a sweet diving catch on a Ramon Hernandez liner, then doubled Edwin off first. And then Santana K'd Alex Gonzalez. That's three strikeouts, three walks and 43 pitches for Johan through two innings.

Posted by AB, 2:17 EDT

Get your pencils and scorecards ready, gamers. Opening day begins now.

Keep refreshing, because today we'll be covering things Sunday Scene-style. The Mets and Reds get us started in just a few minutes. We've already got a pair of PPDs on the board, in Chicago and Boston, so you'll need to make the necessary substitutions.

Oh, and if you own either Justin Upton or Mark Reynolds, Bob Melvin is already making your life difficult. And the Skip Schumaker experience will apparently start tomorrow, not today. Tony La Russa is giving Brendan Ryan the start at second base.

Posted by AB, 1:15 EDT


Photos via AP Images

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