Coming off a rough spring, Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw reverted to his Cy Young Award-winning form in the wee small hours of the morning last Saturday by giving up one run over 6 2/3 innings in a season-opening victory over the Diamondbacks in Australia. However, we might have to wait a little while for his first start of the season stateside.
Kershaw will not make his next scheduled start Sunday night against the Padres after an MRI revealed inflammation in his upper left back. More specifically, the issue is with his teres major muscle, which might sound familiar due to the recent injury with Rangers second baseman Jurickson Profar. Yes, the teres major might be the new oblique.
Kershaw reported some discomfort while playing catch Tuesday, so the Dodgers aren't going to take any chances with their $215 million man. He felt better Wednesday and hopes to only miss one start, but we should know more in the next few days. Hyun-Jin Ryu (who has been bothered by a toenail issue in recent days) and Dan Haren are the most likely options to take Kershaw's place on Sunday.
Kershaw is ranked as the No. 1 starting pitcher in the Rotoworld Draft Guide and has already been selected in the first round in many drafts this spring, so fantasy owners will have to cross their fingers that this is just a minor scare and not a sign of things to come for the long season ahead.
Young Buc Gets Bucks
Starling Marte is fresh off his first full season in the majors, but his performance in 2013 was enough for the Pirates to decide that he should be a long-term piece of their core. After it was reported over the weekend that Marte had turned down a possible contract extension, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Wednesday that the two sides agreed to a six-year, $31 million contract, pending a physical.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that extension will begin this year, so his previous salary for 2014 will be wiped out. Marte, who was previously due to hit free agency after the 2018 season, will now be under contract through at least 2019. Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM reports that the deal includes two option years, so he could potentially be with Pittsburgh through 2021 and his age-32 season.
Marte hit .280/.343/.441 with 48 extra-base hits (12 home runs), 35 RBI, 41 stolen bases, and 83 runs scored over 135 games last season as Pittsburgh's leadoff hitter and provided very good defense in left field. The 25-year-old is already a valuable all-around player as is, but he could be even better if he can improve his shaky plate discipline. He owns an ugly 188/33 K/BB ratio through 748 plate appearances in the majors.
The Pirates already have Andrew McCutchen signed through 2018 and top prospects like Gregory Polanco and Austin Meadows are in the pipeline, so they will be set in their outfield for a long time if all goes according to plan. It's a nice situation to have.
Segura Out For Opening Day?
Brewers shortstop Jean Segura hasn't played in a Cactus League game since March 18 due to soreness behind his right shoulder and there's suddenly a question about his readiness for Opening Day.
The good news is that an MRI came back negative and it's believed to be a shoulder strain, not an issue with his rotator cuff or labrum. Still, Segura is being kept on the minor league side for now and is unable to play defense. The Brewers hope to have him active for their final exhibition games this weekend against the Royals, but a stint on the disabled list could be a possibility if he's not back to normal by then.
Segura batted .294/.329/.423 with 42 extra-base hits (12 home runs), 49 RBI, 44 stolen bases, and 74 runs scored in 146 games during his first full season in the majors last year, but his poor second half casts some doubt about his chances for a repeat performance in fantasy leagues. Currently projected to bat second in Milwaukee's lineup, the 24-year-old is ranked as the No. 6 shortstop in the Rotoworld Draft Guide.
Odds and Ends
- Bobby Parnell is working his way back into form following neck surgery and his velocity has been lagging a bit this spring, so the Mets are looking at easing him into things at the start of the season. With that in mind, Jose Valverde is expected to begin the year as New York's primary set-up man and could vulture some save chances if (or when) Parnell needs a night off. This role was expected to be filled by young right-hander Vic Black, but he was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas after an awful spring. I don't give this recommendation with much enthusiasm, but Valverde needs to be owned right now in NL-only leagues and even in some deeper mixed formats.
- The White Sox announced Wednesday that both Gordon Beckham (oblique) and Jeff Keppinger (shoulder) will begin the season on the disabled list, which clears the way for prospect Marcus Semien to be the Opening Day second baseman. The 23-year-old batted .261/.268/.406 with two homers and a 22/1 K/BB ratio over 71 plate appearances during his first taste of the majors last year, but he has shown power and speed potential in the minors along with excellent plate discipline. Beckham might be ready to return by mid-April or so, but Semien is a name to watch this year.
- The Astros were originally planning to use Jose Altuve as their No. 2 hitter behind Dexter Fowler, but manager Bo Porter announced Wednesday that he's going with Robbie Grossman instead. Meanwhile, Altuve and Jason Castro could shuffle out of the 3-4 spots depending on the matchup. The reason for the change is that Porter wants two high on-base types at the top of the order. It's not a bad idea, as Grossman had a knack for getting on base in the minors and posted a .332 on-base percentage as a rookie with the Astros last season. This includes a .351 on-base percentage after he joined the team for good in late July. It would be nice if Grossman picked his spots for stealing bases a little better (he was just 6-for-13 last year) and his strikeout rate could cut into his batting average, but he suddenly makes for an interesting flier in AL-only and deeper five-outfielder mixed formats.
For all the latest spring training news and notes, be sure to keep refreshing Rotoworld's player news page. It's super busy at this time of year. And if you are prepping for a fantasy draft in the coming days, check out the 2014 Rotoworld Draft Guide. It's jam-packed with all sorts of helpful stuff for fantasy owners, including over 1,000 player profiles, projections, tiers, expert mock drafts, ADP data, and columns on prospects, sleepers, busts, and much, much more. Sign up today.
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